Graduation dilemma: This seat is taken

Published: October 4, 2010

Why take opportunities away from those who would actually use their education for something other than enlightened child rearing?

Among the enlightened elite of our great nation are parents who believe in educating their daughters. They spend several thousands, millions even, to ensure that their daughters have quality education from the best universities within their means.

Yes, parents like these do exist, among the many who only look forward to the dubious pleasure in marrying their daughters off.

Imagine, for example, one of Pakistan’s best universities. Graduation, especially with accolades, would add to any resume, attracting many good opportunities. But you are mistaken if you think I am talking about job opportunities. Somehow, somewhere, someone changed the rules of the game and that university is viewed by families and friends as a glorified finishing school.

I doubt that the alma matter’s name is bandied about by prospective employers as much as it is by prospective mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, even aunts-in-law. Somehow, the concentration in development economics is confused with major in home economics!  And the degree is viewed as little more than a hobby indulged in by the benevolent permission of forbearing parents, to be put aside now that ‘real’ life has started. Or at best, to be used as a bait to hook the best “fish” in the sea.

During university life, there is competition for the best grades, the highest GPA, eclat in sports and extra curricular activities. Before the rivalry for the best jobs can begin, however, many young women who have been leading so far in all these arenas, detour to a different path, shelving dreams of careers and success with apparently happy smiles.

Whether the engaged or married states can really afford happiness enough to make all else seem unworthy, I do not know, nor have I been tempted to find out.  My issue is this – why take opportunities away from those who would actually use their education for something other than enlightened child rearing?


Fatima Attarwala

A sub-editor on the national desk of The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shumaila

    There is nothing more important than enlightened child-rearing :P

    Actually, just kidding. I get a lot of this from my father, who thinks that the large percentage of women in medical school jut for the sake of getting a ‘doctor bahu’ status are taking away opportunities from well-deserved men. I am inclined to agree. But really, govt. unis take students on merit, and if guys don’t work hard enough then whose fault is it really?

    And you can’t detract women for wanting to get a decent education even if they will only use their knowledge of biochemical engineering to make decent cups of teas. Diss the system that doesn’t let them use their degrees – don’t dis them for wanting to get them.

    Besides, its all about knowledge, in the end. Maybe these women are the most ideal of students because their aim in getting an education is not to simply land a job but to get knowledge. Which is a much nobler aim, imo.Recommend

  • The Only Normal Person Here.

    Yeah I partly agree with you. There should be a rule or something that one has to work for at least 2/3 years, especially the ones in med colleges. However, the scope of this seat taking is quite broad. There are guys who study in Pakistani Universities but after getting degree, they very next time, fly aboard.

    I hear people arguing about girls taking seats for the sake of getting good rishtaas.. but what about these guys? This type of one dimensional thinking made me believe that we are STILL living in the world which belong to men.Recommend

  • Majid

    U r spot on! Girls who are not interested to pursue a professional career should get education in home economics and related fields so that they could benefit from their education in their married lives. Don’t tell me that ladies do not know what they wanna do in future.Recommend

  • Hammad Mateen

    Very well put Fatima. I agree, since I have graduated myself from NEDUET; I have witnessed the same. The issue becomes more critical when a girl gets herself enrolled in a technology like Mechanical engineering (which is regarded as an all-men trade) and then wastes the seat by not being able to match the employers requirement for a rough and tough male who can handle the hardships of working on field all day in scortching temperatures and getting his hands dirty with oil and grease.
    Some females students don’t even apply for jobs at all after graduation and merely fulfil their parents’ dream of becoming or being called an ‘engineer.’
    The resume for marriage though looks great, as you’ve mentioned.
    Great piece of writing. Keep it up!Recommend

  • anyportinastorm

    The education of a child begins with the mother. If the mother is a well educated woman with broader more independant views on all sorts of subjects then the child will most likely follow suit. Education, regardless of field, is learning how to think just as much as it is learning a particular trade. If you qualify for a seat at a given school regardless of gender then you deserve to be there. Just a point that I feel should be taken into consideration. Recommend

