KASBIT UNIVERSITY WITH A DIFFERENCE

Advocating standard, excellence and quality recognition

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

KASBIT has many feathers in its cap. It is the first private sector institute of higher education which is registered as a corporate body. The institute was given ISO-9001 certification in January 2002, in recognition of its quality control system. By this virtue the institute becomes the first ISO-9001 certified degree awarding institute of private sector in Pakistan. In order to understand the philosophy PAGE talked to Professor Wali Khan Durrani of KASBIT. Following are excerpts from his exclusive interview.

KASBIT imparts education in Computer Science and Information Technology. It is a part of the KASB Group, one of the oldest and leading business groups of Pakistan. The purpose of establishing KASBIT is to prepare the upcoming generation to face the emerging challenges. We live in an era of continuous change, which entails upon us to reform and adjust along with the needs and demands of time and society and education cannot be an exception. With the rapid pace of developing around the world in general and in Pakistan in particular we have to realize our responsibilities as education providers.

Having worked for a number of prestigious educational institutions of Pakistan, including KASBIT, I have often felt that we need radical changes in our education system. The system, which we had inherited from the colonial era, was aimed at producing different type of people. We became independent in 1947 but our education system has remained more or less the same. It is true that new disciples have been added but our primary and secondary education infrastructure is fragile as well as outdated. Ironically, in the past we did not have enough funds to be spent of education. Now we have the funds and we are also making efforts to change the system but our plans are not coordinated and coherent. We are making some make shift arrangements but we have not prepared our own 'home grown' plan. Our efforts also lack commitment but we are spending the precious resources without realizing the fact that we are not moving in the right direction.

I appreciate the efforts of Pakistan & Gulf Economist. It has been highlighting the issues related to business education. I have pleaded in the past and would reiterate my point of view that quality of higher education cannot be upheld without changing Pakistan's basic education system. There cannot be two opinions that the quality of students passing out from educational institutions is dependent of a number of factors. These are quality of the entrants, academic qualification and experience of the faculty and the curriculum. An elaborate infrastructure and a glorious past become meaningless if the institution fails to maintain the highest level of dissemination of knowledge. Learning is rather a complicated process. The best of faculty and curriculum cannot deliver the results if the students are less efficient and have no quest for knowledge. Ironically, the objective of student is to get a degree, which can help them in getting a job, rather than seeking knowledge for leading a better life.

In my opinion, we as a nation, suffer from two weaknesses myopic vision and adhocism. The decision makers also suffer from selective perception. At times the policy makers make decisions in isolation. They often assume that all other factors will remain constant. In the corporate world before launching a new product extensive research is done, including the salient features of the product and its production capacity. As against this we really do not know what types of graduates have to been produced and what should be their number. The result is at times the country suffers from an acute shortage of people from one discipline and at other times there is a glut.

I have often said and would like to reiterate that the policy planners often fail to take holistic approach regarding education. Though, there are education ministries at federal and provincial levels, we are still following the rule of colonialism - a different education for the rulers and the being ruled. Most of us hesitate to accept this fact. Is it not a fact that the syllabi of private schools and 'yellow schools, are different? It appears that we are still keen in maintaining the 'class system'. Is it not a fact that the fees and medium of instruction also support the system?

However, the entire society has to accept the blame for the faulty education system. I would also like to hold parents and students responsible along with the teachers. Students often do not pay proper attention to their education because they do not see any future and teachers have all the complaints. I am confident that if we follow the holistic approach we would be able to produce required number of graduates and skilled youths. We will be able to overcome the unemployment issue to a large extent. This is not wishful thinking. The data about various industries is available. Based on this making a forecast of future requirement for educated and skilled workforce should not pose any problem.

I do not wish to sound cynical but it is a proven fact that Pakistan is blessed with tremendous resources and has the potential to become enormously strong economic power. The recent history shows that Pakistan has not only a robust economy as compared to those countries which now make newly industrialized countries, but implementation of right policies also makes a difference. Pakistan had remained testing laboratory for experimenting various theories of the developed world. Most of the aid, grant and soft term loans were never aimed at making Pakistan economically strong country. While the older generation borrowed the new generation will have to pay for their mistakes.

I would like you to reproduce what I had said earlier. If we are serious in bringing prosperity, for all, we have to think and work like Japan and Germany - rebuilding after devastation at the end of second world war. We must be thankful to God because we are not sitting on debris. The country has an elaborate infrastructure. The only thing we have to do is improving the education system. Each of us must work hard, strengthen institutions, improve governance level and reject those who are not willing to become part of the nation building program.