ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC) Tariq Banuri has said that all the SAARC Member States have similar experiences in terms of the use of different applications and software for online education, governance of e-learning system, capacity building of faculty, poor internet connectivity, and power breakdowns and need for technological infrastructure.
“All of them have addressed different issues with different degrees of success and all of them will benefit from sharing of information, pooling of resources and collaboration in capacity building as well as research,” Tariq Banuri said while chairing a meeting of the Vice Chancellors and representatives of HEC, University Grants Commissions (UGCs) or equivalent entities of the SAARC Member States.
“Pakistan is fully committed to regional cooperation and would be happy to arrange capacity building programmes for regional partners and support collaborative research and exchange,” he said.
Hosted by the HEC, the two-day online meeting concluded on Thursday.
It discussed in detail the issues and challenges pertaining to the online mode of learning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the two-day meeting, the delegates from all the SAARC States shared how the universities and other higher education institutions in their respective countries are functioning in the current situation, and what solutions are being adopted to cope with the multifaceted challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sessions of the meeting covered topics such as the technological infrastructure for online learning, effective teaching through online mode, quality assurance for online education, and evaluation and assessment for online education.
The participants noted that online education is altogether different from conventional teaching.
There was a consensus that sharing of experience of the shift to online education will be highly beneficial for all the Member States.
The Vice Chancellors also discussed various approaches being adopted to make sure that the quality of education is not compromised besides ways and methods for proper monitoring of online examination and evaluation.
In her welcome address, the Director of Education, Security, and Culture at the SAARC Secretariat Ms. Varuni Muthukumarana said that education has always been one of the core areas of cooperation among SAARC member countries.
Ms. Varuni stressed the need for harnessing the efforts to ensure the quality of online learning. She proposed to set up a platform to ease up mutual sharing of measures taken by different SAARC countries so as to make the online system of education more effective.
The Chairman HEC appreciated all the participants for their commitment to enhancing cooperation among higher education institutions of SAARC Countries, especially with regard to the COVID-19 situation.
Tariq Banuri thanked the SAARC Secretariat and other participants for their valuable insight and recommendations for overcoming the different challenges of online education.
“I would like to reflect the collective feeling of participants that there is a need for immediate cooperation in all the areas discussed. Though all the countries are making a varying level of progress in different categories, we will all benefit from the sharing of spheres, including technology usage, bringing efficiency in blended teaching and learning, online assessment and evaluation of students, and quality assurance mechanisms,” he said.
The Chairman HEC further added that the ‘content of new pedagogical enterprise’ needs to be pooled while curating the courses, giving the students easy access to education, lowering the cost of online e-learning, and developing content and making it easily available to students.