  • parvez

    Really glad that you have broached this topic and what you say makes a lot of sense. Shumaila in her educated comment has summed up the argument very well.
    This blog should have been under ‘Opinion’ heading.Recommend

  • SadafFayyaz

    spot on…..a very critical issue………seldom discussed by any writerRecommend

  • Mahvesh

    I used to think like this – why waste energy, time, resources and take away seats from more worthy candidates if all you’ll do is marry and stay home. But I realize that’s wrong – there are people out there who want to be well-educated but maybe not make a career. Maybe they’ll work at some point in the future, maybe those who are career-oriented and who (according to you) deserve places will quit after 3 years and become bums. Denying someone higher education just because you don’t think they deserve it is wrong, though. If the girls are good enough to beat out guys in admission tests, that doesn’t say much about the guys you want to give priority. Recommend

  • Ghausia

    I mildly agree with Shumaila to some extent. Yes, its the system that doesn’t let women work, a lot of girls have parents that don’t mind putting them through med school, but God forbid that they should actually practice after graduation. Same is the case with girls who want to work but are forced to quit due to pressure from the in-laws. But what about the small percentage that could work, but don’t? Somewhere out there is a poor girl who’d make a really great doctor. But her seat was taken by a girl who just wanted to be a mom when she grew up. Not cool.Recommend

  • Shumaila

    I agree with Mahvesh.

    But her seat was taken by a girl who just wanted to be a mom when she grew up.

    Your statement seems to imply the mommy-to-be stole the seat by nefarious means. She worked hard for it bhai! And same goes to the guys who are complaining. Its all about the competition – these guys should have thought about their careers Before the admission process began. If you can’t pull up your socks enough to get in the running, then you have no cause to complain about females who beat you – no matter what they do with their degree in the long run.

    Personally, I think if they bring a gender quota system back, it will be a sign of a step back into the middle ages.Recommend

  • Shumaila

    @ Hammad – correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t acquisition of a mech engineering degree involve getting your hands dirty even in uni projects? If she can do it there, why do you assume she’s gonna be incompetent in the field? Besides, your own words belie you – mech engineering is ‘regarded’ as an all-man field, but does it necessarily have to be so?

    My friend is in NED and in the field you mentioned and she just topped her whole batch in the final exams last year. Would you deny that kind of brain into your field? Pity for you if you do – not to mention a great loss.Recommend

  • Farhad Aspy Fatakia

    Fatima, I think the subject you have posed exposes a shameful lack of foresight in terms of the macro view in terms of the future of Pakistan and is just a reflection of how narrow minded the educated population has become.

    Firstly, we have a serious deficiency of education in this country. No one denies that, not even yourself in your article.

    However the issue is simple, if you don’t allow women to educate themselves even if they are not going to use their higher education degrees, then won’t they give up on the idea of educating their children or at least see no value in it 4 generations of uneducated women later, what makes you think that philosophy won’t extent to their male children as well eventually?

    Isn’t that the kind of misinformed mentality that we are trying to combat in the first place or are you going to tell me my driver is born knowing his children should go to school. No, I’m sorry Fatima, the pressing need to educate your child is not ingrained into ones DNA it is borne of experience.

    Women are just as much a part of society as men and I’m saying that from the point of view of an educated man!

    Realize also that even if your theory had any weight it is an unenforceable pipe dream unless you expect women to tick off on a box that says “I will practice my profession even after I get married.”

    I am no fan of women giving up work once they are married and while I’d never join that school of thought I see an incredible amount of sexual harassment in workplaces that makes me better understand why men don’t want their wives to follow through with their profession. As a woman, it must be tough for you to understand how terrifying the idea of your wife being put in a potentially vulnerable situation is on a day in and day out basis without you there to assist her if she needed help. Its not as easy as you are making it out to be is all I am getting at.

