HEC to reform undergraduate curriculum

HEC has undertaken extensive consultations with over 1,000 individuals at 143 universities in the last 18 months on measures needed to enhance student success. The groundwork was completed, with 143 universities and more than 1000 key stakeholders. The consultations contributed to the restructuring of the undergraduate curriculum and the implementation of “competence-based education” in all universities.
In 2019, several key meetings were held including two national dialogues, five regional consultations and ten thematic workshops. This included 143 universities across the country, including AJK and GB, and over a thousand individuals, including vice-chancellors / rectors, faculty members from universities , schools, university presidents, secretaries and other senior officials.
Universities have to work in such a way as to maximize the probability of such success, especially through the undergraduate degree programme, which is the flagship of any higher education system. In practice, however, this has not been the case. A major reason is that very little attention has been given in the past to this question, and therefore to the substance and quality of university education.
He said the new system is explicitly based on “competencies,” i.e., the determinants of future student success, and is designed to ensure that educational programs are oriented toward the students future needs. This shift will have positive long-term effects on educational achievement and future success. The new system, he added, will be rolled out over the next year.
There are numerous and well-known criticisms of Pakistan ‘s undergraduate education , especially from employers and admissions committees. The old curriculum does not offer such essential 21st-century skills to Pakistani students as critical and creative thinking , problem-solving, effective communication, quantitative analysis, team building, or research methods.

New Curriculum

The new curriculum is specifically designed to enable both interpersonal and behavioral attributes to be transmitted. More importantly , the new curriculum is focused on applying the knowledge and skills acquired to the challenges of life, rather than simply acquiring theoretical knowledge. It highlights amongst students exploration, curiosity, discovery, and creativity.
The academic component of the curriculum seeks to balance generalization and specialization. In earlier semesters, every student must complete General Education (GE) courses in the major domains of human knowledge, i.e., Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Quantitative Reasoning, and Expository Writing, in addition to Pakistan Studies and Islamic/Religious Studies. In subsequent semesters, the students will move towards required departmental courses in their areas of specialisation (also called “Majors”).
This sequencing is intended to give the students flexibility in choosing their specialization area. Students would also have the choice to graduate with either one Major or a Double Major or one Major plus one or two Minors.

Practical experience mandatory for graduation

To respond to the concerns expressed by potential employers, the new curriculum has made practical experience a compulsory graduation requirement. In an actual working environment all students would have to complete a summer internship.

In addition, students will have to choose an additional real-world life skill, e.g., entrepreneurship and business development, civic engagement and network building, or participation in sports and competitions, and register for corresponding extracurricular activities in business incubation centres (BICs), student clubs, green clubs, sports, or university magazines. Although the practical work will be evaluated and included in the students’ record, it will not have letter grades or formal credit requirements.

In other words, the goal is to equip students not only with the latest knowledge in their chosen specialization fields but also with critical life skills , i.e., effective writing and communication, introduction to quantitative analysis.

This framework applies to all undergraduate degrees, including the four-year Bachelor ‘s degree (BS), the degrees in any of the professions (MBBS, B.E., LLB, and the like), and the two-year Associate Degree (AD). For the different types of degrees, some details may vary but the structure will be the same.

Possible for students to switch between degree programmes

As designed, the new undergraduate programmes will make it possible for students to switch between degree programmes. For example, an AD holders may apply for admission to a BS programme and receive a transfer of credits from their AD to the BS programme.

Similarly, a student admitted to the BS programme may exit just with an AD after fulfilling the credit requirements for the shorter degree. Further, a student admitted to a professional degree programme may apply for transfer to a general degree programme, or vice versa, provided they meet the admissions criteria of the admitting institution.

This will also determine how many of the earned course credits and completed practical experience hours can be transferred.

The quality of undergraduate education cannot be improved solely by revamping the curriculum. To improve quality, reforms are needed in at least the two closely associated areas, namely effective teaching and meaningful quality assurance.

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