Autonomous accreditation needed without further delay

SHABBIR H. KAZMI, Special Correspondent
Sep 10 - 16, 2007

Some of the Pakistani business schools have been producing remarkable able quality of graduates, who have attained fame at local and international levels. Just to quote two examples, Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz and one of the Governors of Sindh, Mamnoon Hussain, are the graduate of Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi. Hundreds of other IBA graduates have attained the level of CEO of national and multinational companies.

One may say that these are two exceptional cases otherwise many graduates of other universities have occupied key positions in country's administrative structure. However, the difference in some of the best business schools and leading universities is the curriculum and teaching methodology. In Pakistani business schools special attention is paid to curriculum, faculty and linkage with business community.

The disciplines like Economics, Finance, Marketing and Human Resource Management/Development are some of the common components of the curriculum. With the passage of time curriculum has improved, new disciplines have been added and there has been growing emphasis on interaction with the business community, which has also reciprocated generously. Lahore University of Management Sciences is the outcome of the collective but new approach of the business community. The corporate sector has also helped in developing and constantly improving banking courses. The other additions are Healthcare Management, Export Marketing and Advertising. Information Technology used to be part of MBA curriculum has now become a full-fledged Masters and Doctorate programs.

Since IBA was established with the financial and technical assistance from United States of America its curriculum was also borrowed from that country, including the case studies. The late entrants took advantage of the curriculum being followed at the IBA and then built upon it a curriculum, which has more relevance with the country. However, the most crucial issue is availability of quality faculty. Though, some make shift arrangements are being made, the teacher-student link has remained very week.

According to a very senior academician, "Thousands of books may be available in the library of a business school but unless students are told to refer to some of these the advantage just cannot be exploited. It is the teacher who guides the students to read a specific chapter of a particular book. However, with the growing number of "Visiting Faculty" management of information and selection of reading material for the students has become a serious problem."

Almost all the faculty members tell their students to take advantage of the Internet in downloading the available material. Google is often termed the best search engine and with its help one can download thousands of pages of relevant information but utilizing this information poses serious issue. A good number of books is also available for downloading but utility of downloaded material remains minimal because students do not have time to go through hundred and thousands of web pages.

Lately, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has been spending billions of rupees on training of the trainers. However, under this program "old men" are being sent who suffer from depleting physical faculties. Some of the business schools have not only succeeded in engaging young, talented and ambitious faculty but are also spending a lot of money on improving their knowledge and expertise.

It is necessary to reiterate once again that the business schools have produced thousands of business managers, now it is the time to prepare ENTREPRENEURS. There is a drastic difference between the thinking of an executive and an entrepreneur. According to an academician, "Business schools cannot produce entrepreneur because entrepreneurship is a God gifted quality. However, we can polish the quality and inculcate entrepreneurial qualities in a person who has the right aptitude. Pakistan's economic growth cannot be achieved in double digits unless bureaucrats, politicians, regulators and business managers start thinking like entrepreneurs.

According to Professor Mohammad Wali Durrani, "The basic mandate of any school is to impart knowledge and groom a person to successfully face challenges of life. Those who have superior knowledge and are willing to pass it on to the next generation can only groom them. Unless both the teachers and the students talk to each other on the same wavelength communication gaps would continue to create hurdles.

Present time is called "Information Management Age" because so much information is available on websites that may require decades to read, comprehend and utilize it. This information could add value once it is filtered. Ironically one could find a lot of regularly updated information about some of the developed countries but most of the websites/portals disseminating information about Pakistan have outdated data.

Business Schools extensively follow "Case Study Method" to familiarize the students with "Real Life" working. However, two impediments often derail the process. Most of the faculty members prefer to use foreign case studies because local case studies are not available. The weak link with the local business community also does not allow development of local case studies. The outcome is that when these graduates start their career they look like aliens. The initial years of the career are consumed in knowing the local corporate, working environment, regulatory framework and even Pakistan economy.

There has been a mushroom growth of Business Schools in the country and now it is time to implement quality control processes. Accreditation process is still missing in the country. It is suggested that an autonomous accreditation agency should be established without further delay. If Business Schools are free in charging any fee from the students, they should also follow global quality standards.