Friday, March 20, 2015

Remembering East Pakistan: We look before and after, And pine for what is not

[To understand the context of this post, please read At What Cost! Why Compute Economic Costs of Faulty Political Decisions]
It is early 1970s. I am in 4th grade and in Islamabad. One day I saw my father with tears in his eyes holding a letter in his hands that he had received from Bangladesh from a Bengali friend who had gone back from Islamabad to what was previously East Pakistan. I do not recall the name of the friend or much of the contents of that short letter with a couple of paragraphs. What I do recall is that he read that short letter to me with so much emotion and sorrow that the thought of it brings tears to my mind even today. I only remember a couple of lines: It started with "My heart bleats and my heart cries when I ......." and it ended with these words "We look before and after and pine for what is not". And I remember and cherish that experience of being with him to this day. Each recollection of the debacle of East Pakistan brings to my mind vividly the scene of my father full of emotions about his memories of the times and company of his friend(s) and the great loss that it represented to the dreams of those who left everything and migrated from India to Pakistan. Pakistan represented so much sacrifice, so much enthusiasm, so much promise and so many great expectations of the happy times that were to be awaiting for us in our own free country! 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Revamping Business Curriculum in Collaboration with Industry for Impact

The model followed in Pakistan in the design of curricula is basically based on rearrangements of popular course names that correspond to some established (typically foreign) text books. A typical university in Pakistan designs a program by copying and pasting course names from some of the foreign universities and prominent local universities, making a semester-wise list of courses and throwing a few electives for each specialization. In the end the course descriptions end up being summaries of table of contents of selected text books. The final program mainly represents a rehash of the personal experiences of the academics of that university. Some of the universities may also invite a couple of people from industry or other universities to tweak this program in a forum pompously named as Board of Studies, which mainly involves playing with the names of the courses and their rearrangement. When HEC (or PEC) invites a curriculum meeting, it ends up rounding up the usual suspects (using the famous quote from Casablanca) i.e. university professors linked to the discipline. Industry executives and societal representatives are seldom invited/present in such deliberations. Major issues in such meetings revolve around courses, credit hours and the prerequisites. There is neither time nor the energy to go down to the contents of any of the courses.

Friday, March 6, 2015

How to Create Impact on Society: A Case Study of Experiential Learning Intervention in a Course on Social Advocacy

It was around 2007-08, I was chatting with some top decision making executives of five private universities/institutes in Pakistan. As is customary in Pakistan, the discussion invariably turned towards lamenting the sorry state of affairs in Pakistan, how Pakistan is going down the drain and how its situation is increasingly becoming deplorable. After a while, I could take it no longer and was forced to make an outburst that went something like the following:
Of all the people in Pakistan, we who are sitting around this table have no right to blame others for the sorry and dismal state that we find ourselves in! We, gentlemen, are in command of at least 20,000 students in the three major cities of Pakistan and these students often remain with us for at least two to four years. The students of our institutions hail from resourceful families. Our universities have enough resources. We can influence the type of courses that we offer, the content of these course and even the teachers who are conducting these courses. We can even fire or change the teachers. Collectively we are churning out over 4,000 graduates every year who have gone through the process designed and approved by us. Why can't we produce even 400 change agents who can transform the business and societal environment of Pakistan and who can turn the tide of our social deterioration?