22 - 28, 2010

Streaming from the desire to look beyond conventional careers, professional accounting education has been attracting the interest of young men and women. As per a recent survey by The Accountant, the top 10 professional accountancy bodies have one million registered students.

In Pakistan, a significant number of young individuals from diverse academic and geographical backgrounds are opting for professional qualification like ACCA, ICAP, and ICMAP. These individuals feel that a professional qualification empowers them with skills, knowledge, and attributes required by the business world. Rigorous examination testing application, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis skills supplemented by mandatory relevant training experience builds ability to exercise professional judgment based on foundation of ethics, broad but deep technical excellence plus strategic awareness and communication.

The increasing interest in professional accounting education can also be attributed to the growing demand for professional accountants.

As it evolves into a function focused on decision-making support and finally adopting the leadership role of the organization, organisations would actively seek dedicated professional accountants having a high level of skills, commitment to continuous professional development and commitment to a set of principles at the heart of which lies the public interest.

As professional accountants become need of the hour, professional accounting education has become the centre of attention. Professional accounting education is a type of tertiary education which can be obtained through self-study, distance learning or face-to-face tuition provided by professional accounting education providers. In Pakistan, the growth of professional accounting education providers has been impressive. Managing challenges like limited exposure to international best practices, diverse academic and geographic backgrounds, inadequate English writing and comprehension skills and scarcity of trained professional accounting education tutors, over the years the tuition providers have shown determination to improvement by committing resources to teachers training and adopting best practices. "There is a business case for professional accounting education tuition providers to aspire for excellence. As the demand for professional accountants increase in the South Asia region, given that standards of tuition and other facilities at tuition providers in Pakistan are above satisfactory, Pakistan can aim to become the regional centre of excellence for professional accounting education attracting students from not only South Asia but even South East Asia,' says Sajid Hussain, owner of SKANS, a professional accounting education tuition provider with branches in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan and Sialkot with more than 7,000 students.

To ensure highest standards of quality in delivery of professional qualification and appropriate student support facilities, student engagement systems and institutional facilities, the professional accounting bodies should have mechanisms and schemes to monitor the tuition providers. An example is ACCA Approved Learning Partner scheme whereby ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) gives formal recognition to leading tuition providers who offer quality tuition and support to ACCA students. It is the platform from which ACCA and tuition providers can develop a mutually beneficial relationship by increasing the global availability of effective and innovative ACCA course delivery and provision of first-class student support. To become an Approved Learning Partner, the institution is expected to demonstrate that it can meet challenging performance targets by attaining global best practice in the provision of ACCA course tuition and support. The levels of approval are Gold and Platinum. Besides SKANS in Lahore and CAMS in Karachi which are Platinum Approved Learning Partners, Gold Approved Learning Partners include SBS in Karachi, CFE, CAPS and PAC in Lahore, UCAT, ACE and ICAF in Islamabad, PAC in Peshawar and CAMS in Hyderabad.

The role of professional accounting bodies should not be limited to signposting quality tuition but it must go beyond this to provide ways and means to raise the bar of learning and development phenomena. A best practice example on this front is the ACCA Train the Trainer initiative.

As tutors training is a significantly critical challenge faced by the Approved Learning Partners, ACCA through its Train the Trainer programme has trained more than 150 tutors in the last two years. Conducted by national and international trainers the Train the Trainer workshops have focused on creating appreciation of best practices of teaching practices, student engagement, and assessment methodologies. Tutors attending the workshops comment that in the absence of formal training opportunities for tutors delivering professional accounting qualifications, these workshops have played a critical role in equipping them with the knowledge of employers' expectations from tutors, best practices of delivery of professional accounting qualifications, setting assessments and enhancing student engagement.

As a critical aspect of professional accounting education is nurturing individuals with the right mix of skills, abilities and knowledge for a career in accounting, finance and business, professional accounting bodies have developed employment/training schemes for providing students with opportunities to undertake relevant training in accounting, finance and business. An example of such a scheme is ACCA Approved Employer scheme, a programme, which recognizes employers in the corporate and business world for their commitment to high standards of staff training and development.

ACCA has more than 300 approved employers in Pakistan recruiting, retaining, mentoring and training young ambitious individuals committed to supporting business growth in Pakistan. Indeed the prestige and value of all professional qualifications comes from demonstrating how students apply the theoretical knowledge in their workplace.

The popularity of professional accounting education can be attributed to the commitment of the professional accounting bodies and professional accounting education providers who have played an important role in making the accounting profession of Pakistan a vibrant accounting profession.

ACCA Insight Series says business today seeks a T-shaped professional that is an individual with broad generalist finance knowledge and strategy skills complemented with a deep technical specialism. As the finance function develops into a more central role, providing strategic and risk management advice to all parts of the organizations, from operations to marketing, the importance of finance function will amplify.