Role of Allama Iqbal Open University in Promoting Access and Demoting Gender Disparity in Higher Education in Pakistan
Higher education has emerged as a key factor for socio-economic development in the recent decades. Amazingly, more persons are attending colleges and universities in this century than in all of the human history (Goodman, 1999) and it is rightly argued by Manuel Castells, if knowledge and information are electricity of the new world economy, universities are one of the power sources on which the development process of 21st century has to rely. (Altbach, 1999) About 64 years ago Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Father of the Nation) has expressed the importance of higher education in these words, “Of all the economic growth initiatives available to the Government of Pakistan, perhaps none holds more promise and the possibility of large scale and sustainable returns than the effectiveness and expansion of the Higher Education infrastructure in Pakistan”. (GoP, 2009) Unfortunately, despite of these golden words of our hero at the advent of this millennium the total number of students in higher education was about 2.6% for the age group of 17-23 which was very low and Pakistan ranked amongst the worst in the world in higher education enrolment ratios, as compared to China (13%), Malaysia (26%), Thailand (39%) and Korea (83%). (HEC MTDF, 2005-2010) // Before the inception of Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan, the total number of students in Pakistan’s higher education system was approximately 475,000. Of these students, only 139,000 have attended universities-representing a less than 0.8% enrollment ratio for higher education, i.e. fewer than 8 of every 1000 Pakistanis between the ages of 17 and 23 have attended university. Enhancing accessibility and participation in higher education is an important goal of Higher Education Commission. (HEC, 2008) Soon after the establishment of HEC this ratio increased drastically and it approached to 5%. HEC aimed to continue this progress to 10% by 2015 and subsequently to 15% by 2020. (HEC MTDF, 2005-2010)
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