During for the past few years’; thenumber of universities hasrapidly increased in our country but the quality is on a continuous decline. The more universities added to the system,the more problematic it has become for the regulators to administer them. There seems to be no future policies to monitor our education system. Our government has allocated a mere 2.4 percent of Pakistan’s GDP for the year 2018-19, which is the lowest in the region. From the past seventy years’ no one has ever taken any interest in human resource development. All of this has led the universities to exploit the deprived Pakistani public.

Let us discuss a few intimidating issues that could result in demise of our educational system if not addressed on the right time. Though there are numerous issues in our educational system starting right from the beginning to the postgraduate level but I will only focus on the undergrad level ofour engineering universities. Issues start right from the entrance tests that are conducted by our institutions. Almost every engineering university has its own entrance exam and a student, after completing his or her intermediate level has to go through a series of tests to enroll in a university. On average a student has to go through 4 to 5 mind baffling tests. There are more than a hundred engineering universities in the country and every university conducts its own entrance test apart from a few which rely on NTS. In such a scenario just imagine the mental stress that a student, who is only 18 to 19, at that time has to handle. He has to prepare for each test differently as every test has its own outlines. These tests span over a time period of more than two months after the board exams because each test has its own date. Some exceptional tests are even conducted even before students completedtheir intermediate level. To resolve this issue there must be a single test on the same day throughout the country. Where everyone must be given equal chance to display his/her abilities. And this is not a new concept. This pattern is followed all around the world. Some notable examples are China and South Korea. After this, students should have the right to apply to any university countrywide. Merits should be prepared from the applicant’s marks scored in the entry test plus his/her pervious performance i.e.matriculation and intermediate.

It is important to have competitive environment between universities. It has been observed that the universities who conduct their tests earlier are in a hurry to take the top students’ lot away from the others as soon as possible. This is why they give short notice for fee submission and even a shorter refund period. In this way universities conducting the tests earlier have a clear advantage overgovernment universities which usually conducts tests at the endand therefore are left with comparably less talented students. Due to which national and international rankingof our government universities has been on a decline.

“The cost of college should never discourage anyone from going after a valuable degree”

ARNE DUNCAN

Difference in the educational cost is a harsh reality of our system. There doesn’t seem to be a policy for regularizing the tuition fees. Some private sector universities are charging more than 0.7 million Pak rupees per annum and the government sector lies at the bottom with approximately 0.1 million Pak rupees. This shows us the paradox between the two separate systems and promotes a class difference in the society. From this we can conclude that individuals studding in private sector are the children from the elite class who can afford these heavy dues and the poor, have to be in a different category. This is a misery for our society where we proclaim that Islam teaches us to treat rich and poor equally but practically we are doing the opposite of it. We have got separate schools for rich and poor, separate colleges for rich and poor and separate universities for rich and poor. We can never make progress by doing so. To address this issue we must learn from American college system. We all know that United States possess a highly ranked and a successful educational system. So we must  learn from their system. Their universities, which in United States are known as colleges enroll only 15 to 20 % students on merit and rest 80% are on self-financed. These merit based students are the talented ones who meet the selection criteria and can study in the college they qualified on a nominal tuition fee. Then there is another list of students who opt for the same college but couldn’t qualify on the merit. Now if they want to get admission in the same college, they have to pay a healthy amount of money. There is so much competition there that even if you are willing to pay for an expensive degree, you have to go through merit procedure again but not that difficult this time. This system is very intriguing as it solves two problems simultaneously. Firstly, neither of their universities are able to grant admission to all the talented students and gather themat one place. Rather they are equally divided among all the universities throughout the country. Different from American system Pakistani universities should go for a 30 to 40 percent of merit based enrollment. Secondly, self-financed students bring a lot of money in return of their admission. This money can be utilized by the university to upgrade their labs, spend funds on research and even invest on the talented students who in response earn fame for their university. It’s completely a win win situation for both sides.  In America these self-financed students have to pay an average amount of $35000 per annum which is approximately 5.6 million Pak rupees. Whereas Pakistani top universities can go for half a million Pak rupees per annum for self-financed students subjected to the demand and ranking of the institution nationally.

