BUSINESS EDUCATION: THE HIGHEST-RETURN INVESTMENT IN BALOCHISTAN

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
June 30 - July 06, 2008

Business education is mainly aimed at preparing the students for the practice of an occupation in business or business-related fields. Today, business education is taught to help understanding of business. As the business world is currently developing at a rapid pace, it is essential for the youth to have some knowledge, particularly when one wants to set up one's own business. Business education is directed at the study and research in the field of business. It includes secondary education, higher education and university education.

Performance improvement in the educational arena can yield great potential returns in terms of development in Balochistan. Undeniably, business education is the highest-return investment available in the province. Business education at all levels-secondary, higher & university- can revolutionize the social attitudes, economic trends and political mindsets in Balochistan. It is highly important to develop human resources and to open up the province for economic activities and foreign investment. It is the educational backwardness that has given rise to negative perceptions over the ongoing development process in the province.

Under military administration of General Pervez Musharraf, Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS) was established in Quetta. In July 2002, the provincial government chartered the BUITMS for the delivery, promotion and dissemination of knowledge and to produce high quality manpower resources in Balochistan. The BUITMS is currently being developed as a premier seat of learning in management sciences. The university also offers bachelors and masters degrees in business administration. It has emerged as a quality business school in the province, whose economic potential has so far been untapped and underdeveloped.

Private sector should also come forward to establish quality business schools in Balochistan. Presently, Iqra University, Al-Hamd Islamic university, virtual university, Pearl University and Al-Khair University are running their campuses in private sector in Quetta. These universities offer bachelor and master degree programs in business administration. In public sector the University of Balochistan in Quetta also offers degree programs in business administration.

The province witnesses concentration of universities in provincial capital. Students from other districts have to settle in Quetta to receive quality education, as rest of Balochistan particularly rural districts have no business school. A survey of private sector schools in Pakistan, done by the Federal Bureau of Statistics in 2001, showed that the province had only 5% of the 36,096 private schools. Given the sparse distribution of private institutions in most deprived parts of Balochistan one can witness the limited interest of the private sector in providing education to the poor. The public school infrastructure needs to be strengthened to give better access to the rural poor and girls.

The province also has the smallest number of educational institutions - 10,381 against the national number of 216,490 out of which 106,435 are located in the Punjab, 46,862 in Sindh and 36,029 in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). This means that out of the total number of institutions, 48 percent are to be found in the Punjab, 22 percent in Sindh, 17 percent in the NWFP and 5 percent in Balochistan. The province also has the lowest presence of private schools - 1,750, as compared to 48,541 in the Punjab, 12,574 in Sindh and 11,276 in the NWFP.

With the construction of a deep-sea port, the strategically located Gwadar port city in Balochistan is currently being developed as business hub in the region. Present government plans to complete the business plan of Gwadar in next fiscal year. There is a dire need for qualified and professional port staff for successful marketing of the port management to potential customers, building of export processing zone, trans-shipment and warehousing facilities, fixing of port tariffs for shipping companies in order to be competitive. In the future scenario, only a technical person would have some worth in Balochistan. Those who build up their capacities and develop technical skills would be fit to survive the future technological boom. The ground realities call for a rational and long-term planning for development of human resources in Balochistan. Only the educated, skilled and healthy people can make the best use of the enormous natural resources of the province. The development of human resources will raise labor efficiency and revolutionize the social attitudes and institutions in the province. The Qualified teachers, instructors and trainers should be recruited and be accorded importance for human resource development in the province.

The province needs more and more bachelors and masters in business administration. There is a dire need for setting up business schools in every district of the province. Serious efforts and consistent policies are needed to beat back the prevailing educational backwardness in Balochistan. Undoubtedly, an effective and sustained educational reform hinges on a combination of policy and institutional changes. Equally important is the need to invest right amounts for the appropriate types of education. There is a need to follow a common set of professional standards in curriculum design. Arguably, this can be achieved most readily by creating overarching staff groupings that share common interests and provide a single career path.

The experience shows that there is scope for collaboration between the public and private sectors in education, targeting low-income households, in Balochistan. Opening up the system to non-public provision with public-sector financial support can increase access and improve equity. This support will increase enrollment and the low-income families will benefit.

This is an age of emerging knowledge-based economies. Human capital and institutional capacity are considered as the essential components of a knowledge-based economy, which produce ideas, make viable strategies and provide an impetus for growth and economic development of a country. There is a high need to create technical hands, skilled labor, sharp brains and stable minds in Balochistan to survive the future technological boom in wake of the emerging knowledge-based economies in the world. Need is to improve and expand business education, expand the curriculum in secondary schools and introduce vocational streams at the middle school level. Other major developments are the increasing community involvement in school management and the hiring of location-specific contract teachers, both requiring capacity building and training.