IT education industry heading for major slump -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

IT education industry heading for major slump

KARACHI- The industry of Information Technology Education, which witnessed a boom during the past few years, is heading for a major slump, say experts and professionals.

Most of the operators of computer and IT institutes also realize this fact and are currently engaged in a race to cash-in profits as much as possible within the next few years.

The major reason for this slump is that most of the students who opted for IT certification had set their sight on employment opportunities in the US and Europe. This option has, however, been taken away from Pakistanis post-September 11 situation. The IT craze is hence on a decline.

Yet another reason is the gross commercialization of IT institutes, which lowered the faculty standards, and thus the reputation of computer institutes is falling.

A survey conducted showed that most of the institutes, set up on a smaller scale in almost every locality of the metropolis, keep on coming up with competition giving ‘special offers’ and packages to attract as many students as possible.

On the other hand the larger and international institutes are also feeling the pressure and two of the most popular chains are struggling to survive. Some of their centers are in the process of closing down while almost all have slashed their fee and offering special packages.

Reduced fees, lucky draws, gifts and even educational loans are being offered as incentives to the students by numerous big and small IT institutes in the race to survive. This situation has benefited students who are still interested as they can avail the opportunity to acquire computer education. Standard of education at these institutes is highly debatable. Experts and educationists opine that such institutes are only lining their pockets, without any serious contribution to the society.

Certain sections link the decline in the standard of computer education to lenient policies of the government, which recognized and up graded their status to intermediate colleges.

President Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association, Karachi region, Prof Mirza Athar Hussain feels that such colleges, offering intermediate in computer science, are having a negative impact on education as most of them are ill-equipped and ill-staffed. Colleges have been opened in flats and all they could boast was the possession of a few computers and a couple of teachers. In many cases the teachers also lack proper qualifications and training, he said. Prof Mirza further added that the government should keep a firm check on such institutes and proper verifications of faculty and infrastructure should be made before granting recognition to them.

A management executive with a long association with the IT industry, Zahoor Motiwala said slump in the field of lT education exists for a number of reasons. He held that the foremost reason was over-commercialization, which caused severe drop in the standard of education. Only major institutions would survive with the passage of time while the smaller and neighborhood-level institutions would fade out.

Overseas employment opportunities for the students opting for lT education have practically died out, especially in the USA, Canada and other Western countries after the present changed world situation. The ‘Dot Corn’ crash in the US in the recent times has also let the steam out of the IT balloon and the future of IT professionals in the West has not remained bright.

The students are also realizing that diplomas and certificates would not serve them in the long term in the local scene and only higher-level degree programmes would help make career.

Ahmad Ali Khan, who runs a computer institute in Federal B Area, accepted that most of the institutes are struggling to survive. The interests of the students are waning and the industry would face a severe slump within the next couple of years. He said his institution was one of the better ones in the area but he was also forced to offer schemes like lucky draws and fee reductions in order to survive. Many of the smaller institutions have folded up and many others would do so in the coming times.

Ehtisham Khan, a diploma student at one of the top institutes, said he had gone for IT education, as it was one of the few options available after completion of his intermediate. Most of his friends and peers were in the same field and overseas employment was also one of their motivations. This aspect seems bleak at present and there is also a crunch of good paying jobs in Pakistan, he said regretfully. He stressed that he would definitely work for a BCS degree from a chartered university after the completion of his diploma.

Dr Javed Ashraf, a specialist surgeon by profession, felt that IT education was just a craze, which would simmer out in due course. People rush for it madly whenever something new comes up, however, it is replaced by a newer trend after some time and the preferences change.

He also opined that students should not try to build up their careers on the basis of IT courses. A degree like Bachelors or Masters in Computer Science would be acceptable but diplomas and certificates in software can only serve the purpose of extra or additional qualifications.

With the software technology changing every other day and new versions coming up fast, one cannot rely on diplomas for a permanent career.

The packages or languages mastered in a diploma completed two or three years earlier are no longer in use and thus the diploma becomes useless for all practical means, he stressed.

An IT professional in the banking industry, Kashif Khan held similar views. He said diploma and certificate holders could hope for only the minimum paying computer operator and data entry jobs in the current era of competition. The levels of wages are going down and a degree holder, who could earn Rs 25,000 per month earlier, was finding it difficult to get Rs 10,000 due to the glut of qualified professionals.
Source: The News