Why is Engineering Losing its Charm in Pakistan?

1. Engineering losing its charm in Pakistan

Doctors and engineers had been two of the nobly perceived professions within the culture of Pakistan. However, with the passage of time and the lack of competencies and efforts shown by higher officials and educational bodies, there has been a decrease in the scope of engineering in Pakistan. The dark future of engineering and the charm that it has lost in the region of Pakistan is associated with rising unemployment in this area and the compromise in the quality of education supplied by engineering universities

2. Entry Tests of Engineering Universities in Pakistan

For admissions in medical and law programs, the universities in Pakistan hold a single-entry test. However, such is not the case for admission to engineering programs. All public and private engineering universities conduct separate entry tests at different times and in varying venues. Each university charges a considerable amount from the students for the entry test.

Most students come from different rural and underdeveloped areas of Pakistan and thus belong to a low economy. They cannot afford to pay all the universities separately which becomes a major hindrance. This not only puts the student into emotional turmoil but also cost them their time, money, and efforts

Also, due to different reasons, engineering has lost its charm, and the quantity of students appearing on the test has considerably declined. In the year 2020, Educational Testing and Evaluation Authority (ETEA) conducted a test in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It was seen that only 5000 out of the 7000 registered students appeared for the test

3. Lack of Practice-based Learning

One of the most common issues in engineering universities is that it lacks a practical approach to education. Universities are institutes of higher education and serve as a gateway to professional lives. That is to say, the purpose of universities is not only to provide students with sufficient knowledge but also to prepare them for the professional world. However, if Pakistani engineering universities, their curriculum, and their pedagogical approach are analyzed, it can be observed that most students are not exposed to what is called the “struggles” and “reality” of professional life. This results in the underdevelopment of engineering students.

Engineering universities in Pakistan also do not cooperate with students regarding the “internship programs”. The universities do not or very rarely provide internship options to students only after their graduation is completed. During the 4 years of study, the students are not able to do internships as much as they would want which hampers their actual knowledge of the professional world.

3.1 Medical Colleges Being Close to Hospitals

In the debate of doctors vs. engineers, the medical profession enjoys certain benefits, especially in the region of Pakistan. The medical universities in Pakistan are usually operated under and licensed by relative hospitals. The hospitals are also very near medical universities which allows the students to practice what they study. Usually, hospital rotations start during the 3rd year of the five-year curriculum of the medical profession in Pakistan. This allows the students to achieve practical learning for 3 years of their studies. The medical students can practice in the associated hospitals what they learn in their universities and also have a glance at the professional lives of doctors.

However, quite contrary to this, engineering universities are not associated with engineering organizations or offices. Mostly they are not even located near the organizations, due to which there is no actual industrial knowledge

3.2 Medical Professors

It is not only the students at engineering universities who lack the latest industry knowledge, but also the professors. Mostly the professors in engineering universities are retired “engineers” or ones who haven’t even gotten industrial jobs in the first place. This means that the teachers teaching the students have either outdated knowledge of the industry or none at all. It is very unlike the professors teaching in medical universities who mostly teach in the mornings and perform surgeries or OPDs in the evening. It helps them gain the latest knowledge of the healthcare industry and transfer the relevant knowledge to their students thus preparing them.

4. The Era of Freelancing

Professions, such as engineering, medicine, and teaching have their worth around the globe, especially in the Eastern part of it. However, the youth of the 21st century have changed values to their adults and normally prefer work with increased work-life balance, feasibility, and ease. This change in values in the Pakistani youth facilitated the growth of freelancing and freelancing agencies. Skills such as writing, graphic designing, web development, and other skills are allowing the youth to earn substantially while staying in their home, saving them the inflated prices of petrol.

