Education plays a crucial role in development of an individual and is the key to a good professional career. For a successful professional career an individual’s development of skills is key component and the best strategy. Education helps not just by exceling the person academically but also grooms one professionally. While some people ignore the fact that professional grooming is important and often find it unnecessary, we think that along with education grooming is also an essential part of an individual’s growth. So how much of this grooming is done by education here in Pakistan and how is it preparing students for their professional careers? We aim to answer these questions through case studies and research. our research primarily focuses on how is educational in Pakistan different from that of rest of the world, and how much of our education helps us in our practical life.
“It seems that the major issue is that of quality of education. The quality of education being given to our students across the board is so poor that most of the graduates coming out of universities do not even have the basics that are needed for any job in the marketplace or even for being a productive citizen. Their language skills, Urdu and English, are poor, their numeracy skills are very elementary, their education does not teach them the basics of communication, interpersonal behavior management or self-management, but most importantly, and damagingly, they do not even have a grasp of the basics of logic, inductive/deductive reasoning, argumentation, rhetoric, critical or even common-sense thinking. And, usually, they do not know how to learn either.
Over the last four to five years, I have had the experience of hiring at many different levels. From doing interviews for admission in graduate programmes to hiring administrative/finance staff, research assistants/associates, junior faculty, professors, deans and even heads of institutions, I have, quite literally, done hundreds of interviews. We even conduct written tests for some of the positions. There have been very few positions, in my experience, that have required very specific ‘skills’ that individuals needed before they could become a good candidate for a job: in some cases, we need research assistants who must have prior experience in certain computer programmes.
For most jobs, one looks for quality of education that the person has had, the quality of their experience, if relevant, the kind of person the candidate is, and the ability of the person to deal with questions/issues that would be relevant for the job in question. The quality of education becomes the major stumbling block.
In interviews and in written tests, candidates show the poor quality of not only their language skills, but also of their education when they cannot even put together a coherent argument. They do not know how to read an article and make sense of what the author has said. They are unable to comprehend the implications of what they read, cannot generalize from their reading, cannot find examples to apply their reading to, cannot adapt their reading to apply to their situation and context and cannot generalize from their own context to create counter or confirmatory arguments.
The ability to critically engage with either the written word or with one’s environment is a necessary, if minimal, condition for being able to respond to the demands of any job. A lot of candidates are not able to do that.
But the story does not end there. It is not just that their education has not equipped them to be able to engage with their environment effectively; for many, their education has also crippled them so that it is hard for them to acquire these skills while they work. There are very few jobs where on-the-job training cannot happen. But if, even after a couple of years of experience, a person is not able to deal with his/her job well, there is an issue: there must be a problem in how they learn.
It is, of course, not the case that there are no good candidates at all or that all institutions provide education of a poor quality: there are some high-quality educational institutions in the country. But their number is very small. Good graduates from such institutions do get recognized and command better returns as well. But the problem is for the millions who are spending 16 to 18 years in schools and universities and ending up being poorly educated and trained, and much more damagingly, being educated in ways and habits that make it difficult for them to change and become better learners. We can take up the question of how to start addressing the problem later. “
As mentioned in the reference above, we can to some extent conclude that lack of quality education can be accused for the unemployment crisis as people fail to meet the requirements of the job and also lack proper grooming and training to work in a professional environment. The even worst part is that the people getting rejected are not the ones to blame; they themselves are the victims of this poorly organized education system. they pay huge amounts of money to gain knowledge that will not ever be helpful. Students start going to learning institutes since 3 or 4 years of age and when they graduate after 17-18 years, all they are told is, “Sorry but we cannot hire you because you do not meet our criteria.”
Effects of flaws in the education system:-
Also learning requires many years of constant hard work and determination in order to succeed. Sometimes the workload exceeds the limits causing the students to take bad decisions. Depression targets students who are struggling that ends in bad results like drug addiction or, even worst, suicide. The percentage of drug addicts is increasing in our society partly due to high stress levels of their studies. Even the rate at which students are committing suicides is increasing by an alarming rate. But who is to blame? They were never supposed to be this way, but this is what education did to them.
