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February 18, 2020

‘Need to make business education relevant to changing times’


February 18, 2020

Islamabad:Adviser to the prime minister on finance and revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Monday said the business education in Pakistan had lost its prestige in some ways, so there was a dire need to make it and its graduates more relevant to the changing times.

“While the quality might not have increased and relevance might not have been the dominant consideration, the focus of business education in our country is on the mass production of degrees like BBA, MBA and MCom. We need to think how to correct this imbalance of quantity and quality,” he told the inaugural ceremony of the two-day '7th Deans and Directors Conference, 2020,' organised by the National Business Education Accreditation Council, Higher Education Commission, here at PAFSOM Arena in partnership with Jang Media Group.

The event was attended by deans, directors, faculty members and representatives of the country’s leading business schools, and industrialists.

The premier’s adviser said the current was a digital age in which global connectivity was very high and the people talked about buzzwords like artificial intelligence and therefore, Pakistan couldn’t miss the opportunity for development like it might have missed many in the past.

“We should use this time to see how we can actually galvanise or mobilise ourselves that this important revolution doesn’t pass us by,” he said.

Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said the country would have to see why 40 per cent of women graduates didn’t get into the job mainstream.

“If we are to improve our national productivity, which is prerequisite for attaining full potential, then the mainstreaming of educated women has to be the remedy. We have to seriously think about gender inclusivity,” he said adding that the finance ministry is ready to provide leadership and financial resources for the purpose.

The premier’s adviser said Pakistan’s economy was just coming out of a crisis for stabilisation and growth. He stressed the need for understanding how the better quality of business education and the graduates of business schools could help take the country forward.

Dr Abdul Hafeez regretted that only 22 universities offering business education were accredited with the NBEAC showing there was only one business school for 10 million people in the country of 200 million population.

“We have to figure out how we are going to increase this number manifold without compromising the quality of education,” he said.

The premier’s adviser said the country had two historical failures: it hadn’t done a very good job of creating exports and attracting foreign investment, so while looking towards the future, there was a need for examining why the country’s products and services were unable to penetrate into international markets and why the business groups and private sector houses remained very ineffective.

He said no country had brought prosperity to its people on its own, so Pakistan needed to improve the quality of the private sector to generate exports and the current government was committed to that cause by subsidizing gas, electric supply and loans and reducing export taxes to zero rate.

“After five years of stagnation, we are seeing some export growth but for its sustainability, the entire ecosystem of the private sector has to be geared towards export promotion for building up relationships. I think business schools need to play their role about that,” he said.

Dr Abdul Hafeez said the global economy was soft, so Pakistan had to try harder to promote exports, create new markets and build new alliances.

He said there were many stakeholders or groups, which had the potential to participate but were denied the opportunity including those from rural areas and non-English medium of education systems, those, who were smart but under-prepared, intelligent but poor, ready to do their part but had barriers.

“We as a nation should think about the inclusion of such people in the national mainstream through need-based scholarships, feeder schools and colleges, preparatory programmes, remedial courses in English, Mathematics and Statistics, incentives for private sector, internships, and hybrid methods of teaching,” he said.

The premier’s adviser said the government with limited resources was striving to address the issue by setting up incubation centres with the help of the private sector, offering low-interest loans to youth to help them utilise entrepreneurial potential, and funding Higher Education Commission for a variety of programmes.

He complained about low government efficiency in the country and said business schools should prepare graduates for addressing the issue.

Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Muhammad Ahmed Waheed, who was also in attendance, called for better academia-industry linkage to increase the capacity of business student.

He said quality education and innovation was imperative for business and economic growth in the country. “We, the business community, are ready to cooperate with universities for bridging bilateral gaps,” he said.

NBEAC chairman Dr Farrukh Iqbal called for enhancing quality and inclusivity in business education through engagement.

He talked about the accreditation process and broadly elaborated the standards for quality check process of business institutions.

The conference convener, Dr Naukhez Sarwar, who is the NBEAC vice-chairman and NUST Business School dean, said business schools and other stakeholders should strengthen knowledge to foster businesses and industrial development.

He said public and private sectors needed to work together to enhance quality of business education. The premier’s adviser later gave away shields to event sponsors and organisers.

Pro Quest, Szabist, IBA, University Of Lahore, NUST, the Superior College of Lahore, Institute Of Business Management, Pak AIMS, KSBL and CA Pakistan were honoured under the Platinum Sponsors category, IBA Sukkur, Air university Pakistan, Bahria University, UMT, Jinnah University For Women, Institute of Business Studies and Leadership and PAF-KIET under the Gold Sponsors’, ACCA, LSE, imSciences, BUITEMS Quetta and Greenwich University Karachi under the Silver Sponsors’, and Emerald Publishing, RIPHAH International University, National College of Business Administration and Economics, Ontark, Onstak, ABASYN University, INU, ILMA University, NEWPORT, Hamdard University, JS BANK, Indus University Karachi, Qarshi University Lahore and SBBWU Peshawar under the Bronze Sponsors’.