    The solution is therefore not barring women from institutional learning but CREATING more institutions!Recommend

  • TriplA

    This is true. We are a developing country. We don’t need equality, we need equity. The government spends millions of rupees to train doctors, and for their medical education. But at the end, only a few actually practice their skills. The tax payers money is all going to waste! Why does no one realise that? Recommend

  • Hammad Mateen

    This is a never ending debate Shumaila. But lets face the facts, how many girls of your friend’s batch have plans of persuing a career in the field? How many will work after marriage? The percentage decreases as time passes. I am not being gender biased here. I myself had brilliant female students in my class who were better engineers than myself at studies. They got good grades and now about 70% of them are sitting at home. Some worked for a year or two, others 6,7 months or so. A great loss indeed. But in another sense.
    I hope you get the point now. Recommend

  • Hamza A. Khan

    For me, University education is about so much more than a Degree. You get to meet new People, the thinking curve becomes steeper, you become a better judge of People and situations. Even if a Woman does not want to work after her Graduation, I’d rather she spends her time at a University than home.

    Whether you plan on working afterwards and actually use the degree is another matter.

    *Disclaimer*: This post is not meant for feminists. I’m talking about the Average Pakistani girl.Recommend

  • Faisal Arshad

    A lot of patients would be happy to have a not-so-competent male doctor than not to have a competent female doctor at all. Few buildings, roads, dams, bridges, electrical systems and much facilities could have been possible if there were more male engineers.
    and Mr. only normal person, the fly abroad phenomenon applies to educated females too.
    I salute the female educated class who are sincere with their degrees..But those who exchanged them only for ‘nikah-namah’ should have a thought to ponder about.Recommend

  • Deen

    Hey Fatima, I just wanted to add, its a decent piece you have written on a considerable topic. I would like to bring one thing to your attention though, this might sound slightly unrelated and stuff, but depending on what your family, or ethnic and cultural background is, men face pretty much a similar startling dilemma. In many families and communities, as soon as the male child reaches adulthood which is taken as 18 (though i dont think I would classify 18 yr olds as grown ups, having been through that age) as the generally accepted standard here, if they come from business oriented family back grounds, their expected to forgo higher education to get started on working and helping the family out often giving them arguments, that education is useless and they will learn far more from on the job experience of how things work. I am not saying on the job experience, nothing beats it in comparison, but higher education is not just a degree you get after 3 or 4 years, it is a life changing experience, its a human development program in its essence if utilised properly. After being dragged to working right out of high school, within a year or 2, some blokes are forced into arrange marriages by being brainwashed that now their working, now having a family ASAP is a must. Such practise exists in many communities nationwide, and you will not find it uncommon, young boys at the age of 20-21 getting married to 18-19 year old girls. An argument given by elders for that is it was good for us, its good for u.

    and One more thing Id like to add, I agree with the earlier comment by this individual Farhad Fatakia, who cites, we need more institutions, who knows he might be on to something with that, did it occur to you, that you know maybe a lot of girls are not being sent to Universities by parents because they are co-educational, I have actually met so many families who wont send their daughters to university, cause their worried they will be surrounded by boys. Its True, as weird as it sounds. I am talking about Ultra religous families. Who knows if we had more all girls universities, we might have more girls getting higher education, which would also create more seats at mixed universities for men and other genuine career oriented women.Recommend

  • Ghausia

    See Shumaila I’m not saying the mommy-to-be isn’t brilliant and intelligent, and if she wants to study and just get married, then I’ll respect that. But can’t she pursue some other field and leave the medical seats for people who are actually going to practice? You can’t deny a dearth of doctors in the country. And if that seems too unfair, then as another commenter said, there should be a mandatory two year period when you absolutely have to practice.And after those two years, if you want to settle down, then good for you. Its a win-win situation either way.Recommend

  • zazoo

    the thinking of the author represents the dilemma of the 21st century ‘liberated’ masculine independent woman who has been brainwashed by feminists into thinking that staying at home and caring for her family is a waste of her time and life. it is important to understand that in order to grasp the gender relations and the popular gender rhetoric of contemporary world. deep down all women know that their home and kids should be their 1st priority but even in our culture the effect of this rhetoric is being felt very strongly now and women are finding it hard to quit their jobs to raise families due to the brainwashing that they had been undergoing since school. However, on the whole thank God Pakistani society has largely been saved from the anarchy, disintegration and disorientation that has ravaged the western society and it is due to the stress our cultures places on motherhood and the centrality of home that we have been saved. Ladies! please don’t buy into the feminist rhetoric, they have given us nothing besides daycare centers and microwave food. just look to what is happening in west if u wanna know what i mean. divorce rate in US is 60% and children are being raised by strangers in daycare centres! and you call that progress!?!
    i am all for female education and i firmly believe the best use a woman can make of her education is by staying at home full time, educating her kids and a source of warmth and comfort to them. . We should look at our nanis and dadis as our role models and not sarah palin or hillary clinton.Recommend