And when it comes to the ones who worked hard despite the odds and graduate from their respective institutes, stereotypes exist there as well. Some of those lucky ones amongst them get hired and start working. Whilst the other half can be further divided into two parts. One of which gets caught by depression like some of the students attempt to do suicide. The other half, due to lack of resources change their paths and intentions from good to evil and get involved in acts such as thefts and robbery.
Another problem with poor education system is that we make more followers than creators. When a child is enrolled in kindergarten, they are given only one goal at the end of their educational path, “to get a good job.” No one dares to thinks about creating something new. And if someone does think out of the box the education system does not welcome it. All of these things imply that there is something seriously wrong with our education system.
All of these complications rise a bunch of questions about our education system e.g., what is the problem with our education system? Is it like this in the whole world or does Pakistan’s education require a massive upgrade? And what can be done to over all of these problems?
So, in order to get to a conclusion, we interviewed five people from different fields, on the present circumstances. All of them had different amount of experiences and were even familiar with each other but their responses to our question were almost the same. So, we formed a general statement for the answers to every question.
· First, we asked them that in the present time do they think Pakistan’s education is up-to-date with the rest of the world?
To which the reply was that the education system over here is not updated accordingly with the rest of the world. People often argue that education system needs to be further updated and should be brought closer to that of the modern world. They say that update in the system will further increase chances of employment accordingly and for people who have interest in their respective fields could further fulfill their craving for knowledge.
· Then we asked them that what did they think practical work in universities is enough to get a good job?
They said that although the practical work done in universities is helpful but still needs a lot of work to compensate for the hardships faced by the students who enter their practical life. One of the interviewees with 25 years of experience said, “It (education) only helps the student to have an analytical and logical approach to solve the practical problems only but it is not imparting such type of knowledge that can be utilized for their practical work.”
· Next question was, “How much of transition is there when shifting educational life to practical life and how much does university help in this transition?”
They replied that transition from educational life to practical life is tough but in some exceptional cases people often found universities and institutes helpful for this transition. They say that activities such as job fairs and career counselling sessions often prepare you for the upcoming hurdles of life but still have room for improvement.
· The last question was how much of what they had learnt did they applied in their practical job?
Lastly, they had a contradicted opinion regarding how much of what they have learned really does apply. Some argued that what they have learned does actually apply in their respective careers e.g. softwares learned by civil engineers applies in their practical field work. however, some say that practical life is quite different than that of educational life and that we learn when we begin to practically work in the field.
They told us that the ones who survive this learning period can actually go miles because of what they had to go through in their learning days. But the problem was the quality of education that limited our success. All of those five interviewees had one simple message, “OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE IMPROVED”.
All of these interviews made one thing clear that the education is the thing to blame, and we are way behind other countries. But that wasn’t enough; we couldn’t go to a conclusion by just identify the flaw and that too as told by just 5 people. We needed some more people with more experience and different fields. So, we did a survey on the same topic from employees to support our previous findings. We also needed some Pakistanis working abroad to ask them about the difference of education between here and there. We were lucky enough to get a couple of them fill the form of ours. Following are results from the survey:
How well do you think education system of Pakistan is doing overall?
What in your opinion should be done to improve it?
· Should take steps on college culture and dressing
· It will be improved by focusing on practical work in the related field during studies as well as needs and wants of your society in concerned field.
· Research and field work
· Should develop skills such as problem solving which are part of a lifelong learning.
· Impart latest technology and new books regarding the discipline and updated syllabus
· According to my analysis we have to work a lot on our education system: add more research in development sectors, special course for teachers training, develop more convenient system for examination.
· By hiring more professionals and qualified teachers
· Study on Latest technologies and books should be added in pattern.
Do you think research and development should be promoted?
What do you like most about education in Pakistan?
· Work burden
· It has the most hard working and talented individuals.
· Memorizing the concept
· Honestly nothing.
· Practical works
· Nothing specific I like about it.
How much of that taught in the universities do you think really helps in practical life?
· Yes, it does help in practical life but need to revise the curriculum to improve the standards.
· Very little
· Not much
· Yes, Somehow!
· It depends on your course.
· A lot of things I work on have been taught by the University.
