Higher education in Pakistan has had an unfortunate history of myopic view of what future of Pakistan holds and how a particular degree will bring glory to the family. There was a time when anything less than doctor or engineer was akin to insult for the family. Then came the ‘IT Boom’ and ‘Computer Wizard’ became the new trend that lasted for a while. In the previous decade the economy saw a lot of activities and MBA turned into the new star in parents’ eyes.
Universities, like Pan Shops, began to open all over the urban centers of Pakistan offering business education and throwing run-of-the-mill business graduates in the market. Similarly new engineering departments began to emerge in existing as well as new institutions despite lack of proper faculty and market demand.
As anyone can guess, the teachings of these universities were highly disconnected with market demands and this phenomenon still plagues Pakistan’s academic circles. Nearly all business schools teach their graduates to be “Business Administrators” but none of them train them to be “Businessmen”. Take any graduate who recently completed four-year BBA degree and check his transcript and observe the course titles. In case of Marketing majors there will be six marketing courses in the last 1.5 years, a couple of basic marketing courses in the first year, handful of Finance and accounting courses, some computer related subjects and random subjects like Ethics, Law, English, sociology, history, WTO and research.
If the same student proceeds to MBA then basic courses like marketing, finance, accounting and computers will all be repeated, some of the electives may also be repeated (if Marketing is chosen again) and the new transcript will also be filled with random subjects that would make you wonder what the student actually wanted to be. Same is the case for those who choose Human Resources or Management Information Systems as their majors at undergrad or graduate level.
It is baffling to see how confused the business students are by the time they graduate because they seriously do not know what have they studied, how to apply their knowledge and where to actually start. Majority are not aware how to make their first CV and end up copy pasting each other’s work, listing down their major subjects just to fill the empty space on the very first page. In all the four years (or more in case of MBA) of education, the student is barely encouraged to actually start his own business instead of applying to existing companies. The business institutions themselves show no interest in encouraging Entrepreneurship among the youth and consider their work ‘done’ by teaching one course titled Entrepreneurship by the end of third year.
In an economy where either the big companies exist or small, the market is in complete imbalance. Big companies are fully capable of eating away small companies and small companies, being start-ups in most cases, cannot compete with large organizations or take big business orders. The medium-sized companies give the right competition to the big organizations and provide business to small ones, allowing the economy to survive and generate a lot more jobs and business opportunities than with the absence of medium-sized enterprises.
The only way to develop an economy that has medium-sized organizations is through promotion of entrepreneurship that provides lots of business opportunities to the people, especially business graduates. It allows the economy to become vibrant and market forces to correct themselves. But in Pakistan it is a nightmare for the business graduate to start a business, simply because he is never taught to be a businessman and only trained as an administrator. A large majority of these graduates roam around searching for jobs and end up in jobs they actually hate, even if they relate to their field of interest.
In US and other countries the business education is not a hodgepodge of random subjects to fulfill degree requirements. They have fully developed tracks where Marketing major would only study one or two basic courses of Finance, HR and other necessary subjects and the remaining would be completely linked with his field of interest i.e. marketing. By the end of his degree the student would truly be an expert of Marketing with complete knowledge of his area of study. He will be a complete product that a company can hire without worrying about training and he can be productive from the very first week at job. Each track empowers the student to actually think out of box and start its own business based on the expertise gained through education. These universities actually have Entrepreneurship as a complete major, a complete track where the students are fully empowered to start their own business and by the time they graduate they own a business based on their interest.
A Pakistani business graduate, on the other hand, will start his true education from his first job where on-the-job training will start to teach what the institutions neglected to impart in the first place. Most graduates sit down and reflect on their years as students, finding little that actually was useful to them at their jobs. They also don’t find any benefit in the random subjects except ‘A’ or ‘B+’ grades that look good on the transcript, boosting their GPA to higher level and forgetting everything they studied as soon as the semester ends.
Not only the disconnect is worse than ever but the sheer number of graduates the institutions are releasing into the corporate world every year is a horror as none are trained to start their own business, few actually know what they want to do and fewer still manage to land a job within six months of graduating. There are so many MBAs in the market that BBA degree has lost its value and not more than 1% BBA graduates manage to get a job before enrolling for MBA studies. A shockingly large number of students enroll into MBA program right after graduating and usually in the same institution, not realizing that they are hampering their own growth by staying in the same institution for so long.
There is an urgent need to correct our academic institutions where it should be made mandatory to have one to two years of post degree work experience to qualify for MBA program (something that both LUMS and IBA implemented for quality control), remove completely irrelevant subjects, design complete tracks with evolving electives, restrict student intake for quality control and allow students to amalgamate their business education with other fields like Social Sciences, Political Sciences, Economics, Law or Computers to fully develop their field of expertise. Unless we modernize our curriculum and forego filler subjects that bear no positive results, we may remain stuck with the current market situation that is steadily getting worse.