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Focus on higher education contributes in rapid progress of nations

Healthy competition and growth very likely to improve the quality of professional education in Pakistan

KSBL is instinctive in keeping its curriculum modern and according to market needs
Better policy making, public-private partnerships and PR management can help Pakistan boost economy and education sector
Interview with Dr. Zeeshan Ahmed – Dean of Karachi School of Business and Leadership

Dr. Zeeshan Ahmed (Dean, KSBL)

“At KSBL, our approach to educate and nurture our students is unique and holistic. We work on their character, their business acumen as well as their vision and outlook on life!” – Dr. Zeeshan Ahmed

Dr. Zeeshan Ahmed has held eminent positions at top business schools in Pakistan, working as the Director of Undergraduate Program at LUMS and now as the Dean at KSBL. He is passionate about instilling the mindset of success in the new generation. He believes that the key to solving our problems and attaining a leading role in the league of nations is to bring reforms in educational system.

A PhD from Mississippi State University, USA, a CFA and an MBA from Institute of Business Administration, Karachi, Dr. Zeeshan Ahmed currently heading the leading business school of a country and taking special interest in the areas of Leadership, Islamic Finance, Microfinance, Capital Markets, Personal Excellence and Business Ethics.

In a conversation with Pakistan & Gulf Economist, Dr. Zeeshan shares about 20 years of his diverse experience and his training, research and consulting projects at KSBL.

PAGE: Share your experience and the KSBL mission for improvement of education sector?

Dr. Zeeshan ahmed: Well, I have been in academia most of my professional life with over 20 years of diverse experience in teaching, training and research. My true passion for teaching came about after when I completed my PhD from Mississippi State University. Prior to joining KSBL, I was heading the undergraduate program at Suleman Dawood School of Business, LUMS. I strongly advocate that academia has a key role to play in resolving the socio economic challenges that lie ahead of us.

My experience as an academic at top business schools in Pakistan, including KSBL, IBA and LUMS, helped me contribute towards reshaping curriculum for business education with much advanced programs at these schools. At KSBL, my emphasis has specially been to introduce the latest courses as per the emerging needs of market and global trends.

A relatively new entrant in the business education landscape of the country, the Karachi School of Business and Leadership (KSBL) was established because a group of Pakistani business and corporate leaders recognized that Karachi, the business and commercial hub of Pakistan, needed a world-class business school. We collaborated with Cambridge University to set up KSBL, and since then, we have successfully enrolled students from all disciplines to be part of our prestigious MBA program.

PAGE: What gives KSBL’S teaching methodology an edge?

Dr. Zeeshan ahmed: Let me start off by saying that our MBA program spans across two years, and it is open to everyone, regardless of their educational background at the Bachelors level. Since our classes heavily incorporate real-world business context and problem orientation, they provide a strong learning experience for students who may be new to business education, while adding new layers of context for students who are already familiar with business concepts.

The specialty of case schools, like KSBL, is that subjects, for example, accounting, are taught in a manner aimed at establishing students’ business acumen and to improve their business judgment. The typical introductory discussions in accounting classes cover any business model’s profitability and investment potential. For example, we may take the energy sector or cement industry into perspective. Then bringing the discussion into business context we explain students regarding turnover growth and importance of competitor analysis. This way, accounting is not dry anymore because from the start, the discussions are about a business problem. To ensure the better learning experience of our students, we have incorporated one criteria in our evaluations about how well the instructor integrated different business areas into his own field.

At KSBL, we also endeavor to do our part and disseminate knowledge on the latest business and policy trends by regularly inviting globally renowned speakers for our Mentorship programs, Career Counselling Sessions, Eminent Speaker Series, Student Research Projects, Seminars etc. Our aim is to keep collaborating with thought provoking leaders.This is the key element that contributes to the overall quality of our MBA experience. We also try to keep updating our curriculum according to market needs. Just recently we added courses on Design Thinking, Block Chain and Data Analytics into our MBA curriculum.

PAGE: What is the public perception of KSBL at the moment?