With the rise in the number of freelancers among Pakistani youth, the revenue income from freelancing has shown a tremendous and considerable rise in the year 2020. Most of this rise in freelancing was also facilitated by the lockdown policy imposed during COVID-19. Also, since Asian countries like Pakistan charge low labor costs, most international clients assign their tasks to Pakistani freelancers. Seeing the growth of the freelancing industry, the youth has started diverting to this new profession. Freelancing agencies and companies have also been formed in Pakistan that take a huge amount of work and then outsource it to its employees. Seeing the growth and the future of freelancing in Pakistan, many students have started polishing their skills needed in freelancing.

Most young students who even are engineers also deviate from their engineering professions and become freelancers. This era of freelancing is also attributed to the decline in engineering professions. The youngsters are shifting from engineering and medical professions to freelancing and freelancing agencies. As bad as it may seem for the traditional professions of the East, the growth of freelancing helps in tackling the unemployment issues of Pakistan.

Figure 1: Increase in Pakistani freelance revenue

5. The Dark Future of Engineering

5.1 Unemployment

According to the report of the Pakistani Engineering Council (PEC), more than 50,000 engineers are currently unemployed in Pakistan. The lack of jobs in this sector is leading most students away from this profession and has become one of the main reasons that engineering today has lost its very charm among the youth of Pakistan.

Figure 2: Unemployment in Engineering

5.2 Demand and Supply

The ratio of supply and demand in the engineering profession of Pakistan is quite disrupted. It is seen that the typical stereotypes resting in Pakistani society cause the elders to impose pressure on their youngers to pursue engineering or medical profession even when they do not want to. As a result, universities had supplied a bulk of engineers during the last decade. As per a recent survey, around 25,000 engineers graduate annually in Pakistan and roughly 0.26 million engineers are registered with Pakistan Engineering Council. However, the demand for engineers is still low in the market. Pakistan suffers from low GDP and cannot invest in technical projects which require engineers. This causes a rise in unemployment and frustration among the students.

5.3 Poor Investment and Lack of Government Regulators

Issues such as fake universities and the conduction of unaccredited courses in certified engineering universities have also been current issues in the engineering education sector. The rise in issues has left students demotivated to join this sector. Moreover, the GDP of Pakistan is comparatively low which does not allow the government to launch engineering projects hence the demand for engineers in the job market remains low.

6. Useless PEC and Sleeping HEC

PEC and HEC (Higher Education Commission) of Pakistan have been incompetent toward the engineering profession. In many instances, the two organizations in the educational sector seem to be opposite from one another. One of the cases was when HEC regarded a B.tech (bachelor in technology) degree as equivalent to a B.E (bachelor in engineering) degree and PEC opposed it. According to PEC, technology is one of the areas of engineering however it differs from other kinds of engineering and cannot be regarded as equal.

Moreover, HEC and PEC have failed in keeping a check and balance among the universities. Recently the High Court called the PEC’s and HEC’s Chief Councilor because many universities (which were certified) were providing unaccredited courses thus wasting 4 years of students’ life. According to the Court, PEC had failed to acknowledge, appreciate and polish the bona fide students.

Another case revolved around Al-Khair University which the HEC claimed was a false university and HEC had no data. This was highly controversial because according to some students, it was HEC’s greed for money or the university’s fault. However, HEC being a higher educational organization was accountable for the student’s years. Instead, HEC disregarded the students enrolled in the university between 2009 to 2011. To gain an HEC license, the then-graduated students at Al-Khair University were to pass a test conducted by HEC. Only upon passing would they gain their license of profession or degree.

This not only put an extra burden on the students but their entire career at risk. Analyzing such events where the failure of higher authorities is visible, students have become insecure about the engineering profession.

Figure 3: Protests against HEC by Al-Khair students

7. Solution to this Problem

Universities should conduct a single test and the role of the PEC needs to be revised. Given the increased supply, PEC should stop giving accreditations to new universities for several years and the intake of students must be reduced to existing institutions as well. The duration of the graduate program in engineering should be increased to five years with one year of mandatory field practice.

The quality of education must also be improved to polish students’ analytical, innovative and entrepreneurial skills. Moreover, the Chairman of PEC must be selected under some rules and regulations. The elections in PEC must be stopped.

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