WENR, November 2018: Asia-Pacific

Pakistan: New Government Seeks to Create a Uniform Education System

Pakistan’s newly elected government, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, plans far-reaching reforms in the country’s fragmented education system. Current proposals envision the creation of a uniform school system throughout Pakistan sought to decrease inequalities in quality standards and access to education between regions and social classes. Such a system would require cooperation from Pakistan’s provinces in order to establish a uniform national school curriculum, a singular language of instruction, and consistent examination standards, envisioned to be developed by a new federal “Primary and Secondary Education Commission”. As for higher education, there are discussions to establish several new universities, create world-class research institutions, reform the grading system, and emphasize conceptual learning in favor of rote memorization. Critics consider a uniform school system unrealistic, given the vast economic, linguistic and religious disparities between Pakistan’s regions. Prominent Pakistani academic Pervez Hoodbhoy noted that it’s unfeasible to teach students in remote rural regions like the Federally Administered Tribal Areas the same curriculum as taught in rich urban neighborhoods in Karachi.

Pakistan Today
November 6

India: No Signs that Foreign Branch Campuses will be allowed in India Anytime Soon

In 2010, the Indian government introduced legislation to allow foreign institutions to set up campuses in India, but failed to get the bill through parliament. Despite assertions that the government is still pursuing the reform, the issue is not a priority of the Indian government ahead of the 2019 elections and may not be put back on the legislative agenda until 2020. India’s government had hoped that top U.S. institutions would be interested in setting up branch campuses in India to allow Indian students to obtain an international education at lower costs and stem brain drain. Instead, it was larger European and Southeast Asian providers of lesser quality that expressed interest in operating in India, raising concerns over Indians earning sub-standard degrees. Another concern was that university lecturers, which are in short supply in India, would be lured to higher-paying branch campuses.

Money Control
November 3

New Zealand: NZL Reaps Strong Benefits from International Education Despite Decreasing Enrollments

The value of New Zealand’s international education industry reached another record high in 2017/18 after increasing by 19 percent since 2015/16, making international education the fourth largest export of the country. The industry now has a total value of NZD$5.1 billion (USD$ 3.44 billion) and supports 47,490 jobs (15,000 more than two years ago). In addition to boosting the economy and nurturing academic institutions, the inflow of international students brings cultural benefits and raises the international reputation of New Zealand’s universities. The benefits are also increasingly wide-spread with regions outside of Auckland reaping a growing share of the economic rewards. The gains come despite a recent decrease of 5 percent in international enrollments following the closure of several private providers and attempts to prioritize quality over quantity.

The PIE News
November 2

China: Universities Make it More Difficult for Students to Graduate

Following recent directives from the Ministry of Education, several Chinese universities have increased graduation requirements and are “shifting from being difficult to enter and easy to graduate from, to being difficult to enter and difficult to graduate from.”  By some accounts, many Chinese students currently put in a minimum amount of work in degree programs after passing the highly competitive entrance examinations. The expulsion of students is rare and China’s dropout rate of 5 percent is very low by international comparison. However, universities are now making it harder for students to earn a degree without fulfilling minimum credit requirements and have begun to expel growing numbers of students. Ministry directives also call on universities to rely more on continuous assessment rather than less frequent major examinations.  China’s tertiary gross enrollment has jumped from 20 percent to 43 percent within just a decade. Employers have expressed concerns that this massification coincided with deteriorating education standards among recent graduates.

University World News
October 25

Pan-Asia: Asian Universities Drop in Arts and Humanities Ranking Amid Focus on STEM fields

According to the Times Higher Education’s most recent arts and humanities subject ranking, top Asian universities like Peking University, the National University of Singapore, Tsinghua University, and the universities of Hong Kong and Tokyo declined, whereas European  institutions like the University of Munich, Univeristé Paris Sciences & Lettres and the University of Oxford University gained ground in the ranking. Observers attribute the trend to the predominant focus on STEM fields at many Asian universities and fear that this imbalance will be difficult to reverse.

Times Higher Education
October 31

India: Government Curtails Academic Freedoms at Universities

India’s University Grants Commission has notified Central Universities that their staff, including academics, is barred from criticizing the government according to civil service conduct rules that prohibits civil servants from making “any statement of fact or opinion which has the effect of … criticism of the central government or a state government”. Critics condemned the move as the latest attempt by India’s right-wing government to stifle academic freedoms in India. According to Indian academics, instructors are constrained “from writing, speaking and participating in meetings and seminars which authorities find unsuitable” – a trend that has led to academic publications now being screened by legal teams to make sure that they don’t offend the ruling establishment. Western academic Philip G. Altbach noted that the lack of academic freedom is an obstacle to establishing world-class universities in India.

Times Higher Education
October 23

Posted in Asia Pacific, Regional News Summaries