Education plays a fundamental role in the making of any civilized society and of a proud nation. History confirms that colonial powers ruled the world not because of their military strength, but via command over education and scientific/technological development of their era. As often stated, Muslims were the rulers till they were students, teachers and scholars but as they said goodbye to education, knowledge, a culture of thinking and research, history kicked them out of the race.

In contemporary Pakistan, apart from national/historical conflicts, the major issue lies with the education system.  Let’s keep a few exceptions aside and have a close look at our 67-year history.

What will one find? What is our educational history? We may, after observing our history with reference to education, bow our heads down. Most probably with regret and shame.

A few days back, I decided to write on a very sensitive, but very important, issue regarding our education system. I wanted to know how visiting faculty teachers are selected at public universities. What is the criteria and procedure for their selection? Who selects them?

For this, I approached program coordinators, dean and directors of some public universities. Also, some teachers from various departments. It was a moment of utter shame and embarrassment that most of them didn’t provide me any information regarding the aforementioned questions. Instead, I was advised not to write on this issue as I am myself a student. So, “better to refrain from writing on such sensitive issues”, one of my best teachers advised me (though I couldn’t get what does sensitivity meant here). But fortunately, a few people, very close to me, shared some information, on the condition that I will not mention their names in my article. I promised. I am still grateful to all of them.

Now let me come to the first point: why did I decide to write about visiting faculty at public universities?

Answer: I have been studying at a public university for almost three years and I observed some unusual and unexpected things happening around me that ultimately compelled me to think and write about them. For instance, in BS (hons) programs (particularly with reference to social sciences) various subjects are mentioned in the prospectus which a student has to study. In private, and also in some public sector universities, luckily, there is a choice for students that they have to complete their credit hours from the given list of the subjects (often termed as minor). Students are free to choose any subject. But at most of the universities the concerned department selects the subject for the whole class. And all students are supposed to study it without questioning the decision of the department. So, let’s not question it here. It may be due to incapacity of the universities or the result of any other technical faults.

The real question arises when courses like logic/introduction to critical thinking, sociology, law, political science, psychology,  and technical writing are being taught by instructors who are not qualified in that very field (either they are experts in different fields or visiting faculty).

The second point was: why some very intelligent individuals, but not very good teachers, are asked to teach BS. hons and masters classes at our campuses?

I have met so many people and also, many people regularly interact with me on social media and a few of them are very intelligent and possess a sufficient amount of knowledge and have very good communication skills – yet they are not at my campus to teach us. Why? I guess they are very poor at flattering. I may be wrong. But that’s what I really felt.

Moreover, mediocre, nervous yet very good at memorizing information, buttering and flattering individuals are teaching, not only at one department, but various departments of the same university. More interestingly, they do not teach the same subject at different departments – they are “jack of all trades”. This compelled me to think how such people come to teach our future.

Fundamentally, these two above-outlined points urged me to think about, investigate and write on this issue.

Now have a look at how some coordinators answered my questions. A professor who has done his/her PhD in social sciences can teach any subject like logic/philosophy, sociology, gender studies, community development, economics, law and so on, they argued. I was shocked. How is it possible? But then I realized professors at Pakistani universities are very competent and really qualified to teach, write and speak anything, at any level and on any subject.

My second question: how is visiting faculty selected?

The answer was even more shocking. There is no specific criteria and procedure for the selection except the fundamental point that the person should have a degree (Masters but preferably M.Phil.) in that very field. An interested person has to submit an application/CV that he or she is interested to teach. Then the department (i.e. the coordinator) selects the most appropriate person and calls him/her to join the class. That’s it.

My next question: How can a teacher (coordinator) of sociology, political science or some other social sciences determine that someone who has applied for teaching the course of mathematics is qualified or not? Can it be done merely on the basis of the candidate’s marks sheet? A long pause… And I just started talking about other things. . .

It is really sad that there is no objective criteria for the selection of visiting faculty at our campuses. Programs like BS hons are well designed and intended to acquaint students with basic concepts and theoretical frameworks of many other disciplines, but due to personal biases and nepotism the real goal has not been achieved yet. Unfortunately.

I can’t say anything about the honorable professors who claim to teach anything at any level. I don’t question their knowledge, wisdom and intellectual capabilities. So, let’s not talk about them.

But I have some recommendations for the selection of visiting faculty at public universities.

First, if we can’t send our students to different departments to complete their required credit hours as per their own choice. We can at least ask the concerned department to nominate the most competent students (M.Phil or PhD) of their department who have both the knowledge and adequate communication skills and can teach that subject skillfully. I mean, the mathematics department, for instance, should nominate someone to teach mathematics at the political science department.  Similarly, thw political science department should nominate some students to teach political science at law or sociology departments.

Also, for the nomination, there should be objective criteria that anyone interested can apply and a committee should finalize their names and recommend the successful candidates for different departments. This is least the our universities can do to improve our rotten educational system. Let’s hope for the best!