All of these people also replied with their respected answers but we can also observe the same rhythm like the interviews. The only purpose of this survey was to dig a bit deeper and go to the base pf the problems which we did and found out that it was the old style of education that was causing all of the problems. Times are changing but we are not, which traps us to lag behind everyone.
After going through what the people with experience had to say, we turned towards the ones who were in the game, ‘Students’. So, to get the opinion of students regarding what they think could be done to improve the education system and what flaws do they feel are present in education system, we created a survey and asked students to fill them out. The survey focused on students’ opinion on Research & Development and what one biggest flaw they find in their institutes. Among most of the responses we found that students felt that they were overburdened. This is true to some extent as psychologists argue that students can pay attention for 10-15 minutes during lectures whereas the lectures go from 50 -90 minutes long.
Likewise, students argue that they need more extracurricular activities to help in practical experiences and help them groom professionally. Teamwork’s during such events is best way of learning. This teamwork makes students humble and increases their ability to sacrifice and work well with others and yet make them work at their best for a given task. Such things are never stated by professional hiring companies however they require these skills as mandatory.Some statistics of our surveys are given below:
Similalrly above charts also say that students wish that Research and Development should be promoted in pakistan. Research and Development is the key for improving education system in pakistan. The learning students can do from Research and Development is unparalleled however the students at high school are trained according to obsolete education system which was used by most countries in late 20 century and undermines the importance of Research and Development. Increased Research and Development are what usually most companies prefer from institues i.e. students graduating from such institutes have a better ability to research and work independently or amongst a team, which is a skill welcomed by most companies and such people often have a higher chance of getting employed.
Students also find a plus point of social interaction among most universitites. People from the country come to most renowned cities for education and meet people from other areas and this diversification of culture among universities is often welcomed by students. Similarly, this gives diversification in the social enviorment for students. This social diversification helps student later on during their professional workplaces.
All these changes discussed earlier if implemented at grass root levels at professional institutes would later fix those gaps found in our education system and help us get updated with mordern day education systems, and we would be able to provide such indiviuals who would not only be able to work just in Pakistan but anywhere in the world.
Similarly, these changes would then later encourage students from other countries to come to pakistan to study, just like any developed country, and would promote the growth of insutries hence increasing chances of employement and slowly strenghten our economy.
As seen from the above evidence we can safely say that there are faults in our education system and need to be fixed as soon as possible. Our given hypothesis regarding our education system being the same as that of 90’s, can be said to be successful as all the evidence in the form of our research points towards the same conclusion i.e. both employees and students say that education system is obsolete. Teaching methods and curriculums are obsolete. The employees say that, as previously stated, industries have advanced and now have different market requirements i.e. they need people who are now more technically updated with the rest of the world, have good presentation skills, they should be able to speak confidently in public etc.
However, all these attributes are hardly seen in our students. As stated above when we asked students regarding their opinion, they too wish some changes most of which correspond to those given by employees. For instance, both of them wished there should be more social events, which groom students for public speaking, enhance their confidence, teaches teamwork and sacrifice.
Similarly, another major point to which most people don’t talk about which high cost of education. The government needs to keep a check on institutes which are charging so much money for graduation degrees which exhaust their resources, and when students plan for master’s degree, they don’t have enough resources and thus they enter the market without it and therefore they don’t meet market requirements resulting in themselves unemployed.
Also, institutes should have summer internship programmes if not already. These internship programs have 2 major benefits. Firstly, they keep students of their respective disciplines in touch with the latest trends in the industry, and secondly, it gives student a professional environment to work on which grooms them.
We also suggest that the governing body overlooking the education sector should repeatedly keep in check the curriculums offered by the universities and compare them with developed countries and with requirements of the industries. They should check that if any changes are required to meet the market requirement and reduce unemployment, these changes should be made as soon as possible.
We suggest that the government takes notice of this growing problem and creates some effective policies and implement them as soon as possible, because our youth is our future and unemployment is the enemy of our youth.
The authors Muhammad Abuzar Sajjad, Muhammad Talha Abid, Syed Abdul Rehman Ahsan and Athar Ashraf are students of FAST University Lahore