If our goal is to prepare students for a diverse and changing world and our education system is intended to help each student to become the very best that he/she can possibly be, then it is no longer good enough to think about students as average, to teach them on average and to rank students against an average
Personal development for individuals refers to their actions, aspirations and perceptions for the fundamental principle of improving self-awareness, knowledge acquisition, ideological development, building human capital and enhancing the quality of life. A university plays fundamental role in the personal development of the students by inducing constructive aspirations and perceptions in their personality. Numerous factors are included in the personal development of university students, such as students’ background, hard work, university environment andintrinsic aptitude. Moreover,university staff &teachers’ exposure and attitude, availability of learning materials, occupational opportunities and subject conceptualization also play an indispensable role in personal& intellectual development of the university students.
It is necessary to mention that our education system in universities starting from textbook design to assessments and from curricular materials to teaching methodologies is built with an aim to prepare students for standardized jobs. It was created during an era when the goal was to produce students for standardized jobs in an industrial economy. And it worked, more or less. But the world has changed, as have obligations of education. Therefore, I have tried to invite attention of the educational policy makers and higher education administrators towards one of the most neglected obligations of our education system, which should be building intellect of students instead of just producing around 455,000 university graduates per year for standardised jobs.
A study conducted at Institute of Education &Research, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan has found that Industry was not fully satisfied with the quality of Pakistani university graduates in respect of intellectual, personal, socialandprofessional development skills. Professional development skills were found relatively strong in engineering, medical & business disciplines. However,personal and social development skills were at the lowest count. This situation reflects curricula, instruction, and professional competencies of majority of the university teachers, which are not only below the job market standards, but void of personal exposure towards diversifiedknowledge of the world.
This is a grave concern and indeed noticeable by the policy makers, academics &educational administrators. This ignorance towards personal and intellectual developments of students in our educational systemis continuously adding to the population of qualified university graduates, day by day, with the sole perception that a university degree is a source of employability skills only.
I am certainly not against this massive production of graduates in the fragileeconomy of Pakistan.Yes, we have to move on with the same pace, zeal and zest. However, with slightly different strategy as West is doing. If our students are using Google, they must know the story of Larry Page. This could be the focal point that how many of the graduate, at university level, are really prepared with sufficient attributes of interactive skills, human morals, critical thinking, innovative approaches, creative skills, outcome based learning case studies, extensive exposure towards the outer world,and a great sense of responsibility towards the community development.It is a universal fact that universities are not made of bricks and walls, they are made of human resource. Similarly, curriculums should never specifically bea just skilled-basedmanifesto of learning specific skills. Rather, it should project a very fine amalgamation of literature to build healthy minds, ethics to prepare responsible citizens, morals to make them embodiment of tolerance and critical thinking to enable them to evaluate issuesimpartially. In this way, days would not be that far when our graduates would be the beacon of their professions as well perfect role models for young people around the world like Larry Page and Steve Jobs.
Anyhow, all these causes could be wrapped up in instructional, professional and organizational deficiencies of the faculty of universities in preparing quality graduates. The issue of sub-standard quality of Pakistani university graduates becomes more complex when they are supposed to compete in the local as well as international job markets. This is not just a problem of satisfaction of employers, it is also a description of potential weakness of Pakistani university graduates to play a major role in the economic development of country, and universities in general.
In the aforesaid perspective, if our goal is to prepare students for a diverse and changing world, and our education system is intended to help each student to become the very best that he/she can possibly be, then it’s no longer good enough to think about students on average, to teach them on average, and to rank students against an average. Instead, we must undoubtedly be able to understand and treat students as individuals.
Serious improvement initiatives on part of universities to produce quality graduates, which include in my major recommendations, are: the universities should reshape their curricula and teaching process. The students,regardless of their disciplines,must be taught courses like Ethics, Emotional Intelligence, Music, Fine Arts, Languages, Creative Writing, Photography, Literature, Historyand other courses pertaining to Behavioral Sciences, which will certainly raise the bar of personal& intellectual development of the graduates.Secondly, there is immense need to enhance the exposure of the administrative staff and faculty in universities. Therefore, teachers and staff must be given enough opportunities to visit the developed countries to study advanced education systems therein with respect to instructional, professional and organizational development areas to help them play their mandatory roles in preparing the students of their own universitieswith international perspective. In addition to this, developing communications skills of the students is far most important with their professional learning. Unfortunately, Pakistani universities are not inducing communication skills among the students. If our English Teachers don’t know Robin Williams in Oscar Winner “Dead Poets Society”, I wonder how they are teaching communication skills. Fourthly, the teachers and university administration should have positive level of understanding between each other to develop positive aspirations among the university students, which is found mostly missing in majority of our universities, especially in public sector. Fifthly, university environment should construct and invite curiosity among the students so that they can indulge in higher order thinking differently. Sixthly, University administration should develop a strong monitoring system for the rationale of getting an accurate, constructive and timely feedback mechanism, related to both learners and teachers in the campus. Last but not the least, university environment should be a mixture of academics and extracurricular activities, so that the students can learn and come forward to develop appropriate skills that can help them in their social life and professional career.
Concluding, developing a flexible learning environment, introducing variety of new subjects in the curriculum, ensuring a transparent and unbiased staff and faculty development programs, and believing in academic freedom of the students are the foremost remedies that can enhance the personal and intellectual development and optimistic aspirations among our students.