Another day, and it seems history repeats itself.
When we are not discussing some vague educational policy buzzword, namely “uniform education”, newspaper articles announce the appointment of new Vice Chancellors or Rectors to various universities across the country.
Apparently, in Pakistan there is a mass shortage of people to run universities. And if your university happens to be affiliated with the military, then most probably, your institution is probably more obsessed with “discipline”, dress code and how the sexes can interact with each other.
Today I came across the following post on Insight News – Bahria University
NEWS: Vice Admiral (r) Shahid Iqbal takes charge as new Rector of Bahria University. Sources have informed Insight News that he has already indicated that the rigid rules implemented in the university shall be relaxed for students’ convenience, however, the dress code will be imposed strictly by the authorities. “He is a humble and lenient person, ” sources said. Iqbal’s term will expire in February 2014. [HQ BUREAU]
Now I am sure, the retired Vice Admiral must be a jolly fellow who has served his country admirably over the course of his career, but what exactly is his qualification to run a university and preside over its policy and management? Is his rank in his former profession the only thing that qualifies for his post retirement cushy job?
This whole notion of “rigid rules” for legal adults is preposterous. Learning at university is less and less about what you do in class, and more about your wider experiences, independence, confidence building, building communication skills etc.
As I commented previously, an 18 year old in Pakistan can join the military, where he or she may be required to kill someone, he or she can drive a car, a motorcycle, marry, hold an arms licence and what not. But god forbid that a 20 year old cloths are “inappropriate” or he/she is sitting too close to a member from the opposite sex. Not too mention that the students are paying consumers.
We see this everywhere from one degree to the other, NUML has had its fair share of controversies where retired Army officers have gone around throwing their weight, beating up lecturers and quite conveniently awarding their own relatives and colleagues degrees and scholarships. NUST is the same, but I believe that they have now relaxed their dress code. In Bahria University last year we had the case of a teacher who dared to question the qualifications of the ex-Naval administrators. Under whose authority, naval intelligence, and serving naval personnel were used to monitor the teachers and students protests is no big secret. The fact that the administrators got away with all this, and the concerned teacher was eventually fired, says alot about what their priorities are.
What I never understand is that, administrators with some affiliation with the military are all focused on rigidity, discipline and conduct when they run schools, colleges or universities, however, they have no qualms about sending their own sons and daughters to private schools and then foreign universities, where there is no “discipline”, attendance or dress code. Hypocrisy?
Perhaps, they have nothing else to offer apart from passing edicts about how students should behave?
Private universities, who are sometime criticised for being “too modern” or liberal are playing catchup, telling Master level students what to wear and where to sit, while conveniently ignoring the academic product that they are offering.
Perhaps if the International Islamic University Islamabad
was spending less time enforcing gender segregation as their central duty, and placed some trust in their students, they wouldn’t have sat idly by, whilst members of their staff sexually harass employees and students.
For all there wise cracks on how higher education needs to be “disciplined”, regimenting university life, in the same fashion as a primary school isn’t going to add value to education. We need to really think about the direction in which higher education is moving.
Moralising over the behaviour of students as the primary concern is a pathetic cop out for educational institutions, who then overlook the academic quality they are offering, by selling themselves as disciplined institutions.
P.S. The following link leads to the Board of Governors of Bahria University – Apparently most of the naval high command moonlights in the university as a second job. http://www.bahria.edu.pk/newSite/home.php?catId=622