  • Shumaila

    The two/three year work minimum rule sounds good, actually, I won’t deny that. It will also prevent the plethora of doctors currently disappearing abroad from doing so – this being a far more important cause for the dearth of doctors in the country.Recommend

  • Saad Khalid

    Excellent write up……………..I am not against the education of females but what I have seen from last 7 semesters is that only few are doing jobs, I guess there parents have only paid 4-5 lakh to NUST, just to get a good rishta.Recommend

  • Fatima Attarwala

    In my first year at my university, a male friend of mine said “girls come here to get good hubbies. You see guys around you, most of them are from rice well off background…………..and the ones who are not will probably get well paying off jobs………….its the best hunting ground around!”

    I came back to the room muttering something against male chauvinists, warmly supported by my room mate. Imagine my chargin then, four years down the road, when my Uni has more worth in the eyes of prospective mother in laws than prospective employers!

    But thats not my only issue. I have seen girls, girls from well off educated backgrounds, girls far more brialliant and accomplished than me, voluntarily giving up a career to be a housewife.

    Look around you, most of the moms are not that educated but they have done a pretty swell job of raising us. Some education is essential yes, but it does not mean you raise lakhs and lakhs of your daddy’s hard earned money on a degree that you have no intention of using! And yes even though, if circumstances force you, you can earn 5-10 years down the road……………..but given how difficult it is for fresh grads to get jobs, imagine how difficult it would be for grad with a stale degree to get one!

    As far as the economics of this is concerned, the opportunity cost of educating females with no intention of working is too high. Its taking away seats from those who would have been more productive with it, its diverting university resources away from students who would have made more of them, and its wasting money that could have yielded higher utility by being donated to say, the flood victims!

    And I think its a bigger crime to not use your degree, than go abroad with it. At least some one some where is benefitting from it!

    And if one is interested in knowledge for its intrinsic value, then one does not need a degree for it! Everything is available online!

    And for those who agree with me bow, Thank you :) Recommend

  • Black Swan

    I believe you go to a good Uni for good exposure – whatever academics you learn at a uni are useless any ways when you enter the job market. so what the daddy is paying for is exposure, boarding of mind and thinking outside the box – and these are qualities mothers/wives cant do without! Recommend

  • Naeem Akhtar

    @Fatima,, Hats off to you, perfect article and perfect thought. Among the few blogs I liked on Tribune.Recommend

  • Fatima Attarwala

    @Black Swan:

    “So what daddy if paying”?!! I guess the “so what” depends on how deep the daddy’s pockets go!!

    And its not only your family fortune you are idly spending, you are also affecting someone who could have made more use of the degree and you are wasting uni resources that are spent to equip for a career!

    Thinking outside the box, boarding of the mind, etc are essential attributes for every person, but one does not need a flashy degree for it. I believe travelling widely and interacting with different cultures can do a better job of making people more open minded than a degree, since many universities have strong cultures of their own which can brain wash people into certain mindsets. So if daddy dearest has just a deep pocket, might as well travel, have fun, broaden your mind, and not negatively affect some one else!Recommend

  • Fatima Attarwala

    @ majid, Hammad Mateen, Faisal Arshad, parvez, SadafFayyaz, TriplA, Deen, Saad Khalid and Naeem Akhtar, Thank you so much for your comments

    For the critics of my argument, I hope my later comments on my blog made my view point clearer Recommend

  • maham

    very true! the society is at fault from its very basis! the girls are just being obedient servants to make the men around them happy.Recommend

  • ali

    it is right girls get high gpa but it is natural factor they have to marry someone and settle in homeRecommend

  • Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    The author has raised a valid point. Let me share my thoughts as to why it is justified for mommy-to-be’s to take away seat from those who really wanted it.

