NEED FOR IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF GRADUATES

The curriculum should be based on the needs of the country

By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
May 22 - May 28, 2006

For the last many years Pakistan & Gulf Economist has been emphasizing the need for improving the quality of graduates coming out of business schools in Pakistan. It may be true that the graduates from a few institutions are as good as the graduates from any international university. However, it is also a fact that the graduates from some schools are not at par with other local entities. The good schools follow an elaborate screening system of the entrants and pick up only the best, whereas a large number of schools just admit any one seeking admission. It is also on record that some of the schools are able to produce superior quality graduates from a little inferior quality of entrants.

There is a general consensus that two factors play very critical role in determining the quality of graduates: 1) faculty and 2) curriculum. Another factor adding to the quality of graduates is the infrastructure. One may say that quality of faculty and curriculum are interdependent. However, others strongly believe that if the faculty is of superior quality it is able to design a better curriculum as well as involve students in healthy extra-curricular activities, which improve their outlook.

In the past, many efforts have been made by the government as well as the educational institutions to set the minimum standards for degree awarding institutions. Some experts say that currently the government has a very little role to play due to establishment of large number of educational institutions by the private sector. However, there cannot be two opinions regarding government's role in curbing the money making motive and also convincing the institutions to create and follow self-regulatory system. While any one may be allowed to establish an educational institution this should only be after complying with the minimum standards.

Having said this, it does not imply that the government and/or management of business schools should try to reinvent the wheel. Universities and business schools have been operating, both in public and private sectors, in Europe and America for decades. Even in those countries there is no bar on establishing more of these institutions and governments have the least role to play. However, all these countries have independent and autonomous accreditation agencies. These agencies have developed elaborate compliance standards to monitor the operations and oversee the performance very rigorously.

It is on record that a large number of faculty members working at various business schools in Pakistan have been educated and worked abroad, particularly in the UK and the USA. They are fully aware of the working of accreditation agencies. The minimum standards laid down by these agencies are available on their websites. Some one has to simply download the standards and rewrite these. However, no efforts should be made to lower the standards and reasonable time should be given to all the existing institutions to comply with the newly developed standards.

Most of the private sector universities and business schools are familiar and to some extent also follow these standards. However, compliance to these standards should be made mandatory for all the institutions in Pakistan. This may irritate some who do not love to follow good governance. However, in the larger interest of the nation and for the recognition of good players, introduction of accreditation system is a must. This is necessary because of the fabulous fees charged by the business schools, particularly those operating in the private sector. If an institution is allowed to charge exorbitant fees, it should also be asked to comply with the minimum standards.

The Institute of Business Administration (IBA) is the oldest business school of Pakistan. The graduates from IBA are serving in local, multinational and transnational companies and even abroad at senior positions. Most of the graduates, when they begin their professional career, are offered comparatively higher remuneration and responsible positions as compared to the graduates from other institutions. The Institute has often introduced some of the courses in Pakistan for the first time. This has been possible only because the employers took active part in preparing outline of new course. Not only that these corporates are the biggest employers of IBA graduates, these companies have also been providing financial support. Therefore, in the days to come IBA has to play more responsible role and also work harder to come up to the expectations of the students and the corporates.

The story of business schools is incomplete without mentioning the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). It has been established by sponsors belonging to the country's leading private and public sector corporations. The goal of the sponsors is to develop an institution, which would provide rigorous academic and intellectual training and a viable alternative to education comparable to leading universities around the world. The National Management Foundation, the sponsoring body of LUMS, was incorporated in November 1984 and was granted a charter by the Government of Pakistan for establishing the University, in March 1985. Through this charter, the University was given the legal right to establish degree-granting programs. The Board of Trustees of the University comprises of leading members of the business community academia and representatives of the government. The Board of Governors also raises the necessary funds for the University's operation and maintenance. Many board members are representatives of the business community and form a crucial link between the University and the business world.

The direction and type of education to be imparted in Pakistan should have been governed by the national objectives and priorities. These objectives include faster development of economy, narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor and better standard of living - improvement for all and not for a small group or few groups. These objectives can only be achieved by following a goal oriented education system. There cannot be short-cuts in life. Therefore, first the policy planners will have to formulate the national objectives and then plan to achieve these objectives.