COMPETING IN THE RACE OF PROFESSIONALISM
SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Nov 12 - 18, 2012
There is growing realization that the existing education system in Pakistan has failed in preparing technically qualified and skilled human resource. The most common complaints are: 1) there is paucity of funds, 2) different breads are being prepared to keep separate haves from haves not, 3) English is being used as medium of instruction to deprive the rural population from the benefits of modern technologies and above all continuation of colonial era legacy of rulers and being ruled. Though, a lot has been talked and written about bringing change in the education system but the situation has got from bad to worse. Now only the children of well off families can get education at a huge cost. The irony is that the best lot goes abroad, the second best is taken up by multinational/transnational companies operating in Pakistan and those joining the government service have an ulterior motive 'making quick money'.
It is on record that the education budget of the country is less than 3% of total annual budget. It is even less than the money spent at the kitchens of president, prime minister, governors and chief ministers. This clearly shows that education comes on very low priority. Whatever amounts are spent goes towards maintaining elaborate offices of ministers and bureaucrats, cars and fuels. A significant amount is spent on salary of ghost teachers. Schools, particularly in the rural areas exist only on papers. Media has often heighted that school buildings are used for keeping animals. Every year many students die due to collapse of school buildings. The largest number of children died when earthquake hit Pakistan's northern areas.
With the changing paradigm students have to learn and acquire new skills to cope up with new technologies. In modern days the countries not only need general MBBS doctor but also those who specialize in caner, aids and other contentious diseases. With growing number of pathological laboratories, x-rays and ultrasound clinics paramedics with specific academic background and hands-on training on medical equipments are required.
Similarly, with construction of multistory buildings the requirement for architects, civil engineers, scaffolding experts, lift and generator operators and interior designers is on the rise. Till recently, only factories were installing stand-by generators but now commercial and residential buildings are installation in-house or co-generation facilities. Along with these technology parks and clusters are being developed.
However, it has been felt that there is no comprehensive plan for determining the number of qualified doctors, engineers, business executives, chartered accountants, IT professional etc. to be produced every year. The result is that often students suffer from herd mentality. In certain there is a mad rush for acquiring MBA, MS in computer science and medicine. The result is at time the country faces glut of professionals acquiring education and training in certain disciplines and at time there is an acute shortage.
Lately, there has been an extensive growth in Islamic finance but it is being felt that there is an acute shortage of people having appropriate knowledge of Islamic banking and other Shariah compliant financial products. Though, many of business schools and universities have started offering specialized Islamic banking courses but finding a blend of modern banking and Shariah knowledge is difficult. Some of the Madarsas are producing reasonable quantity of Shariah scholars but giving them training of modern banking do take some time.
As stated earlier education in Pakistan is not need based and generally suffers from herd mentality. However, it is observed that parents and students are focusing those disciplines/courses which are in demand internationally, particularly the United States, Europe and the Middle east. It is mainly because of lust for overseas employment. A heartening factor is that till recently bulk of the remittances was coming from semi skilled labor but now a significant percentage is coming from business executives.
Till recently it was feared that brain drain was taking place. However, there is a growing realization now that overseas Pakistanis are sending around one billion dollars monthly. These remittances have become a major source of foreign exchange earnings for the country. Experts are of the view that quantum of remittances can be increased by exporting highly qualified manpower.
Experts have been saying for a long time, we must avoid imposing any restriction on Pakistani professionals seeking overseas employment; instead efforts should be made to improve the quality of education being imparted in Pakistan. It is on record Pakistani doctors, IT professionals, metallurgy experts and architect enjoy good repute in the United States and Europe. This paves way for the employment of graduates comes out of reputed Pakistani universities.
Lately, US, European and Middle Eastern countries have started following stringent screening policies for granting visa for Pakistanis. It is because some of Pakistanis fall prey to those who know their inclination towards religion and try to brain wash to achieve their objectives. However, the experience shows that most of Pakistanis are working at responsible positions and earning good name for their homeland.
One of the factors adding to improved rating of the students is global recognition of Pakistani business schools and some of the universities. Global linkage is not only helping in keeping the syllabus most current but also imparting in quality education. This recognition is opening up door for the graduates of these universities in multi and transnational companies operating in Pakistan and soon they become part of their global operations.
It may be pertinent to mention that call centers catering to US and European customers prefer to hire Pakistanis because they don't suffer from regional accent that is very common in India. However, this quality is evident in students belonging to large cities only. Students from rural area often succeed in acquiring reasonable command on written English but level of discomfort is high when it comes to conversation.
A point also to be kept in mind is that India has huge population; students are keen in learning English as working language and also becoming IT savvy. That is one of the reasons every year India earns billions of dollars from those who provide back office support.