The Role of Skill Development and Higher Education in Economic Growth

For shaping the future of state, government is promoting skill development centers and higher education centers. Some major expansion has been done by state government in the field of higher education. Engineering colleges have become the prime center for nurturing talent. Top engineering colleges are busy in producing talented engineers year after year.

Role of Higher Education: Higher education plays a key role in the development of any country, state or region. The chance of economic growth of any state is as good as the pool of their skilled people. No plan of economic development can succeed without skilled people, as economic development depends a lot on the quality of resources they have.

When it comes to higher education shaping the economic development in any state, engineers play a key role. Since infrastructure development is a key thing for economic boost of the state; hence, engineers become vital as they play key role in the construction of roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, railway tracks and many other things.

Higher education also helps in shaping the future of people as skilled people not only get good employment opportunities they also create employment for other as well. Skill development program has helped people to become self-reliant and financially independent.

Roles of Higher Education Institutions: Role of educational institution has changed a lot over the years, unlike the earlier years where most colleges and universities focused on traditional courses, nowadays these higher education institutions offer different programs which not only help them develop certain skill sets but also these programs are designed according to the need of corporate sector, the aim is to groom youngsters in such a way that they become industry ready.

For years Indian educational system was considered as a system which could only produces clerks and it has changed a lot. Nowadays engineering and management has become the preferred choice of the youngsters. Higher education institutions also focusing in developing more entrepreneurs these days in this way they help state government to resolve the issue of unemployment. Skilled people create their own employment rather than someone who holds a degree and wait for someone else to provide him or herself employment.

The number of educational institutions is growing every year with private institutions and universities making their impact as well. With growing demand of quality engineers and management graduates number of institution and universities has started mushrooming. One needs to be very careful while selecting from engineering colleges.

Commercialisation of Higher Education in South Africa

Introduction and Literature Review

South African education policies place priority on addressing historical education imbalances, but should also be sensitive to the demands of an ever-increasing global knowledge-driven environment. The educational system cannot be dominated by the needs of the domestic educational system of South Africa ignoring the trends exerted by the global world (OEDC Annual Report, 2004:44). Higher education in South Africa should realize that they operate and function in a knowledge-driven global environment in which both domestic and foreign students demand access to the best quality education at the best reputable institutions of higher education in the world.

In this regard, most definitions of internationalization of higher education include the following: “Internationalisation is a process that prepares the community for successful participation in an increasingly interdependent world … The process infuse all facets of the post-secondary education system, fostering global understanding and developing skills for effective living and working in a diverse world” (Francis, 1993 cited by Patrick, 1997).

The position of higher education in South Africa should be evaluated considering the re-integration of South Africa into the global community. South Africa was rapidly re-integrated into the world community by obtaining almost immediate membership of influential international organisations after 1994. Kishun (1998:59) indicated that South Africa became a member of among others the following international institutions: United Nations; Organisation of African Unity; Commonwealth; International Olympic Committee; Federation of International Football Associations; and Lome Convention. Integration of influential international institutions is a necessary but not sufficient pre-condition for internationalization of higher education. Sustainable internationalization should be closely aligned to the emerging global trends and events in the education sector.

An analysis of the basis on which internationalization of higher education occurs is needed as well as the benefits of the internationalization process. This research is conducted against this background.

Problem Statement

Whilst South Africa is in a process of transition regarding higher education to address the imbalances of the past, the question arises whether the South African educational sector is able to compete in the global economy which regard knowledge as a commercialised commodity.

Methodology

A sample size of 781 respondents from six institutions of higher education in South Africa was selected. Senior students were randomly selected using the convenience sampling technique. A semi-structured questionnaire was developed to measure the perceived competitive profile of institutions of higher education in South Africa. The questionnaire constitutes five measuring foci, namely:

· Section A: Institutional information regarding the location where the respondent is enrolled.

· Section B: Biographical information in terms of gender, type of student and country of origin.

· Section C: Decision criteria used to select an institution of higher education.

· Section D: Four competitive dimensions of higher education institutions, including strategic competitiveness, institutional competitiveness, product competitiveness, and tactical competitiveness.

· Section E: Open-ended questions, aimed to identify the reasons why respondents choose a specific institution of higher education, their opinion on the institution’s competitive reputation, and the factors that may influence the international competitiveness of the particular institution.

The data was transformed into two opposite categories, namely those who agreed with the statements and those who disagreed, enabling the researchers to derive a hypothesized agreement-disagreement distribution. Those who neither agreed nor disagreed were allocated to the disagreement group set giving and expected disagreement response set of 57% (p=0.57) and an agreement response set of 43% (q=0.43). The Binomial test was employed to determine whether the observed distribution correspond with the hypothesized distribution using a significance test level of 0.05. Furthermore, the level of agreement or disagreement with the selected competitive statements and the extend of agreements between the respondents from the different institutions on the various statements were determined by executing four statistical procedures, namely: ANOVA to compare the means of respondents from the different institutions; determining how much of the perception variation could be accounted for by the influence of the different institutions of higher education; determining the averages for each strategic dimension to obtain an indication of the level of agreement with the competitive statements; and determining the standard deviations to obtain an indication of the extend to which consensus exists within the sample.

