Poor Quality of Higher Education in India and Pakistan


A few top-tier Indian schools, such as the elite Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), are often compared with world-class schools, but the American investors and businesses have finally learned the hard way that there is huge gap between the few tier one schools and the large number of tier two and three schools in India. Other than about 5000 graduates from the IITs, the quality of education most Indians receive at tier 2 and 3 schools is far below the norm considered acceptable in America and the developed world.

In 2005, the McKinsey Global Institute conducted a study of the emerging global labor market and concluded that a sample of twenty-eight low wage nations, including China, India and Pakistan, had about 33 million young professional in engineering, finance and accounting at their disposal, compared with only 15 million in a sample of eight higher wage nations including the US, UK, Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada, Ireland and South Korea. But "only a fraction of potential job candidates could successfully work at a foreign company," the study found, pointing to many explanations, but mainly poor quality of education.

Some India watchers such as Fareed Zakaria, an Indian-American who often acts as a cheerleader for India in the US, have expressed doubts about the quality of education at the Indian Institutes of Technology. In his book "The Post-American World", Zakaria argues that "many of the IITs are decidedly second-rate, with mediocre equipment, indifferent teachers, and unimaginative classwork." Zakaria says the key strength of the IIT graduates is the fact that they must pass "one of the world's most ruthlessly competitive entrance exams. Three hundred thousand people take it, five thousand are admitted--an acceptance rate of 1.7% (compared with 9 to 10 percent for Harvard, Yale, and Princeton)."

As a student of Karachi's NED University of Engineering and Technology in 1970s, I had similar assessment of my alma mater (and other UETs) in Pakistan as Zakaria's characterization of the IITs in India. NED Engineering College in 1970s was "decidedly second-rate, with mediocre equipment, indifferent teachers, and unimaginative classwork". However, given the fairly strict merit-based admission process, I found myself mostly surrounded by some of the best, most competitive students who had graduated with flying colors from Karachi's intermediate colleges and ranked very high on the Board of Education examination to make it into NED College. It was indeed the creme de la creme of Karachi's youth who have later proved themselves by many accomplishments in various industries, including some of the leading-edge high-tech companies in America. Even in the 1970s, there were a small number of students admitted on non-merit-based special quotas. NED University today, however, appears to have significantly expanded such special, non-merit-based, quotas for entrance into the institution, an action that has probably affected its elite status, its rankings and the perceived quality of its graduates, while other, newer institutions of higher learning have surpassed it. Some of the special categories now include sons and daughters of employees, children of faculty and professional engineers and architects, special nominees from various ministries and an expanded quota for candidates from rural areas and the military.

Looking at the top 500 universities in the world, one can see a few universities from China, Japan, Singapore and India and a few more from Muslim nations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. The notable institutions from South Asia include several campuses of the Indian Institutes of Technology and Pakistan's National University of Science and Technology (NUST), University of Lahore, Karachi University and Lahore's University of Engineering and Technology. Many new universities are now being built in several Muslim nations in Asia and the Middle East, and they are attracting top talent from around the world. For example, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), scheduled to open on Sept. 23, is the country's attempt to create a world-class research university from scratch. It's hiring top scholars from all over the world. "Our goal is to kick-start an innovation-based economy," says Ahmad O. Al-Khowaiter, the university's vice-president for economic development. "We need a couple of success stories, and we think this will lead to one (collaboration with IBM Research)."

According to Businessweek, KAUST agreed to buy an IBM supercomputer, which is an essential tool in the research projects that IBM and the Saudis are targeting for their first collaboration. Among other things, the two teams will collaborate on a study of the nearby Red Sea, which they believe will help improve oil and mineral exploration. "[The supercomputer] is a magnet for smart people, and it makes it possible for us to solve big problems," says Majid F. Al-Ghaslan, KAUST's interim chief information officer.

An MIT survey of human resource professionals at multinational corporations in India revealed that only one quarter of engineering graduates with a suitable degree could be employed irrespective of demand (Farrell et al., 2005). Another survey of employers shows that only a handful of the 1400 engineering schools in India are recognized as providing world-class education with graduates worthy of consideration for employment (Globalization of Engineering Services, 2006). These results suggest that engineering degrees from most Indian colleges do not provide signaling value in the engineering labor market. Hence, low quality (in the labor market sense) engineering schooling has come to predominate in the education market. The current situation, with an abundance of low quality engineering schooling, is considered problematic by many in the Indian polity and it could stifle growth of the Indian economy (Globalization of Engineering Services, 2006).

For the first time in the nation's history, President Musharraf's education adviser Dr. Ata ur Rahman succeeded in getting tremendous focus and major funding increases for higher education in Pakistan. According to Sciencewatch, which tracks trends and performance in basic research, citations of Pakistani publications are rising sharply in multiple fields, including computer science, engineering, mathematics, material science and plant and animal sciences. Over two dozen Pakistani scientists are actively working on the Large Hadron Collider; the grandest experiment in the history of Physics. Pakistan now ranks among the top outsourcing destinations, based on its growing talent pool of college graduates. As evident from the overall results, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of universities and highly-educated faculty and university graduates in Pakistan. There have also been some instances of abuse of incentives, opportunities and resources provided to the academics in good faith. The quality of some of the institutions of higher learning can also be enhanced significantly, with some revisions in the incentive systems.

