US

Education in the new decade

US
By Shermeen Zuberi & Tooba Ghani
Fri, 01, 20

Leading educators tell Us how they see the future of Pakistan and what they have envisioned for their respective departments....

US TALK

The decade ahead, filled with all its glorious uncertainties, will be a challenging one for the education industry in Pakistan. So it’s time for us to reflect on what will be important to us and how we should all strategically work together to better our education system in Pakistan as we enter the new decade.

Leading educators tell Us how they see the future of Pakistan and what they have envisioned for their respective departments...

Kamal Siddiqi, Director Centre for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ), IBA

The future of education in Pakistan doesn’t look very bright. We are producing doctors and engineers when we need nurses and technicians. This needs to change. We have to see what the requirements are for our country and for our economy and offer educational opportunities based on that. Also, standards in most universities seem to have declined. There is little research done and innovation seems nonexistent. Of course, there are some notable exceptions to this. I am hopeful such institutions will lead the way.

At CEJ, we have to amend our curriculum to cater to market requirements. We have to teach the subjects that are needed in the industry. For example, we teach students mobile journalism and data journalism. This is much needed in the media industry. Also, we have to look at how we can make our programmes more affordable, overall. Blended learning is an option we should consider. It allows students to source their course material and lectures online and attend a few classes for follow up discussions.

Dr Uzma Ali, Director, Insitute of Clinical Psychology (ICP), University of Karachi

The future of education seems promising, but a lot needs to be done. We must focus on education at primary and secondary levels in urban and rural areas to ensure all students get a proper education.

As far as higher education is concerned, students after completing their Masters realize they should get a research degree and learn practical skills in order to excel in their respective fields and contribute to the society. This year, at the ICP, University of Karachi, applications for M.Phil and PhD in Clinical Psychology increased by 50 percent. However, if we increase our seats, we would have to increase the faculties as well. For this we need more funds from the government and look for other resources.

Our vision is to train mental health professionals through trainings and workshop, so that they can serve the community. We are also working on research projects to find out the cause of different mental health problems in Pakistan. Further, we are working on effective treatment and management of mental health problems with respect to our culture.

We are also planning to organize different training programmes for other professions where basic psychological knowledge and awareness about human behaviour is required.

Considering our socioeconomic conditions we need to follow the multidisciplinary approach for awareness, management and treatment of mental health problems and wellbeing.

Dr Riaz Sheikh, Dean, Social Sciences and Education Department, SZABIST

The near future of education in Pakistan is quite promising and challenging at the same time. Reputable educational institutions in Pakistan are committed to provide quality education. Curriculum is also being revised and improved at all educational levels to facilitate students and promote practical learning.

Subjects like digital marketing, biosciences and psychology have emerged as major fields. We have a huge population of youth in Pakistan that is very talented; we hope they will be able to revolutionize the education system in Pakistan.

However, the teachers and students of Pakistan face difficulties in terms of infrastructure, curriculum, fees and salaries, especially in the government educational institutes. Corporate sector should invest in the education sector.

At SZABIST, we continuously monitor our performances and that’s why our institute enjoys good market acceptability in the corporate sector. We will continue to maintain this status.

Our institute offers programmes like biosciences, mechatronic engineering, human development studies that are not being offered elsewhere. SZABIST has a policy of catering to the educational needs of students from various financial backgrounds, and we will continue to make education as accessible as possible. We offer scholarships and we will work on making them even more flexible for students from various financial backgrounds. Also, we are also trying to collaborate with multiple institutions that will allow our students to get help from different grants and subsidies.

Professor Anwar Ahmed Zai, Executive Director, Dr Ziauddin University Group of Education

Action is required to bring about the desired change in the education system.

Almost seven years have passed since The Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2013, but we haven’t seen any significant development.

We conducted our first board examination last year which proved to be transparent and reliable. We had positive response from the stakeholders.

Our next target is to train teachers in order to improve our examination system.

Professor Dr Ahmed Raza Bilal, Sohar University

Pakistan is facing a variety of challenges in educational reforms. Currently, lack of capacity to manage advance educational programmes is one of the main reasons behind poor educational infrastructure in the country. Most of our existing universities offer customized and outdated degree programmes. In most advanced countries, all graduate and post-graduate degree programmes are designed with practical research projects and real-time case studies in order to align with academia-industry linkage, but academics in Pakistan are still following Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard ready-made curriculums.

Poor regulatory performance of HEC, its inconsistent policy implementations, and weak monitoring system for both private and government universities is holding us back. Regulatory bodies should identify challenges and take effective measures for policy research and academic excellence. These measures might include target settings, vision for technological advancement and involvement of industrial advisory boards in preparation of education curriculums. This initiative would transform our educational system and enable it to face industrial challenges. Also, faculties of our school and university lack in advance training programmes, so we need advance training programmes and development of strong quality assurance mechanism in all levels of institutional faculties.

The role of higher education system is not consistent in Pakistan. For the last one year, HEC has stopped providing various scholarly and research support funds to academicians and researchers in Pakistan. Faculty development programme is also inactive currently.

At our university, from academic perspectives, all faculty programme heads are advised to benchmark existing programmes with world renowned universities and propose new programme matrix to faculty board meeting. At the same time, external reviewers are engaged to review all offered programmes and give their valuable and experience recommendations for value addition. In another perspective, industrial survey is completed to find out the real-time industrial challenges and market demand for new courses and programmes. We are hopeful we will approve new programme matrix by the end of 2020, which will enable us to offer international standards market-need based programmes to replace our outdated programms. Upon replacement of current programme matrix, we will be able to apply for international accreditations for continuous improvement in our proposed curriculums.

Finally, we have urged our research faculty to participate in national and international research projects and submit research proposals to get grants in order to financially support research activities in our faculty.

We have also planned to start university consultancy support team to target industrial and government problems to offer them viable solutions against fee based financial support.

From government perspective, we are trying to engage regulators and government educational support agencies to formulate long-term strategic plan for higher education in accordance with technologically changed scenario and improvement in the quality of higher education.