Findings

With regard to the strategic competitiveness of South African institutions of higher education to engage in a seamless network the respondents were of the opinion that South African institutions of higher education give low priority to attract foreign students, are not well known for attracting foreign students, are not actively involved in exchange programmes of students and lecturers, and do not have active engagements or agreements with other tertiary institutions, businesses and communities.

On the issue of institutional competitiveness, the majority of respondents were of the opinion that institutions of higher education in South Africa have the ability to attract quality students, does not have an international student culture, offers qualifications that are internationally accepted, can claim international reputability on post-graduate level, offers competitive tuition fees, deliver research outputs that are internationally recognized, and are not easily accessible.

In terms of product competitiveness the majority of respondents indicated that institutions of higher education in South Africa have active orientation programmes to familiarise foreign and domestic students with the institutions, provide safe and secure learning environments, provide leading information technology for academic growth and excellence, do not easily adapt to the needs and wants of students, and provide convenient service packages to students.

With regard to tactical competitiveness institutions of higher education in South Africa have the ability to compile a diploma or degree offering that meets or exceeds international standards in terms of offering subject content of international standard, having internationally acclaimed staff, aggressively marketing its qualifications internationally, claiming international acceptable through-put, and having acceptable grant and loan schemes accessible to students.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The majority of respondents are in agreement that institutions of higher education in South Africa are able to compete internationally on the four competitive dimensions (strategic, institutional, tactical and product). Internationalisation requires that institutions of higher education in South Africa should emphasise a somewhat loosening of the relationship with Government, despite the paradoxical need to create new transformational bodies to address the imbalances of the past. Internationalisation of higher education implies that internationalised institutions operate on new super ordinate levels which has its own legal, administrative and revenue-raising powers.

In terms of strategic direction institutions of higher education might consider at least one of the following internationalization approaches:

· “Would-be internationalization”: Applies to academics and institutions wanting to be involved in internationalization but facing problems in being considered on equal terms.

· “Life or death internationalization”: Countries, their academics and institutions, which view internationalization cooperation as indispensable for their status and role in the global world.

· “Two areas”: Academics and institutions have the option of striving for either more national or more international status and orientation. The academic field in which one is operating often determines this.

· “Internationalisation by import”: Countries and institutions that treat internationalization only as coming from outside, by hosting foreign students and publishing research. It should not represent a separate strategy towards internationalisation.

References

Kishun, R. 1998. Internationalization in South Africa. In The globalization of Higher Education. Scott, P. ed. Buckingham: Open University Press.

OECD Annual Report. 2004. Education. p.41-45.

Patrick, K. 1997. CSDF project full report: Internationalising the University. Melbourne: RMIT.

What’s Wrong – Pakistan’s Higher Education System

Issues in Pakistan’s Education System: A Focus on Higher Education

Scientia Potentia Est, or “For also knowledge itself is power”, is a very popular Latin maxim that all of us will have heard or read quite a few times throughout our school days. In the fast-paced, rapidly growing information age, it could not be any truer.

The concept of knowledge economy hovers around the utilization of knowledge and information as a productive asset. All the sectors, be it services related or manufacturing related all rely on knowledge and information for productivity; be it a groundbreaking piece of code for a software, or the schematics of a new prototype car.

Knowledge is gained through two methods; one is experience, the other is formal education and training. Experience can only come with time; however, we still need to understand our experiences. That is where education comes in.

Education is a building block of life as we know it, without which, we would not have the world we see now. It is widely understood that a country with a good education infrastructure has everything it needs to become a successful, highly developed nation. Over the next few paragraphs, we’ll try to see where Pakistan’s education system stands, what challenges it faces, and what possible solutions we might have.

The Current System:

Pakistan’s education system is split up into five levels. The first level starting from grade one and going up to grade five, is Primary Schooling. This education varies from school to school with some private schools offering exceptional schooling but at a very high price, and public schools often being termed mediocre; we’ll talk about the issues later on through this article.

The second level, Middle Schooling, starts at grade six and continues up to the eighth grade. Again, the curriculum and schooling criteria varies from school to school, but the same conception applies here as well. Public schools are generally considered lackluster as compared to some private schools and the elitist schools offer the best schooling, at exorbitant fee structures.

The third level consists of grades nine and ten, and is called Highschooling. This level is followed by Matriculation or Secondary School Certification (SSC) Exams. These exams are conducted on a provincial or district level. Once again, the quality of schooling varies from school to school with some schools following the Cambridge system of education.

The fourth level consists of the eleventh and twelfth grades, and is called Intermediate Level Schooling. These two years of schooling are offered at several schools and also at several colleges, and are followed by Higher Secondary School Certification (HSSC) or Intermediate Exams. Like the SSC Exams, these are also conducted at the provincial level, as well as the federal level.

