From Pro-fashionable to Professional Higher Education

Institutions need to focus more and create an enabling environment for professional education.

Some institutions offer professional qualifications with ad-hoc arrangements. The ad-hoc arrangements include hiring visiting faculty and counting it as regular faculty. Such documents are prepared and presented for an accreditation visit.

Muneer Ahmed Mirjat

Professionals play an important role in the development and provide various services to society like Engineers, Doctors, Business Professionals, Teachers, Nurses, etc. Higher Education Institutions are producing these professionals across the Country. Professional Councils regulate all professional programs in the Country. There are around 14 Councils in Pakistan for different Professional Programs. The Engineering and Medical Councils are popular as most parents push their children to adopt one of these professions.

Most developed countries have program accreditation systems for professional programs, and their success has compelled us to adopt the same good practices. The professional Programs at the undergraduate level cover the core concepts of the domain along with their application of these core concepts in practical fields. The Higher Education Commission, which is given the mandate to develop undergraduate and postgraduate curricula, develops curricula for these professional programs. The Professional councils assure the compliance of the standards set by them and resultantly create an enabling environment for learning. These are related to course design, delivery, and quantity, quality of faculty members, assessment system, and compliance to other specific standards of each council.

Some institutions offer professional qualifications with ad-hoc arrangements; therefore, the quality of the professionals is not at par with other public sector Universities, which follow the standards in letter and spirit. The ad-hoc arrangements include hiring visiting faculty and counting it as regular faculty. Such documents are prepared and presented for an accreditation visit, and such faculty members are introduced as full-time faculty members during accreditation visits.

The lack of lab equipment, chemicals, machines, and other materials is fulfilled on an Ad-hoc basis. The laboratory equipment and other materials are borrowed for a week to showcase the same during the accreditation visit conducted by the team of professionals nominated for accreditation of the programs. It is not limited to laboratories, but they also bring books from old bookshops to fulfill the accreditation requirements.

Such a state of affairs at some institutions justifies developing a  mechanism to regularly check such practices, which are apart from the regular accreditation visits of institutions be developed. The technology can verify whether lectures are delivered in the classes and practical, conducted in the laboratories to ensure that students are given the desired theoretical and practical knowledge of the domain. Recently, Pakistan Medical Council has introduced qualifications for examination for local graduates. The graduates worried about the new test after spending more than four years at university and qualifying for its degree requirements in theory and practice. The potential graduates are under stress, and it is also a question mark over the quality of the teaching and learning at these professional institutions. There is also concern that professionals developing these qualification examinations are either well trained to build question papers to assess core and specialized knowledge and skills through a written test conducted within a limited time. Considering four years in a specific time is a challenging task that requires expertise and experience in performing such tests.

It would have been appropriate that policies should be widely circulated among the institutions with clear instructions and manuals to give them sufficient time to prepare and fulfill the qualification examination requirements. Applying qualification examination in retrospective effect will create confusion and may not yield desired results.

In developed and developing countries, the qualification examination is not mandatory. Still, the candidates who appear and qualify for the qualification examination at the national level are preferred for further studies and jobs in their respective disciplines. The tests conducted for qualification examinations in all countries mostly focus on core concepts of the discipline. Test design maintains balance in hardship level of test questions i.e. advanced, easy, and medium. The students have observed that tests conducted in our part of the world are not following testing standards. Sometimes it is not easy, and sometimes it is easy. Unfortunately, students are pushed to stress of tests right from the entry test to the qualification examination.

Another major achievement made by the Pakistan Engineering Council i.e. Washington Accord, is becoming excessive paper exercise than improving the quality of engineering programs. It is observed that some institutions are without proper teaching aids in classrooms and laboratories. The crowded classes i.e. with the strength of 100 plus, are another main issue in following the guidelines. The workload on teachers is increasing. Due to a lack of supporting system i.e. research associates or student associates, which are normal in developed countries, the faculty members are more stressed and less motivated. Resultantly, the manipulated documentation helps such institutions to fulfill the requirement of student and course files. In a documentary named ‘Finland Phenomenon,’ a Harvard professor shows the effectiveness of peer and group teaching practices at even school level where no or less documentation is carried out. The senior faculty members train juniors until they meet teaching and learning standards. The student-centered teaching and learning activities give students more confidence to learn independently in group activities.

Institutions need to focus more and create an enabling environment for professional education. It will help produce engineers who may become part of the solution for the energy crisis, transportation, and other engineering problems, doctors, and nurses who may become the backbone of our health system.


Muneer-Ahmed Mirjat - Sindh CourierMuneer Ahmed Mirjat is Director at Higher Education Commission Islamabad

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