GOVT FACILITATION NEEDED TO PROMOTE HIGHER LEARNING

INTERVIEW: HUMA BUKHARI, VICE CHAIRMAN NICE

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
Nov 17 - 23, 2008

Private institutes are lending helping hands to government struggles of creating strategists to amplify economic growth. However, an amiable environment must be designed so that exchange of knowledge can take place amongst government, corporate, and education centers. During an interview with PAGE, Huma Bukhari, Vice Chairman Newports Institute of Communications and Economics (NICE) said many innovations and practical economic crisis resolutions are developed in higher learning institutions but lack of facilitation makes these remedies unutilized. Utilization of expertise presents home-grown solutions to several economic problems. She said researches should be made pivotal in every higher learning centers. Researches in economics and agriculture should be increased to pave a way for solutions to economic problems, she stressed.

Today's NICE is a brainchild of education society-of which she is a pioneer member-that took the helm of affairs of institute in 1999. It was later in year 2002 when HEC awarded degree awarding status to NICE which started giving education in 1993 in affiliation with a foreign university. "Right now we have two campuses, in Karachi, in which over 2000 students are enrolled while an average 200 students are graduated per semester," says huma. NICE offers degree programs in faculty of business administration and computer sciences. In fashion designing, it has on board diploma and certificate programs.

She believes that higher learning centers have responsibility to produce talents in accordance with the requirement in the economy. Higher education in technology, economics researches, and agriculture can become effective in economic building of Pakistan. "The common feedback from job market is: 'dearth of skilled personnel'. We have worked out a plan to establish these much required disciplines by soon to develop skilled manpower', emphasized Huma. When asked about land resource such experiment-oriented disciplines need, she replied nicely the institute was allocated 20 acre land in the proposed education city to be built at one of the highway sides in Karachi.

NICE has provided feasibility study of livestock development to the government and report on urban resource mobilization to city government Karachi, she said while highlighting institutional research contributions. 'Activities of researches in professional institutes are not up to the mark.' Along with the corporate world, direct liaison of education centre with the government economic planners can enhance the usability of the researches, she said when asked of NICE's corporate liaison strength. Strong is the NICE's students' research capability, she added. Institute-corporate liaison should be linked for research purposes.

'Job placement ratio of NICE's graduates is satisfactory," says Huma. Normally, our students face no problems in finding jobs in the market. Job is conditioned with degree from a recognized institute. Therefore survival is only for those centers which run recognized program. She agreed with the high placement ratio of few private sector business schools, but added "these institutes have students hailing from influential classes and for their graduates coordination with employers is readily made before they drop out of study". Counseling is also important to guide students about the subject area. In order to have better outputs institutions must have both good researches and counseling.

On general public opinion that most of the private business schools are not giving quality education, she enquired if public sector universities are doing it so. "Look, our effort is positive and reformative," leaning comfortably back against a cushion she said. We take below average from the society and produce best for the economy, she rejoined referring to admission criteria in her institute. 'We don't have any other sources of revenue than fees.' At least we are not running ghost education centers or misappropriating public fund.

She finds HEC ranking of education centers on the basis of infrastructure as pertinent. HEC assigns different ratings that include A, B, C to higher learning institutes and universities in conformity with their constructed areas and physical outlooks. However, she thought that HEC should enlarge its constricted role as monitor to facilitator. "It should facilitate private sector scholarships," she urged. So far HEC offers financial assistance to public sector universities. Rationalization of education budgets may make a space to support private higher education. Government should give a thought to how expertise in private education centre can be augmented.

"To become at par with international standard local education needs to be improved from bottom level. Without efficient primary, secondary, and intermediate education systems, this goal is difficult to be attained. Intakes coming to us are product of flawed, bipartisan education systems", she said and added despite putting hard endeavors to transform them professionally numbers of training years do not outscore 10 or 12 years. In spite of that what we are producing must be appreciated.

There is a time to bring about outputs, from institutes, which are needed for economic progress. NICE's plan to enter in to agriculture and engineering disciplines is clearly explaining her reiterating this.

Huma Bokhari has been lion's club district governor for 2007-08. The club's funded hospital at Karachi has undertaken 100 cornea surgeries during her governorship, she said added it was an average number of cornea transplantations carried in a year without charging fees from patients. The club is only a conduit of donations of philanthropists to public welfare. Encouraged with previous successful attempts for social betterment, we are now planning to establish a well equipped hospital for low income group in Karachi. Shedding lights on other salient activities of the lion's club, she said, it focused on to expand outreach of education through social donations and grants. She informed that the club facilitated computer training workshops and other vocational trainings in juvenile prisons.