Jan 28 - Feb 03, 2008

Business schools have witnessed a phase of mushroom growth during last decade. Countless of specific discipline institutes have extended their curriculum to the field of business management and enrol admissions in bachelors' and master's of business administration. With the boom in the telecom and banking sector the demand for MBA graduates has increased tremendously.

Every business school states and aims to provide the best quality education and teaching in its limited resources. Few names like LUMS, IBA, NIMS, Q.A.U, Bahria University, IMS etc. stand in the fore front. Students who desire to have an MBA degree from these reputed educational institutes have better chances to grab a job that promise high paid salary. These leading institutes, to extend their dominance in job market are developing their linkages with the corporate sector through their respective placement cells, job fairs and alumni gathering etc. So everything seems well connected. However, being an academician I feel that something is lacking. What is the sole objective of a business school? Is it about teaching our students from a good well accredited published book of foreigner authors which may be considered the gurus in their respective fields? Or is it about the objective that revolves around the concern that how many graduating students are absorbed in the job market with affluent employers? Or perhaps the purpose has more to do with production of entrepreneurs and not the employees for the MNC's or big national companies? If the curriculum of local business schools be compared with international business school, they are undoubtedly striving to be at par with them. Yet the issue is not to match the curriculum of MBA or BBA but it is actually about the need of the time, in short local market demand driven curriculum However, with the current mix of courses students are well trained on their soft skills like communication / presentation skills which help them in entering an organization through job interview.

LABOUR MARKET TREND: Keeping in mind the unemployment rate of 6.2 % (labour survey 2005-2006) where the total labour force participation is approximately 47 million out of a total of 165 million, there is definitely a big gap between employment avenues and an available work force. This gap can be filled if students are encouraged to take up planned risks in their practical life and invest their time and energy for setting up their own businesses. The labour force participation is 32 % for the whole population and out of this 32 %; almost 47 % still is engaged with agriculture sector. It means avenues on services and manufacturing sector still lagging behind the minimum required level because of lack of new business activities. In Pakistan the percentage of total employers is just 0.88% in the total employment market, which is definitely a sign that we are producing good entry level mangers to serve for an MNC rather than bringing out new businessmen who can themselves become potential employer and fuel up the engine of the economy. Students are taught one course on entrepreneurship at degree level along with one semester of a mini project. If such courses can be extended over the period of two semesters and linked with government initiatives and SME bank incentives to facilitate business venture, we might potentially be creating CEO rather than mere operational level managers.

UNMATCHABLE OCCUPATION: Business students should be given a more practical insight aimed at facilitating their private set up of businesses. Thin percentage of students actually knows the procedure of registering a business firm or attaining an ISO certification through proper procedure. Not only this raising funds or credits, making original and good business proposal for getting funds etc. are other areas that they seriously lack expertise. All these areas should be part of a curriculum while studying a Degree at BBA/MBA level. On asking MBA students as to who would like to start working as businessmen after their education, only few dare to respond in an affirmative nod. Besides the obvious reason of a shyness to take risks due to domestic and social obligation, one major reason is lack of support on raising initial capital and knowledge of procedural requirements by the financial institutions. There are lots of initiatives that have been taken by government and private financial institutes to support the borrowing facilities on easy terms. On the other side different business incubation centres have been established to help those who want to initiate a business ventures. These centres include women incubation business centre (Lahore), Technology incubation centre (TIC, Islamabad), Gujranwala Business centre (in progress) etc. But again very few students actually have any knowledge about it.

RESOLUTIONS: Making students aware about the ground realities and extending such work exposure should be taken seriously by policy makers at institutional strategic level. By broadening the vision of business schools to produce businessmen, the result would be a transformational change that would help in addressing the issues of job saturation as well as developing strong linkages between the academia and the corporate world. The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, under the guidance of Dr. Atta Ur Rehman, has been busy in nurturing a critical mass of highly educated people in the country so as to meet to local demands and increase the executives at the policy making and implementation level. A very robust initiative should be aimed at improving the state of education in the country. No doubt the compensation package for academics has been increased and is a reason for continued belief in the educational system. Yet the educational plan again fails to address the fact that in the local scenario the paucity of job opportunities is a crippling factor for the Pakistani PhD's that will return to a 5 year bond where they will be teaching in universities that have no practical implementation in the real world. Merely pumping highly educated people will not better the affairs of the country? Surely, a student who earns a doctorate imagines that his education will allow him to cash his educational excellence. However, the harsh reality is indigestible to these doctors. Their expectations when left unrealized leads to frustration. One plausible solution is to provide more incentives for starting new businesses. These foreign qualified will bring in foreign experience that promote mushroom growth in various industries in the country. It must be kept in mind that it is really the mushroom growth that creates opportunities for employment as many as five times more. Perhaps a new insight into the educational system will pull Pakistan out of its economic crisis and tap the vast amount of human resource that Pakistan has.

(Author is Lecturer, Management Sciences, Comsats Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad)