Outcome-based Higher Education in Pakistan

With the positive impact of Outcome-based Education in various countries, Pakistan also holds the opportunity to enhance its educational standards through its implementation and generate cognitively sound and professionally polished social capital.

Waleed graduated from a reputable institution with a four-year degree in software engineering. He is about to land his first job at a software company where he has to communicate with international clients. Poor Waleed suffers at his workplace as most of the theories learned at his institute are impossible to implement. He faces difficulty managing his overloaded tasks and clients, as he has no idea how to manage his nine hours productively. Waleed resists as he tries to cope with the new presided condition, but soon realizes he has two ways to choose from: either quit his job or go with the flow.
But why is that so? The traditional educational methods are great to prove to us every bit of Newton's Laws, Einstein’s Equations, and Pythagoras Theorem, but with zero knowledge of how to implement them in our personal and professional lives. 
Due to the lack of such crucial prospects, Outcome-based Education (OBE) system was created in 1989 and was first implemented across the schools in 1998. 
What is OBE?
OBE is a strategic form of a learning process that is highly student-centeric. This learning process is well-tailored, based on the outcomes or the goals a student should achieve after a particular learning period. OBE includes the promotion of learning different skills required for an individual to perform in that specific niche or workplace. In additional, it also helps an individual to practically implement the theories learned during the educational journey. 
This modern education system is designed based on the goals and outcomes a student should meet to work professionally in their particular niche, but who decides the outcomes and goals? It is none but the current educational experts, successful entrepreneurs, stakeholders, or even sometimes the country's economists. Therefore, they design the central curriculum which addresses the issues or glitches that have been most likely found.
Benefits and Importance of OBE
With a drastic change in modern educational practices worldwide, it is also necessary to keep enhancing the country's academic standards. 
Benefits to Teachers
▪   Provides a better understanding platform to plan and execute effective and practical lectures more creatively and efficiently. 
▪   Helps educational experts to highlight any risks or gaps in the system through the continuous enhancement of the teaching process at an early stage. 
▪   Acts as a stimulation for the real-time workplace, hence providing a broader area to educate the students. 
Benefits to Students
▪   A strategic form of learning, hence promoting an integrated, strategic, and creative way of cognitive learning. This may also benefit individuals throughout their life. 
▪   Mistakes can easily be catered to and worked upon without the fear of embarrassment or failure.
▪   Involves every individual's participation in class, causing a greater exchange of unique ideas. This may also promote teamwork and collaboration skills. 
▪   Helps gain confidence as communication barriers are broken during the learning process. 
▪  Involves the usage of the latest technology and multimedia learning. This may cause the students to learn the essential technicalities parallelly during the process. 
Benefits to the Country's Economy 
▪  Helps meet international learning standards, causing more affiliated and recognized educational institutes around the country. 
▪  Creates more career opportunities for students to collaborate with foreign companies.
▪  Generation of highly skilled social capital would attract greater Foreign Direct Investment. 
▪  Higher employment and literacy rates will further ensure a cut down on poverty. 
▪  Many big organizations will have to spend less on the training process of the freshers. 
The OBE system plays a vital role in students' cognitive development worldwide. Many western countries have entirely implemented the process in their local schools and educational curriculum, including South Africa. 
Models and Implementation Challenges of OBE
The Washington Accord was first implemented in Pakistan in 2018 by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC). The initiative took place due to its vast advantages for the society. 
In an OBE framework, the current educational experts, stakeholders, entrepreneurs, and parents set the mission and vision. The vision is then taken and divided into small fragments making up the first outcome, Program Education Outcome (PEO), Program Learning Outcomes (PLO), and Course Learning Outcome (CLO). The students must achieve these outcomes set by the experts in a specific timeframe. 
In the OBE framework, teaching and learning are considered one and a unified activity, Teaching-Learning Activity. The students must learn a particular set of skills or information to proceed further in the program. These assessments are carried out to ensure that a student has successfully achieved the desired outcome. The HEC then uses this information to evaluate the students' progress further. In addition, any flaws in the system can be highlighted with the help of the student's assessments. Higher educational authorities like Board-of-Studies (BOS), Board-of-Faculty (BOF), Academic Council (AC), and Quality Enhancement Cell (QEC) can make use of this information to highlight and shed light upon any flaws in the learning system. This is a true example of check-and-balance. In the modern learning system, the higher educational institutions and QEC must keep improving and enhancing the educational system for further improvements. 
OBE is a mutiple-input-multiple-output system where the involvement of the higher authorities is as vital as the involvement of students and teachers. Continuous teacher feedback and student assessment at every stage can help enhance and improve the educational system's standards.  
Unfortunately, being a third world country, OBE is a serious challenge for many reasons.
▪    Biased Assessments
Many teachers and professors in higher education institutes intentionally or unintentionally form barriers of bias and unbias amongst the students. The reasons might range from personal to anything particular about the student, even if it is unrelated to the academic capabilities of the individual. This kind of favor leads to the unbiased checking of the papers and unjust assessments of the students, driving to an unjust result or outcome. This will further lead to the selection of incapable professionals, thus reducing the quality of work. 
▪    Weak Feedback Loops
The OBE framework's main characteristic lies in the closed feedback loop. All the different bodies, higher educational institutions, QEC, teachers, and students have an interlinked source of communication. This communication can be of different types depending upon the bodies among which the information is exchanged. For instance, as previously mentioned, feedback can be taken as assessments of the students, questionnaires filled by the stakeholders, experts, or even parents. Moreover, the feedback may include presentations during discussions among the higher authorities and teachers. Maintaining a healthy feedback loop is one of the most crucial aspects of the OBE. It is the aspect that differentiates the old traditional educational system from the OBE framework. 
Necessary Requisites for OBE 
Every disease has a cure, and every problem has a solution. The issues can be resolved to form an exemplary OBE system in the following ways: 
▪    Training the Trainers 
Training the teachers and educators timely can be a solution. It is indispensable to keep educating and training the teachers with the latest outcomes and changes in the educational systems. Providing them with effective teaching solutions can help them enhance their teaching skills. Workshops and short courses can be designed for the teachers to learn and interact better with each other. This will further motivate the interaction and exchange of different ideas and creative teaching techniques, forming a productive hive with the sweetest honey to extract. Moreover, through workshops, teachers can be motivated and trained to perform their duties better. Also, similar workshops can be held for the parents to prepare them to raise their children in a certain way, enhancing their capabilities. 
▪    Check-and-Balance
The HEC, PEC, QEC, and other higher bodies must maintain a healthy communication with all the other bodies. This way, many unwanted hindrances and barriers can be removed, producing a healthy communication loop. 
▪    Use of the Latest Technology 
Technology has become a crucial part of our lives. Staying abreast with the latest technology has become intensely necessary. So, introducing students to the latest technological devices can enhance their thinking capabilities. Many technical and critical skills can be learned through the use of technology. This will help increase the students’ morale and confidence to solve any technical issue. In addition, they might show more interest in studies with enthusiasm. This may also promote their critical thinking skills, causing them to approach more creatively. 
Success Stories of OBE
The Washington Accord is now fully implemented in many western countries, including the USA and Canada. Being a developing country, South Africa has also introduced the OBE System in their schools. The European Union has also recently initiated this student-centered system. In addition, many Asian countries, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Russia, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, and India, are also part of the list of countries who have implemented OBE system. 
Opportunities for Pakistan
The CECOS University of IT and Emerging Sciences in Peshawer, Mehran University in Karachi, Riphah International University in Islamabad, and NED University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi have also implemented the new educational framework. Most universities are willing to switch to the OBE system to gain an affiliation with the international universities. It is indeed a beneficial move for Pakistani students as they may hold accredited degrees, helping them apply for countries abroad. Moreover, students applying abroad to universities will not have to go through the lengthy processes of equivalence procedures or any further examinations.
More employment opportunities will be created across the borders, opening new gates to new opportunities and options for Pakistan's nationals. 
Most importantly, the country will now have capable professionals with a good intellect and understanding of their profession, hence planning a fruitful future for the country. 
With intelligent and critical cognitive capability, professionals can create and innovate to drive Pakistan's future to prosperity, profitability, security, and unity.

The author has a Bachelors in Science and works as a full-time production writer for eBooks.
E-mail: [email protected]

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