An exclusive interview of Sher Afghan Malik

May 22 - May 28, 2006

Sher Afgan Malik, FCMA, was unanimously elected President for the period 2006-2008 by the National Council of the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Pakistan (ICMAP) in its 221st meeting here on January 21, 2006. Malik has previously served the Institute as President and member National council during 2003-2005. Currently he is serving as Managing Director International Spectrum Development Inc; Director Adept (Pvt) Limited, Director Karachi Stock Exchange (Guarantee) Limited and Member Board of Governors of Pakistan Institute of Public Finance Accountants (PIPFA). Previously he was Managing Director of Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIAC) and member Board of Governors of Pakistan Institute of Corporate Governance. Prior to that Mr. Malik worked >as Chief Executive in various other important capacities in Saudi Arabia, the USA and the U.A.E.

PAGE: What can an individual do in terms of promotion of education?

Sher Afgan Malik: I want you to look at the level of quality education in the Western world and then ponder over it that what has helped the West in attaining such phenomenal success. If you ask me, my answer would be 'futuristic and consistent approach with an aim to achieve what one intends'. In the USA, you may find scores of institutes with the reputation of 2 to 3 centuries and in Europe, some institution are much older.

This indicates consistent approach in maintaining quality education and standards of the institutes. I believe in promoting excellence in teaching and research. These two things bring about extraordinary and positive change and it is very much viable for an individual to bring about such changes, if he or she has the strength and commitment for the cause. If you read history of some excellent schools, you would find that it was usually one individual who made the difference. It was his commitment and dedication with time and/or resources that helped in creating a successful institution.

History reveals that there are number of individuals who were dedicated and they devoted their lives in promoting education. Let me give you an instance of Harvard University. This university would have closed in its first 15 to 20 years of its existence, had John Harvard not come forward with lot of urban land, huge library and other resources to save it from closure. It's success can be gauged from the fact that Harvard has produced so may Nobel Laureates, large number of business and Government >leaders including President and Ministers in the US and around the world. A good example is US Supreme Court, which has five graduates from Harvard Law School out a total of 9 judges on the bench.

PAGE: How would you comment on the present literacy rate in our country and the budget allocation for the education sector?

SAM: The quality of education in our country is poor and substandard. This needs immediate corrective action at all levels, schools, colleges, universities or technical schools for producing technician for industry and other sectors. We have been oblivious to the progress of the rest of the world.

In our country, a person who can sign his name is considered a literate citizen which is unacceptable if we intend to survive in this ever-changing and extremely demanding era. A lot of work is required to be done by the government, educationalists, business and industry and common citizens to create an educational environment for our future generations. 2.7 percent or 4 percent of GDP for education budget is nothing.

It should be at least 15 to 20 percent of GDP within the next five years. I appreciate the recent development when the President and the Prime Minister announced 50% increase in the education budget but it must keep going up and special emphasis should be on quality of education. We also need to educate our teachers as large number of them are neither interested in imparting their knowledge nor have skills to do the same.

The government's recent step to allocate $100 million for the teachers' training program is magnificent endeavour provided that the amount is spent properly. I believe that we should hire a large number of teacher-trainers from abroad. These trainers should train our local teachers for a period of time thus we would have our indigenous trainers who should further serve the nation. However, some of the foreign trainers should be retained to supervise and control the process for a longer period.

PAGE: According to one estimate there are 115 private and public universities across Pakistan. Do you think it is sufficient number for the huge population? What steps should be taken in this regard?

SAM: Off course, the number of universities/higher education institutes is insufficient in our country. In the US, there are over 3200 big and recognized universities for over 280 million people. Each university has at least 10 schools on the average. Apart from universities, there are thousands of high schools where individuals get High School diplomas equivalent to O Levels. In the US, public schools are run by local and state governments and every individual goes to high schools and most of >them go for vocational and technical training degrees. These technical graduates are in fact the real force in keeping the economy moving.

PAGE: There has been mushroom growth of Business Schools over the period of last two decades and they are still growing at full throttle. What would you say about the quality of education in this regard?

SAM: Most of them are being run to mint money. There are a few quality business schools such as LUMS, IBA, SZABIST etc. but even these institutions are not to the Level of good schools around the globe.

PAGE: How does ICMAP promote efficiency and effectiveness?

SAM: ICMAP was established in 1951. It did well in its first 35 to 40 years but I think there was a stagnation period during 1990s in terms of progress. We are now braced and determined to work with commitment to achieve world level standards in next 5-6 years. Our aim is to make ICMAP a school of choice for Finance and Business which can compete with any institution in the world.

Four areas for immediate amelioration identified by us are improvement in infrastructure, provision of latest technology, recruitment of the best teachers available in the market and training our teachers with the help of the International agencies. We have introduced new syllabus. The new syllabus provides our students the best professional education, which is in line with the latest developments in the profession and responds positively to the rapidly changing global business requirements. It is also in accordance with the requirements of International Education Standards (IES) prescribed by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).

PAGE: Has there been any impact on ICMAP policies because of the ever-growing business schools across the country?

SAM: Not really, as we know that the quality of business schools is not as good as it should be. However, we have decided that for our own image-building we would be more selective in terms of student intake. By and large, we offer admissions to 3,500 new entrants every year, but in future our emphasis is going to be more on quality.

PAGE: Research is sine qua non for any institute. What kind of research activities are there at ICMAP and how do they help the corporate world?

SAM: We have intensified our efforts for the research activities. The faculty members can play a vital role in it. The faculty can use innovative teaching methodologies in synergy with their research knowledge to groom the future leaders. We hope that in future, we can publish at least 20 to 30 publications every year. We have less than 100 publications so far with which is not enough and we have to put more efforts for the research activities.

PAGE: What has ICMAP given to the nation?

SAM: Our 3500 highly qualified graduates are serving Pakistan and 30 other countries. More than 10,000 partially qualified students of ICMAP are holding various levels in private and public sector. We intend to give thousands and thousands of high caliber people to our nation in the time to come.

PAGE: A word of advice for the youngsters:

SAM: I would suggest that they should work hard and study not only to pass the exams but to acquire knowledge. They should work with honesty and dedication and produce quality work and should never compromise on the principles. If they follow these lines, nothing can stop them from making it to the top sooner than later.