Dr. Zeeshan ahmed: KSBL is now being increasingly seen as a rapidly emerging elite business school in Pakistan. With cutting-edge and action-based learning methods, eminent faculty, and presence of Engro’s Leadership academy on campus, KSBL’s reputation has taken huge leaps in recent years.People and organization who have had any interaction with the faculty or KSBL community hold the institution in high regards.


PAGE: Share your opinion on the quality of professional education in Pakistan?

Dr. Zeeshan ahmed: Countries at all income levels constantly endeavored to improve their education systems and invest in higher education in pursuit of intellectual growth. We know for a fact that tertiary school enrolment has been extremely low for a country like Pakistan and in 2016-17 post graduate numbers (with 18 years of education) were under 20,000, as per the Higher Education Commission. Our primary education needs a lot of improvement too, to prepare the students for professional education. The quality of intake is usually the key for that. The challenge that lies ahead is, not just to have educational infrastructure available for our youth, but also to make it more accessible and affordable for all strata of society. Talking about the quality of professional education, while many institutions are mushrooming, giving more options to today’s youth — there are some that are doing a phenomenal job at imparting knowledge. This healthy competition and growth is very likely to improve the quality of professional education in Pakistan.

PAGE: A problem here is that Pakistan’s case studies are not easily available. does KSBL teach using local case studies? if yes then how?

Dr. Zeeshan ahmed: This is the biggest impediment. Companies operating in Pakistan want to be praised to the skies and have a veritable Akbarnam a written about them, but that is not how a case is made. A case is made when a problem is identified and nobody, no corporation, wants their problems or weaknesses made public. The ones we have made are mostly of companies, we collaborate with in executive education.

Case studies are an opportunity for scholarship and learning so they can be used to teach; it is not necessary to publish them. However, in Pakistan things usually become public knowledge through word of mouth. Therefore, we want our students to have enough street smarts to be able to connect with what is out there in order to derive data. For instance, financial accounting and annual reports are public knowledge. There are reports from brokerage houses and other researches. One can extrapolate a lot of information from these. This is how we find our way through this dilemma.

PAGE: Please comment on government’s support for the professional education in Pakistan?

Dr. Zeeshan Ahmed: Scaling up efforts to align higher education with market trends and demand for industry specific skills is crucial. Now, more than ever, the government has to play a vital role to support the growth of educational institutions and making policies that are conducive to an environment that supports professional education. This is because, as we move further into the CPEC era, and with technological advancements impacting all sectors, be it medical sciences or textiles, the government needs to facilitate the public and education sector so they do not fall behind. We need multi stakeholder partnerships to address the enormous challenges that lie ahead of us so our youth has a share in the pie of immense economic growth that lies ahead.

Let’s talk about Research for instance — to be honest, genuine academic research is a phenomenon that is still in the take off stage in Pakistan, and the need of the hour is to shape it up in such a way that it helps the public and private sector address the local socio economic challenges. We need research that solves our own problems. We have an immaculate pool of local academia who are research-driven, we just need to ensure that the research being done is solving a local pressing issue. This can only be achieved by forging multistakeholder partnerships with government involvement.

PAGE: How could Pakistan attract foreign students to get professional education from a Pakistani institute?

Dr. Zeeshan Ahmed: Pakistan is at an interesting juncture in the wake of the new silk route. We are the 6th largely populated country in the world currently – and well, I will not get into the perception management and leadership issues that Pakistan faces as a country, but the law and order situation has certainly improved over the last few years. Moreover, the faculty that some of the universities have, are top rated with both local and international level exposure in their area of expertise. With such faculty coupled with the state-of-the-art facilities that some institutions have – I have no doubt that it’s just a matter of projection and better perception management that Pakistan will increasingly attract foreign students.

Like I said, with technological advancements, commercialization and foreign investment on the rise, opportunities are many for today’s youth. The last 50 years have seen a technological revolution that has brought a radical change to human behaviors and interactions, and such leaps in technological advancements have affected all sectors including education. In teaching and education specially, the need is to provide equal access to learning globally, and embracing technology to attract talent from a global pool.

Pakistan is also expected to be the 20th biggest economy by 2030, and the education sector should also have a share in the pie – this can only be achieved through better policy making, public-private partnerships and better PR management in the global arena.

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