Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif
The era we are living in is an era of knowledge. The role of knowledge has come to be identified as an engine of growth and a factor of production. Hence the buzzword of ‘knowledge economies’ has gained currency in the development literature. In today’s world, knowledge provides the foundation-stone on which edifice of society has been erected. Therefore for developing countries like Pakistan to be able to break straitjacket of poverty, and under-development, policy focus on higher education becomes the topmost national imperative and a priority.
I am proud that the Government of Punjab has risen to the challenge and fulfilled its promise of promoting higher education in the province through the establishment of the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC). The formation of PHEC was included in the Medium-Term Development Framework (MTDF) 2014-17.
The newly formed PHEC is a supportive body for strengthening higher education in the province. As per the 26 prescribed functions, the Commission would undertake various programs aimed at promotion of higher education in the province. This calls for bringing about reforms in the higher education sector to address the challenge in entirety. Our education system suffers from problems of quality and access coupled with absence of linkages between academia and industry. There is a pronounced focus on traditional and general education with little consideration for the requirements of our economy and industry. At the same time, the problem is further exacerbated by lack of educational institutions’ focus on research and development (R&D), which are the most essential component of any reform program to succeed in the education sector.
I hope the PHEC will enforce reforms in a more effective and proactive way to improve quality and standards of higher education and research in the province keeping in view local needs. Special attention will be paid towards increasing equitable access to higher education with special focus on remote/far-flung areas of the province. The linkages of industry and community with higher education institutions represent an area that needs to be strengthened. I am pleased to learn that various UN agencies and international organizations are already collaborating with PHEC and other provincial governments are also contacting it for policy input. It is a matter of satisfaction that PHEC and the institutions of higher learning are collaborating for promotion of research and quality education. My government will extend all-out support to PHEC to bring about radical shift in the higher education sector in Punjab by bringing provincial higher education institutions at par with international standards. My commitment to promotion of education, entrepreneurship and innovation remains unwavering.