Why Pakistani universities need to offer more than just social sciences and BBA

Published: August 5, 2015

The subject areas need to be broadened if we want to see Pakistan grow in today’s competitive world.

It seems quite obvious that most Pakistani universities and colleges tend to offer a handful of majors including social sciences, medicine, business administration, law, finance and accounting, and media sciences. But as students, do all our ambitions simply fit in these six categories? Well, the answer is, no.

Many US, Canadian, UK and even Asian universities have hundreds of majors to offer to its undergraduate and graduate students, ranging from art history, Arabic studies, theatre, Asian studies, literature, communication studies and the list goes on. Even if these majors were to be offered to Pakistani students, the chances of them getting jobs related to their fields is highly unlikely.

I had the misfortune of witnessing a few cases myself where many students who had majored in industrial psychology from abroad didn’t find jobs related to their field, as there is no concept of industrial psychology in Pakistan.

The sad part, however, is that the O’ and A’ level system in Pakistan has laid greater emphasis on Islamiyat, Pakistan studies and Urdu but the broader subjects i.e., world history and linguistics are absent from the curriculum. The Cambridge system seems highly bureaucratic, given its limitations. Instead of updating the syllabus, the system leaves no room for amendments.

However, our universities’ prospectus simply revolves around these six majors that shape our careers, which we did not possibly choose for ourselves. It is mainly because we have no other option but to opt for either social sciences or BBA. The choices are so limited that the students have to select their future careers from these majors. This only bounds their ability to think outside the box. It is all about being a doctor or an engineer in Pakistan. But where is the window of opportunity for students?

Shouldn’t there be diversification in career-oriented fields?

I for one believe that our universities should amend their curriculum and bring in new majors that could accommodate every ambitious student.

Many of my friends wanted to pursue their careers in literature and biochemistry but sadly, none of the local universities they applied for offered these majors. Moreover, very few universities in Pakistan have English as a major, which is funny, considering that it is taught in almost every school of Pakistan. However, in the end, when aspiring writers emerge out of the blue, they have to give up their dreams and choose a different field for themselves.

Furthermore, most universities take a standardised entry test with a rather illogical format – Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs). I wonder why MCQs are given in any entry test. Why can’t our tests be theory-based? In the end, it all boils down to how good a person writes. If all the entry tests are based on MCQs, barring the field of medicine, it will only limit a student’s ability to reason, and the same old ‘ratta’ system would most likely prevail.

Our education system might be progressing on a steady pace; however, the subject areas need to be broadened if we want to see Pakistan grow in today’s competitive world. Additionally, take any educated student from Australia or Canada and put them against a Pakistani student. I am sure you would witness a drastic difference between their intellectual ability.

Why, you ask? It is mainly because countries such as the US, Australia, UK and Canada not only have a wide range of subject areas to offer but they also encourage students to take part in extracurricular activities, and not those activities that are defined in our books. They have performing arts, international debating competitions, and sports ranging from ice hockey to swimming. These factors build characters and confidence in students and that is what we, as a nation really need in our education system.

Do you think Pakistani universities should amend their curriculum and offer new majors?

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Haider Rifaat

Haider Rifaat

The author is a model, actor, talk show host and writer for fashion magazines OK! Pakistan and Good Times. He is a columnist and writer for Express Tribune, Daily Times and Pakistan Observer. He is currently the creator and host of Pakistan's first ever web talk show on YouTube titled 'The Haider Rifaat Show' and is set to make his film debut in '24 Hours'. He tweets @HaiderRifaat (twitter.com/HaiderRifaat).

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

  • forced2

    And the government of the country wants to make Urdu the national language ? Mathematics, Science and Technology is what is needed to stay afloat in the 21st Century and beyond, but with Pakistan its always 1 step forward and 3 steps back.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    The article is misleading and totally baseless.

    It takes time to introduce programs. You cannot just role out a new program out of nowhere. Take IBA for example. Iba started as a business school but then started offering engineering program and only few years back started its social sciences program. In coming years, university plans to introduce more programs. Be patient and give them some time.

    Secondly, you talked about industrial pychology and such other programs. Sorry to burst your bubble but such a degree has no scope in abroad either. Yes there may be a little bit more job opportunities but still you cannot simply say that there is a scope for such degrees in abroad.

    Lastly, you criticized MCQs based paper system and said that it encourages rattafication system. I don’t know where did you take your exams but I can say with 100% surity that it is theory based system which demands rattafication, not mcqs. Even SAT which is widely accepted test has a large potion based on mcqs.