Admission meritocracy, faculty competence and inspirational leadership in education are important, but there is no real substitute for higher spending on higher education to achieve better results. In fact, it should be seen as an investment in the future of the people rather than just another expense.

Of the top ten universities in the world, six are in the United States. The US continues to lead the world in scientific and technological research and development. Looking at the industries of the future such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, green technologies, the US continues to enjoy a huge lead over Europe and Asia. The reason for US supremacy in higher education is partly explained by how much it spends on it. A 2006 report from the London-based Center for European Reform, "The Future of European Universities" points out that the United States invests 2.6 percent of its GDP in higher education, compared with 1.2 percent in Europe and 1.1 percent in Japan.

Related Links:

NEDUET Admissions Prospectus 2009-10

Global Shortage of Quality Labor

Nature Magazine Editorial on Pakistan's Higher Education Reform

McKinsey Global Institute Report

Pakistan Ranks Among Top Outsourcing Destinations

Pakistan Software Houses Association

World's Top Universities Rankings

Improving Higher Education in Pakistan

Globalization of Engineering Services 2006

Center for European Reform

Reforming Higher Education in Pakistan

Views: 370

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 12, 2009 at 11:49am
India is opening up its education sector to foreigners. Here is a Time story:

For decades, foreign universities have been an integral part of India's higher education. Whiz kids across the country with the financial means have left for highly regarded global universities to study. Many never return, taking both their tuition money and their talent overseas. More than 160,000 students are currently studying in schools in the U.S., Australia, Britain and elsewhere. Over 100,000 pack up and head to study abroad every year, spending $7 billion on tuition and housing.

But what if big foreign universities like Yale, MIT, Stanford, Columbia Business School and the London School of Economics could set up campus in India? India's new Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, wants to make that happen. Sibal intends to have new laws in place by next July that would open up India's heavily regulated educational system to foreign players, with a goal of building a skilled pool of local managers and workers to help run an economy that continues to grow at a rate of 6.7%. Sibal also intends to make this new wave of higher education accessible to a larger swath of students, having foreign schools reserve over a quarter of their seats for India's economically disadvantaged. "If India wants to be a world-class educational hub, then we need access to global institutions," said Sibal early in July.
Comment by Hasan Jawaid on September 14, 2009 at 9:04am
Mr. Riaz,

I am reaching out to you because I was browsing NEDians of southern California chapter this morning to see if I could trace my friend who attended UTA with me back in late 80's - Khawer Ikram Malik who graduated from NED in 1981. And with him, there was another NEDian Javed Aslam Sheik who graduated couple of years earlier than Khawer and we all were together in UTA in 82,83. I lost touch with both of them ever since I moved to NJ and since I haven't been to Karachi in a long time, I have no way of knowing their whereabouts. I would like to get in touch with them but I guess for privacy reasons, emails aren't visible to non-members. , I know it's coming from a total stranger but I was wondering if it would be possible for you to send Khawer my email if his email happens to be there and visible to you. I have joined pakalumni this morning just to track them down but it's kind of searching haystack.
Please ignore it if this turns out to be too much of an hassle.
Thanks.

- Hasan Jawaid
hasanjawaid@yahoo.com
member id on pakalumni 929
Comment by Riaz Haq on April 20, 2017 at 8:48pm

Less than 5% of #India engineers are cut out for high-skill programming jobs — Quartz #h1bvisa #SiliconValley

https://qz.com/964843/less-than-5-of-india-engineers-are-cut-out-fo...

When considering Indian engineering talent, quantity trumps quality.
Indian universities may be churning out the world’s largest engineering population, but the graduates’ skills levels aren’t high. In 2011, India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies estimated that only 25% of India’s IT engineering graduates were employable. Six years on, the talent pool is still in dire straits.
“Only 4.77% candidates can write the correct logic for a program, a minimum requirement for any programming job,” a recent Aspiring Minds study of over 36,000 engineering students in India revealed. The employability assessment company tested students from IT-related streams of study at more than 500 colleges across India on Automata, a machine learning-based assessment of software development skills.

“The IT industry requires maintainable code so that it is less prone to bugs, is readable, reusable and extensible,” the study notes. “Time efficient code runs fast.” Only 1.4% of programmers surveyed could create code that was functionally correct and efficient, meaning it does what it’s supposed to do and in a reliable and speedy manner.
More than two-thirds of the candidates from the top 100 universities in the country were able to write “compilable code,” or that which does not throw errors when compiled into machine-readable code. In the rest of the colleges, only 31% of students were able to write compilable code.
One reason for the poor performance is the dearth of good instructors as well as misaligned college curriculums. “The school curriculum focusing on MS-Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc., rather teaching programming using elementary languages such as Basic and Logo is also the culprit,” said Varun Aggarwal, the co-founder and chief technology officer at Aspiring Minds.

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