Though these two years are the foundation for students as they determine a direction that they take for their career, students often change their career paths after their intermediate education and certification. There seems to be a growing need for student career-path counseling.

The fifth level is composed of Undergraduate and Post-Graduate degree programs. The Undergraduate or Bachelors degree programs range from a Bachelors’ in Arts to Bachelors’ in Law, covering several different programs. The duration of these programs varies according to the nature of the specialization or course, from two to four years. There are several private and public universities spread out across the country that offer such bachelors degree programs.

The Undergraduate or Bachelors’ programs are of two types; Pass and Honors. The Pass system comprises of twelve subjects, ranging from compulsory Language, History, and Religion based courses, to optional courses that cover specific areas with a duration of two years. The Honors system constitutes specialization courses in addition to select compulsory courses over three to four years.

The Post-Graduate degree programs consist of Masters and PhDs in various subjects, ranging from philosophy and education to business administration and engineering subjects. The Masters programs are of around 2 years, and consist of specialization courses in a chosen subject. The PhD programs are a further extension of specialization and are of around three to five years.

With several public and private universities and degree awarding institutes offering these programs, the quality of education varies profoundly, with select institutes given preference over others. The reason for such a vast difference in the quality of education is primarily the curriculum used, and the faculty of that institute. Once again, we’ll talk about the issues in more detail a little later on through the story.

The Issues:

Though Pakistan has a very high number of private and public sector schools, the quality of education leaves a lot to be desired. Some private sector schools do offer excellent quality, but have such a high fee that the lower middle income group can hardly afford them. Additionally, most public sector schools lack enough competent teachers to cater to the high demands of this age group.

The most critical aspect of the earlier stages of formal education is the development of an inquisitive and active mind. If a child is encouraged to think out of the box from such an early age, not only would his learning experience be a lot more productive, he would grow into a prodigious professional.

Additionally, another common complaint of parents of public-sector school students is poor English vocational skill. This once again, falls under the umbrella of ineffective and unskilled teachers.

A very critical issue our intermediate level students face is a feeling of general mayhem and incertitude of their direction in life. Though some students have a fairly good idea of where they want to go, most do not, and this is why they end up changing their career paths during their higher education.

Analysts and critiques argue that the reason for this irresolution lies in the fact that our current education system does not seed curiosity nor does it encourage further research. The reason behind this, they point out, is an ill-planned examination system that is graded according to a student’s ability to memorize selective topics in their curriculum, and to rewrite them onto paper. Our education system is in dire need of rejuvenation, and though it has already started, there is still indeed a long way to go.

Also, another reason for this uncertainty is a lack of guidance and counseling. Due to our social setup, most students need constant feedback and guidance to steer themselves into the right career. This can only be done if all schools set up student counselors who would help students decide a particular field they wish to enter.

At the university level, a major challenge is the lack of skilled and competent teachers. According to Pervez Hoodbhoy, “There are far too few qualified Pakistanis who can teach modern engineering subjects at an international professional level. There may be no more than two to three dozen suitable engineering professors in all of Pakistan’s engineering universities.” He further points out that the current number of engineering professors is minuscule if you look at the number of professors needed by the several international engineering universities being set up throughout the country.

Another very major concern is the development of a suitable curriculum and examination system. Though the Higher Education Commission is currently developing a standardized curriculum for all public and private sector universities and institutes, the development of existing and new faculty will take quite some time.

Possible Solutions:

One possible solution to these problems is already under way. The restructuring of the entire system has already started and it is gradually being reworked into a more coherent and encouraging system for all. The system needs to be transformed so that it cultivates curiosity and research, instead of just going through a selection of notoriously irksome books.

Moreover, we need to train our teachers to be more receptive of their students, instead of just being receptive of the books of their curriculum. With formal training, teachers can improve their language skills, as well as their direction and teaching skills. In simple words, we need to train them to be more open-minded and curious, so they in turn pass on that trait to their students.

As for the lack of qualified Pakistani teachers and professors, one possible solution is to set up mandatory training courses for all teachers, as well as suitable experience and educational qualifications before allowing them to become teachers at higher education institutions. As for the immediate need, we need to hire foreign faculty for all our educational institutes while the currently employed teachers undergo mandatory training.

As said in the beginning of this story, education is a building block of life as we know it and it is the primary thing that makes us human. As a child grows, he learns, and what he learns, he must be given the freedom to practice, and to grow. Without this freedom, he will confine himself to a cocoon, yet he will not transcended beyond that stage, and he will not turn into a butterfly.

A child’s mind is like a blank canvas; use the right combination of colors, and it turns into a Van Gogh or a Michelangelo, use the wrong combination and it turns into muck. The development of a child determines his outlook and standing in life.

I came across a very famous dialogue from a blockbuster Hollywood movie, “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is”, and it truly is!