Now coming to the admission criteria, every institution in the market has designed it differently. For your preview I will like to show you the weightage given to different factors by some notable institutions.

Institute %age  weightage of Matriculation %age  weightage of  Intermediate (Part 1 only) %age  weightage of  Intermediate (Complete) %age  weightage  of Entry Test
NUST 10 15   75
PIEAS 15 25   60
GIKI 5 10   85
IST 20 40   40
UET     70 30
AIR 15 35   50
FAST   50   50
COMSATS 10 40   50
CUST 15 35   50
HITEC 10 40   50

Here we can observe a surprising distribution of percentage weightage for matriculation, intermediate and entry test marks. On one side of the fence there are universities who have chosen to give mostweightage i.e. 75 to 85 % to the entry test marks and on the other side there are one who have given 60 to 70 % weightage to intermediate marks only. In such a scenario it is impossible for the students to focus on both intermediate and entry test simultaneously. One has to choose between intermediate marks or getting high scores in entry test for admission in respective university they want to pursue.Surprisingly another trend of exempting the matriculation is also there in the system for some universities. So this means that even if you passed matriculation with a second division, there is no difference between you and a person holding a first division. You still possess an equal position with him. What matters is your intermediate marks only which can lead you to a position over him and those extra marks at matriculation are not sufficient to give the first division holder any edge. Another sad reality in front of us is that only intermediate part 1 is enough for some universities to select candidates. So why to appear in the intermediate part 2, just keep it till part1 if it’s enough. But then there are those old government sector universities whichwait all the way long for the complete results to announce and finalize their merit lists instead of finding a way out to get the results earlier. To resolve these issue government universities canoffer assistance to the intermediate boards in papers evaluation within a month. So that complete results must be counted for the admissions in every university. Moreover, matriculation, intermediate and entry test all must be counted towards the aggregate and neither of them should have a major share of credit.In the list given above I can say that I am satisfied with IST’s criteria i.e. Matriculation 20%, Intermediate 40% and Entry test 40%. Here every portion is well justified and balanced.

Creating standards isn’t an easy task but maintaining them demands continuous struggle. Our universities need to upgrade their systems before it’s too late. They have the resources what they only need is right planning and right decisions to be made. The world nowadays is growing so fast that it demands you to run uninterruptedly with its pace. For example, the phone that we used five years ago is not what is in use today but on the other hand what we are teaching our students is how Graham Bell’s telephone used to work. I am not against informing the students about history of inventions but I would rather recommend them to teach it like history. Don’t emphasize on pastrather develop students’ skills in present day technologies which may lead them establish the future. This is the prime reason our students are theoretically very sound but when it comes to practicality, they are mostly unaware of the modern tools used in the industry.

The gap between industry and academia is also a foremost concern of the engineering students. Engineering is considered to be a practical field and for such a field there must be a very strong liaison between industries and our universities. Universities have the brains and industry has the resources. For solving a problem or inventing a product you require both brain and resources. But unfortunately our industry has never shown confidence in local engineers. Most of private sector companies which make big money neither invest in our human development nor have hired local engineers for solving their problems. All the multinationals we hear in our day to day life work very differently with foreign countries. They sponsor projects, invests in human development programmers via scholarships and give industrial problems to students as a paid task. Which not only help them to fulfil their task cheaply but also help students gain industrial experience and monetary benefit.

Producing quality can’t be achieved without a brilliant faculty. I myself have seen a great contrast between the professors who are foreign qualified and local ones. What our government needs to do is to provide more masters and PhDs scholarships to enhance our teaching standard. Apart from this we must invite at least one foreign professor in each of our departments in every university and also send our professors to foreign universities for a semester exchange. This might help us to learn from others input and could result in updating our teaching trends.

It is need of the hour that government and regulators should come up with strategic policies to handle these issues and help in maintaining the quality engineering education in Pakistan.

SYED MUHAMMAD WAJEEH SHAH (Mechanical engineering student) syedwajeeh22@gmail.com

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