Time to re-engineer curriculum, standardize and control quality of graduates

Sep 25 - Oct 01, 2000

Over the last one decade Pakistan has witnessed mushroom growth of business schools. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has been trying to weed out sub-standard institutions through its accreditation process. These has been a wide gap between demand and supply for professional managers. To take advantage of the situation, a large number of schools have emerged in the private sector and each one claims a prosperous and guaranteed future. However, the disparity in salary package given to graduates from some of the ace business schools and stocklots produced by others frustrate not only the job seekers but their parent who spend thousands of rupees in the hope of ensuring a prosperous career for their children.

While the commercial motive for establishing a business school dominates all other objectives, the UGC has not been able to control mushroom growth. Similarly, the broad policy outline given by the UGC, which should have inculcated self-regulatory mechanism is still not evident. The worries of academicians regarding curriculum, standardization and quality assurance, demand complete re-engineering of business education in the country. It is encouraging to note that some of the institutions are making efforts to improve the quality of their graduates. However, a lot has to be done at a much faster pace.

Surprisingly, a very important and integral part of business education, information technology faces a much serious crisis. Thousands of fly by night institutes have emerged. The week-end edition of newspapers are full of offering a number of courses. In the absence of career counselling services, the swarms of students land in these institutes. However, once they get a certificate/diploma or even a degree and try to enter the job market, they often find out that the time, energy and money they have spent is of no consequence. Their level of frustration is beyond imagination.

A point which has been grossly ignored is that information technology is a tool to achieve the broad objectives of business. It is not a stand--alone discipline which can ensure a respectable career. Unless these boys and girls are exposed to core business activities, how can they use the tool. The students also tend to forget that there are two types of IT literate, data entry and system developers. A large number of certificate/diploma holders are not even fit to make an entry at the lowest level.

As the pace of life is getting much faster, the employers do not prefer to employ trainees, they want people who are productive from the day one. Therefore, the business schools need top prepared graduates who can assume some responsibility from the day they join a commercial entity.

This clearly demands re-engineering of curriculum. There are two opposite school of thoughts. Institutions like Greenwich University has launched a programme where students will be taught a variety of subjects before entering MBA programme. As opposed to this, the other group strongly believes that the number of courses taught should be reduced or replaced by specialized courses. IBFAM has introduced specialized programmes, i.e. MBA Finance and Banking to cater to the growing needs for professionals in the financial sector. However, there is a need to create a balance. This balance can be achieved through greater interaction of academicians with the business community.

As regards improving the quality of education imparted in the business schools, the concept of credit rating should be introduced. It should be mandatory for business schools to print the awarded ranking on the prospectus. Who can do the ranking is an important issue for national debate but this ranking agency must consist of reputed academicians. The three basic parameter for ranking should be: infrastructure, faculty and financial strength.

In our recent survey we find out that some of the deans of business schools have not learned business administration and/or management sciences. One may wonder how can a person who has not studied management sciences make any input in designing the curriculum of a business school. Some of the business schools have tried to replicate curriculum followed at IBA in the past.

Another issue which need immediate attention is standardization of credit hours. Some of the business schools in the name of MBA-Executive programme offer only a limited number of courses. The number of hours per course are also curtailed. It may be true that people joining executive programmes are mostly in-service people, can experience be a substitute for formal teaching?

Another issue is working of Pakistan chapters of foreign universities. Apparently some of them are still not fully accredited by the UGC. Off and on announcements by the Commission creates confusion which is hardly cleared. This issue must be settled once for all on priority basis.