Nov 17 - 23, 2008

Despite the fact that Pakistan attained independence in 1947 its education policy has remained devoid of plans to achieve the national objectives. The result is that every year hundreds and thousands of graduates are produced who only add to list of unemployed youths and unemployment causes frustration among the youngsters and their parents. Lack of vocational training facilities and declining standard also adversely impact the work of manufacturing industries.

For example no one knows the number of doctors, engineers, accountants and IT professionals to be produced every year. The result is that at one specific point there is an acute shortage of a specific type of discipline but some times there is glut of graduates of the same seeking employment. This is due to lack of interaction between the educational institutions and the business community. On top of this outdated curriculum and deteriorating quality of faculty in the public sector universities do not help in producing quality graduates.

To overcome the shortage of facility universities opted for 'visiting faculty' believing that the executives of the corporate sector will join them in harnessing teaching and real life experience. However, the common experience is that a new breed of instructors has cropped up, which have joined this profession to make extra money by taking as many courses as possible but hardly meeting the quality standard. Some of the institutions have failed in attracting quality faculty only because they consider 'imparting education a way of making quick buck'.

Producing quality graduates is a long drawn procedure. It begins with the quantification of various types of graduates to be produced every year, ensuring availability of qualified and experienced faculty and enriching education with real life experience. However, lack of this linkage creates most of the problems. In most of the public sector universities the curriculum has not changed in decades and the same goes true for the faculty. A large number of teachers use stale notices, which they have prepared most probably when they themselves were the students.

It is amazing that students of 4th class are being taught the local government system, internet, banking but some of the IT schools use 486 type computers, teach punch card system and accounting systems which are not used even in less developed countries. Most of the computer labs of colleges and universities have obsolete systems, both hardware and software. The natural outcome is students spend their time and money in an endeavor which is of no consequence. When they come in contact with the potential employers it results in disappointment.

Higher education has become a big and quick-buck making business. In order to attract the children of people who have ample money the biggest selling points is grandeur buildings having all sorts of luxuries. Most of the students coming to such institutions could get a job or be partners in family businesses even if they do not have any formal education. However, the name having a professional degree alleviates the person. Now a number of foreign educational sell masters or doctorates for a couple of hundred dollars. They do not have to do much but simply get the printout.

A closer look at the history shows that Pakistan has some of the best educational institutions, which are also recognized by the foreign universities. However, lately there has been a mushroom growth of educational institutions, which also boast of having affiliation with the foreign universities. The regrettable point is that there is no mechanism of evaluating and monitoring of the higher education institutes. The net result is that graduates from two institutes are ranked differently despite having equivalent qualification. They are also given different remuneration by the employers. This causes frustration among the graduates. It is also said that the degrees of some of the flamboyant institutes are not recognized by the employers.

Classification of graduates from different institutions in different categories has led to a point where the applicants having acquired degree from some of the educational institutes are weeded out in the initial screening. Often by the time this harsh reality is known it is too late and nothing could be done. It is huge financial loss for the parents as well as those who pay their own fees.

Interestingly this fact is known to the government but no measures have been taken against such elements who rob parents and students. More than a decade ago some efforts were done to roundup the owners of such institutes but soon the regulators also joined hands with the backyard players.

The aimless education, poor quality of curriculum and academicians and failure in establishing any monitoring authority has resulted in bad to worse conditions. The result is hike in unemployment rate, poor remuneration on the job and worst of all declining standard of human resource.

Those who do not agree with this must look at the poor response of overseas employers. Most of these employers prefer to employ people from India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Bangladesh rather than Pakistan.

Though, some of the educational institutions may not like it but it is a fact that these students passing out from these institutes may have the degree but their attitude is not towards life and behavior is not very different of those who are often termed ''uneducated'. They may have a piece of paper called 'degree' but it looks that education has not changed their mindset.

If the destination of this nation has to be changed, a lot needs to be done to improve the higher education system in the country. We have already wasted six decades in arguing whether the medium of instruction should be Urdu or English but we have not been able to quantify how many doctors, engineers, academicians, accountants and business administrators will be needed over the next five years.