Outdated curriculum failing media students at KU
Having produced some of the best journalists and media professionals in Pakistan, the Dr Feroz Ahmed Institute of Mass Communication at the University of Karachi (KU) has maintained a decent academic reputation for many decades.
However, with the changing media landscape across the globe, especially the rapid merging of previously distinct media technologies and platforms through digitisation and computer networking, the institute has lately been lagging in imparting the required skills to its graduates.
According to sources at KU, the institute is still following an outdated curriculum which hasn’t been updated in the last 13 years. In fact, the university has failed to incorporate some of the latest digital journalism concepts in the syllabi even after the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) introduced new, modern countrywide curricula for journalism and media studies twice during the aforementioned period.
Following the latest worldwide developments in the field, HEC first introduced changes to the curricula in 2013 and once again in 2017, after consultation with some of Pakistan’s most renowned and senior journalism professors and journalists from PTV and other media houses. Surprisingly enough, some faculty members of KU’s Institute of Mass Communication were also included in the curriculum committee. Nonetheless, KU teachers stuck to the old curricula and deprived the varsity’s students from keeping up with the rest of the country and the world at large
In 2013, Prof Mehmood Ghaznavi participated in HEC’s curriculum committee and actively took part in the meetings, while in 2017, the incumbent chairperson of the institute Prof Seemi Naghmana chaired the meetings that took place in HEC’s Peshawar office.
Sources at KU revealed that in 2017, the institute got the new curriculum approved from the university’s academic council, however, it was never implemented.
Meanwhile, other Pakistani public and private universities which impart journalism and media studies successfully updated their curricula and included new subjects related to digital media. Moreover, new pedagogical methods were also introduced in other universities in line with the new curriculum.
As a result, graduates produced by other universities have been more skilled and fully equipped with latest media and journalism trends when they enter the professional market, whereas those graduating from the Feroz Ahmed Institute of Mass Communication, despite being highly talented, fall behind others in many ways.
Apart from its outdated syllabi, the institute is also inadequately equipped with modern technology. Talking to The Express Tribune, students studying at the department revealed that the so-called ‘computer lab’ for online journalism practical only has six computers, whereas there are only three professional cameras for broadcast journalism students. When questioned, Prof Seemi Naghmana also acknowledged that.
HEC broadened the spectrum
It is also pertinent to mention that in 2017, HEC included film and theatre as compulsory subjects in the updated broadcast journalism syllabus, which KU later started teaching to its students. Other courses recommended by the HEC included Film, Theater and Society, Introduction to Film Studies, One Belt One Road, Islamophobia in the West, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Palestine-Israel Conflict, and sensitive issues like army operations and blasphemy incidents, among others.
For specialisation, introduction to conflict, environmental journalism, sports journalism, business journalism, parliamentary reporting, court reporting, media and culture were introduced in the upgraded curriculum of 2013 and 2017. According to HEC’s recommendation, students could choose any two courses for their specialisation. However, none of the courses were taught to Karachi University students.
The HEC also recommended the inclusion of practical aspects of journalism, including image and picture editing, basics of Adobe Photoshop, video and audio editing and software for documentary film editing – subjects which KU once again failed to incorporate.
Speaking on the matter, Prof Seemi Naghmana, who has retired from the institute a few days ago, said that the draft work to update the syllabus is still in progress, adding that she is optimistic that it will be implemented in the academic year 2020.
“[To make up for the previous gaps in the syllabus], we have included subjects which would help students once they enter the professional field of journalism,” she said.
Shedding light on the lack of technical equipment, she said that there is a need for at least 20 computers in the news lab, which should be updated with the latest version of different software.
The professor also highlighted some positive developments taking place at the institute and stressed that KU’s FM radio station is doing well and a new TV lab has also been recently constructed, which is waiting for its inauguration.
“The institute also received funding from the former president of Pakistan ,Mamnoon Husain, through which we have purchased three new cameras along with subscriptions to some of the latest video-editing tools. Hopefully, the next batches graduating will be well-equipped as compared to the past,” she concluded.