The tour got delayed since most of the media arrived late due to political situation in the city and once the people were here, we were joined by Habib University staff members Mr. Sibtain and Dean of Engineering Dr. Shoaib Zaidi. Sibtain started with the presentation regarding Pakistan's standing in the global community in terms of human index and education. As expected, the picture wasn't good but this time there was a different angle to view it from. We are often told that overall education is poor because we don't have good education at school level. Sibtain and Dr. Shoaib argued that it's not just the school but also universities that are not up to the par. To prove, we were shown rating of Human Development Index where Pakistan ranked 146 out of 186 countries and our spending on social sector was even lower than some of the poorest African countries.
Dr. Shoaib gave a historical evidence as well where, during 1950s, Pakistan's higher education had shown promise for leadership development and research studies in modern fields and education. Under Ayub Khan the higher education was compartmentalized and vocational institutions were created, largely to break the power of student unions and student leaders that still dominated street power. The nationalization of the 1970s not only further strengthened the vocational model but introduced elements of politics and religion in to the student bodies, degrading their power and bringing them under the influence of political and religious bodies instead of ideologies, critical thinking, poetry, debates, morality and accountability. Whatever good was left got bulldozed in the Islamization era of the 1980s where women empowerment was undermined, prejudice and monoculture promoted in the classrooms and weapon bearing culture introduced in the institutions, turning education centers to breeding grounds of violence.
As a result the higher education sector became malfunctioned and is still the same as ever. There is clear lack of creativity and imagination in the students, lack of research, fixed compartmentalization in sciences, technology, management and social sciences, continued focus on technical and vocational learning, emphasis on rote-learning, one-way communication in the classrooms and students ill-equipped to play their role in nation-building and problem solving.
It is not to say that all is lost. Where government sector began to stumble, private sector started to take the burden. IBA was created in 50s, first private management institution outside of North America and build with the help of Wharton Business School. It has served business sector of Pakistan for over 50 years and continue to do so even if there have been some severe shortcomings. Agha Khan University Hospital emerged despite criticism over sustainability of its business model and now leads the education side of medical community, so much so that other medical institutions like King Edward College had to step up to match the new standards of medical education set by Agha Khan. Similarly Lahore University of Management Sciences, built with the help of Harvard University, has completed over 25 years of education services to Pakistan, setting new standards in the country for management sciences and forcing others to improve their teaching methodologies. Newer additions to this list include Karachi School of Business and Leadership, with support from Judge Business School.
This leads us to understand a very important education model successfully functioning in United States. Top 8 out of 10 university in the world belong to US, all private institutions, and they continue to dominate the sector for knowledge creation and dissemination. The first public university in the US was created 149 years AFTER the first private university, meaning the US has the oldest tradition of private higher education with institutional, intellectual and sustainability strength. Habib University implemented the same model followed by the US private institutions and is currently collaborating with several institutions. The most closely matched institution in the US with Habib University is Stanford University, both having a similar legacy and started with the same purpose.
The motto of Habib University is "Yohsin" and its elements include Excellence, Passion, Respect, Beauty and Service ... all integral part of everything that happens at Habib University.
There are 4 deans of the institution. Dean of Social Sciences, Dean of Engineering, Dean of Student Affairs and Dean of Research. This is the first institution of Pakistan where there are separate deans for student affairs and research, allowing from student growth and development from the first day. The faculty is highly qualified that went through grueling process of interviews before being hired and the board of directors include some of the most eminent names in education sectors around the globe.
The curriculum has a liberal core which is part of studies for both engineering and social sciences students. Habib University is only offering undergraduate degree (not graduate) and has the capacity to manage 1200 students. The intakes each year would be of 200 students, a semester fee of minimum 400,000.
No deserving student is turned away simply because they can't afford the education.
Habib University was created with the funding from Habib Family amounting to $40 million and therefore has a strong endowment fund. In the first intake about 120 students were given admission, 90% of which have financial assistance in terms of scholarship and student loans. The loans are interest-free and provided on the Canadian model where the student will begin repayment 6 months after completing ALL of its education.
Sibtain and Dr. Shoaib then took everyone on university tour, giving details about each area of the university. Following are some of the key points that can be seen in the pictures shared at the end:
- University is lowest near the airport due to regulations and highest at the other end.
- Building is sound-proof, which means passing airliners do not disturb students inside the classrooms.
- Multi-level construction and smart engineering allows for greater utilization of space and Habib University has received international award in 2013 for its innovative design.
- Library has capacity for 100,000 books while the digital library already has titles many times more.
- Mac computers are provided for design students and design studios for practical applications, discussion groups and workshops.
- Reading area is designed with equal distribution of light, peaceful sitting arrangement, comfortable chairs and excellent view to induce reading culture.
- Auditorium is designed to carry sound from the stage to the last row, without affecting sound quality.
- Basic labs encourage students to experiment with real-world domestic problems. They can develop their own wind mill models or prepare bio-diesel, anything that should work to solve problems for communities and people, for both domestic as well as globally.
Tags: Dr. Shoaib Zaidi, Education in Pakistan, Habib University, Institution tour, Karachi, Liberal arts core, Yohsin