  • Nouman Ahmed

    It is the concept which matters, not the language in which it is taught. Newton’s law will remain as valid in Urdu as valid in English. Recommend

  • Parvez

    You are talking about fine tuning a machine which is in fact lying scattered in bits and pieces all over the place.Recommend

  • forced2

    Yes, but would it be cost and time effective to translate all the scientific textbooks and treatise in Urdu ? No ! And since English is becoming more and more the global language, even in countries which hithertofore did not feel the need to acquire that proficiency, it is not just about concepts but the medium through which instruction is imparted.Recommend

  • Fahad Azam

    very good observations, but I would just like to make a point on the issue of using MCQs for entry test examinations … its is true that MCQS have many many limitations but why they are still preferred over a lot of other examinations is standardization which is very high in MCQ format compared to other formats .. in theory based or viva examinations, the biasness of examiners for a certain format is a major limiting factor and the main reason why they are getting obselete in the curent scenrio where we are alwyas short of highly trained faculty./ examinersRecommend

  • forced2

    Pops, Industrial Psychology or its equivalent is even offered at Imperial College, London. While it may not top the list as one of the major career choices for aspiring students entering the job market today, there is still a decent demand for people having a degree in this field in HRM offices across different types of organizations. Cornell University is also famous for various programs in Industrial and Labor Relations of which industrial psychology is a major subset.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    I think you are confusing two things. I am not against learning of English. I think students should learn English and it should be mandatory. But choosing it as the medium of instruction will be detrimental. Coming towards your rest of the points,

    Yes, English is becoming more and more global but one can always learn English in later life. Germans do not learn English yet they are one of the most accomplished nations in the world. So is the case of China.

    Cost effective and time effective? Yes, it would be. But it would be worth every effort.

    And yes it is just about the concepts, not the medium of instruction. If I were an engineer and I studied in a Urdu-medium institution, I would be as skillful as the person who studied from English-medium institution.Recommend

  • Pro Truth

    Universities should review curriculum every 3 years. They are churning out MA and BA with no research knowledge or skills at all, anyone who can remember can pass these idiotic exams. Private MA and BA should all be abolished.Recommend

  • forced2

    Both countries you have cited have a solid track record in science and technological development not only over decades but centuries. This happened even before English rose to worldwide popularity. However Pakistan, for all intents and purposes, has nothing to show for itself as far as invention and innovation are concerned. Had that been the case, Urdu may well have been a lingua scientifica amongst the domestic and international scientific and academic community. Somehow, out of misplaced patriotism and zeal for our heritage, you seem to imagine that the country can leapfrog into the forefront as a major power should it adopt Urdu on a ubiquitous level. Unfortunately, we have missed the train when that would have worked to our advantage. Rather, it would be retrogressive and counterproductive.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    Germany has solid track record, China has not. By the early 20th century, was just a broken semi-colonial country with a huge destitute population.

    And how did you assume that I am supporting Urdu language out of my ‘misplaced’ patriotism? My reason for supporting Urdu as the medium of instruction is that majority of the students can learn in Urdu much faster and better as compared to English.Recommend

  • forced2

    Its a very sorry state of affairs when one compares the command of the English language that existed in Pakistan in the 1950s, 1960s and even 1970s, with the general proficiency of today. One could almost correlate that with the value of the Pakistani rupee vis-à-vis US dollar at that time with the current exchange rate. Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    Do you even know what you are writing or are you just arguing for the sake of it?Recommend

  • forced2

    I think I know a darn sight more than you ever will and, furthermore, have been around this wonderful land of ours much before you hit the scene.Recommend

  • http://wwww.memonammar.blogspot.com Ammar Ahmed

    I find it difficult to guide my younger brother what to pursue since there is ONLY THING “BBA”Recommend

  • forced2

    And, to not leave another stone unturned, your comment on ” industrial psychology” was utterly risible, to say the least.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    “I think I know a darn sight more than you ever will.”

    So much arrogance! Education does nothing to some people. Recommend

  • forced2

    Yes, London School of Business Studies as well as Pedinton School.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    Still they could not change your mindset. Sad.Recommend

  • forced2

    You should have done your research. The above institutions don’t exist, but they happen to be Zadari’s ‘alma mater’.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    Yeah because that was the point of whole discussion.Recommend

  • forced2

    Back to square one..Recommend

  • BaiG

    In what subject he has interest go for it.Recommend