    Someone I believe many of you must have watched the movie 3 Idiots. It actually answered the same dilemma this article is presenting. Farhan was good Engineering but he wasn’t destined to be a good Engineer, he was to be a photographer. Raju was destined to be a Engineering researcher and he could have done that even if his institute was other than he was enrolled in. The current institute only made his problems several times more difficult because of ‘rat race’ for grades.

    Taking the same instance, I was unable to take get admission for Computer Science since my grades weren’t good in Physics and Chemistry. I ended up enrolled in BBA program. During that program I got the chance to perform C++ programming and SQL Databasing in few courses. At that point I realized that I am surely meant for computers but not for programming and databasing. I am now a Management Information Systems (a relatively unknown specialization of BBA and MBA in Pakistan) graduate and proud one at that. I know I can’t do a good programming and really bad at Databasing, however I have been much successful in getting projects done with people specialized in the above categories. My failure gave me a long term success and that without much hoopla of GPA since mine was 3.07 at the time of graduation.

    Now for those who steal away the seats. By continuing on merit, it is ensured that competitiveness in class does not diminish and slacking does not occur. If students have been admitted on merit and a competitive one at that, there is a very high probability that overall class performance will be competitive as well. The more sharp individual students are, the more they increase competition and the more each has to push himself/herself in order to lead the competition. Even if from a class of 20, 13 are girls from whom 11 get married and never take up profession, it is ensure that the remaining 9 will be competitive enough and maybe visionary too who will contribute greatly to their companies and the market.

    For those who couldn’t make it, they either are not ready for it or they are not meant for it. I got rejected from LUMS this year when I applied for MBA. I know I wasn’t ready, I had applied by the last deadline when it’s most competitive on much fewer seats and my scores at LMAT weren’t great to begin with. It is crystal clear it wasn’t meant for me and it simply means I have to try harder next time or apply somewhere else which is more suited to me.

    A highly competitive place for those who can deal with highly competitive pressure. For those more fun loving and easy going with regard to studies, other options are available to avail. It all depends upon the one applying and his/her readiness for that.Recommend

  • maham

    @ Mr wasio
    the gist of your comment is that girls are not ready for professional competition and they are also not meant for professional jobs.
    let me tell u that i have known extremely brilliant girls ,with professional degrees like engineering and medicine,who have in their heart intense longing to study further or work professionally! such an ambitious student would herself never want to spend 4 or 5 years of life getting professional skills and let them go to waste.they are very much ready and deserving to work! so your point about readiness is only in your mind!
    the dilemma is somewhere else actually when brothers, fathers and husbands like you ”tell” the girls that they cannot deal with highly competitive pressures because they are not meant for it.its not that you men are so innocent that you dont realize women’s capabilities,it is because you ”know very well” that the day she stands on her own feet and becomes independent she will not obey your orders or even serve what wise men do actually is they brainwash the girls so nicely while they are being raised so that none of em would ever question!
    i know lady doctors , their husbands made them housewives , they pretend to be happy and contended with their lives but at heart they are extremely oppressed creatures!Recommend

  • Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    I sincerely hope that you were replying to someone else and mistakenly added my name because if you were not, then this is THE most blind post I have ever seen in my life.
    Just to confirm what I wrote, please read the following carefully (and my earlier post as well to clear any doubts).
    1) The gist of my post is that no matter the girl wants to take professional career or after studies become housewife, it is her right to apply and get admission on merit.
    2) Doing so will improve competitiveness in class, pushing the students to the limit of the creativity.
    3) Those who graduate, some of the girls would get married and not take up professional work. The remaining would be very a competitive lot (both boys and girls) who would contribute greatly to their companies and country.
    4) Those who could not get admission (whether boy or girl) due to competitiveness are either not ready at the time of attempt for admission or they are not meant for that institute/profession.
    5) I cited my personal examples as well to illustrate what I was trying to convey.
    And finally, I have said practically the same stuff what you wrote in your post. Please, read carefully before posting and do not start accusing unjustly. It is one thing to criticize me because of my views and opinions but it is entirely something else to accuse me when you yourself didn’t read it properly, and I hate false/incorrect/unjust accusations even if they are made in error.Recommend