One of the most intriguing points in the Pakistan Labour Force Survey 2017-18 is that the unemployment rate for those holding at least a bachelor’s degree is 16.2 per cent, almost three times higher than the national unemployment rate of 5.8pc.
This means a relatively higher proportion of the country’s educated workers is sitting at home hoping to find a decent job.
Students dream about enrolling in top-tier universities because they believe that those institutions are their gateway to well-paid jobs and professional success. Unfortunately, only a handful of institutions across all fields of study can truly groom their students. So the problem of most varsities being under par is a severe one.
Top business schools are considered a ticket to an executive job in any top corporation. This is due to the fact that these schools recognise the needs of the market and develop their students accordingly. The courses they offer, the curriculum they teach, the quality of their faculty and their contact base are such that their students don’t have a hard time finding jobs.
The quality of coursework and the faculty in universities are severely under par
Even though there some business schools that are working hard to achieve the top local standard, most schools are still at rock bottom. The quality of their coursework and faculty, their enrolment criteria and the average student profile are severely under par. Obsolete textbooks, lack of substantial research and students technically bribing their institutions to get their degrees are common.
In science as well, only a handful of universities produce quality doctors and engineers. Graduates from most medical schools are unskilled and lack confidence to actually deal with a patient. That is because too much theoretical teaching takes place at medical schools without any emphasis on practical work.
Similarly, we often hear jokes about unemployed engineers. Despite being a distinguished field globally, engineering does not get the respect it deserves in Pakistan. That is so because too many universities produce too many engineers even though their demand is limited owing to Pakistan’s underdeveloped industrial base. Lots of schools have a low merit criterion. So it’s easy for anyone to enrol, which raises the supply of potential engineers. Many engineering schools lack advanced labs with relevant instruments. They are theoretical in their teaching and students are encouraged to learn by rote. That is why such students struggle to find a decent job in the local market.
Most graduates from middle-class or lower-class households can’t afford to go abroad to find jobs as the local market is too saturated. They can’t afford to live or even study abroad. They often can’t fulfil immigration requirements of developed countries.
Students of social sciences and humanities face the worst prospects. As few organisations in Pakistan are interested in research, such graduates suffer the most. Most of them get employment in academia. But even there, supply exceeds demand. Of late, however, some corporations have started hiring psychology specialists as HR executives. Some psychologists open their clinics. But their businesses don’t generally do well because of the negative perception about seeking mental health in our society.
The Higher Education Commission (HEC) is the regulatory body for all universities in Pakistan. It is its responsibility to make sure the quality of university education is up to par. The HEC is trying to push institutions to recruit more PhDs as faculty members.
According to Employers’ Federation of Pakistan Chairman Majyd Aziz, faculty members do not have the exposure to trade and industry. “They are normally fresh graduates who teach through PowerPoint presentations made through textbooks. They are unable to back their teaching with practical experience. Universities should send their faculty members to the industry for three to six months on a voluntary basis. This will give them practical knowledge,” he said.
“Pakistan needs proficient managers, not hopeless drones with degrees.”
Shazia Farooq, a visiting faculty member at the Institute of Business Administration, said that students should enhance their skills through Massive Open Online Courses, which are available online for free. “Students should also improve their work ethic and attitude. They should be more willing to put in extra hours since supply is becoming increasingly elastic,” she said.
The writer is a student at IBA, Karachi
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, July 29th, 2019