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Computer education in Pakistan.

Computer is one of the advanced and fast-growing technology of the world. Computerisation process which started in 1960 with the installation of IBM-370 computer is now proceeding with a reasonable speed. This process geared up in 1983-84 when the Government of Pakistan lifted the ban on the import of computer and waived all the import duties. By virtue of this liberal import policy, Pakistan could enter into the revolution of Personal Computers (PC) which had started in other parts of the world in 1978-79.

Today, there are over 600 installations of Mainframe & Mini-Computer all over Pakistan. Out of 600, about 100 are mainframes and other 500 computers are minicomputers. Most of the mainframes have been installed in banks, insurance companies, financial institutions and the service organisations involved in higher amount of preparing the utility bill for distribution every month. Almost all the leading computer manufacturers such as IBM, ICL, NCR, Data General, DEC, NEC, Narsk Data, Unisys are well represented in Pakistan. During the last five years there is an average increase of 35 per cent in the installation of Mainframe & Mini Computers.

Because of enhanced activities in computerisation, computer business is growing in Pakistan these days. Our market is flooded with all types of branded and unbranded computer hardware, with original and pirated software. Today we are living in an era of microcomputers. According to a very careful estimates today over 50,000 PCs are being used in Pakistan, and about 2000 PCs are being sold in the market per month. It includes stand alone computers, networking and multiuser systems also. Being a Third World country, we have always been an adopter of the technology rather than the creator. Same thing happened in the case of computers. First of all we imported the computer hardware, started using it and then gradually tried to import computer education.

History of computer started in Pakistan way back in 1960 when an IBM Mainframe Computer was installed in Pakistan International Airlines for passengers flight reservations. But the computer education could not be started earlier than 1967 when a Fortran Programming course was started by the University of Engineering & Technology (UET), Lahore in 1967-69. It was a significant beginning because there were only 17 mainframes throughout Pakistan. Since then computer education in Pakistan has passed through different phases and on the whole there is a good progress. History of Pakistan computer education can be divided into following phases:

First Phase 1967 to 1975: During the first phase of computer education computer use and computer service were limited only for preparing gas, electricity and telephone consumer bills and, preparation of payrolls and inventory etc. In fact the computer facilities were limited to data processing only. The computers were supplied by 3 giant manufacturers IBM, ICL & NCR. These companies used to supply the hardware along with the responsibility of education and training of users. This was the infancy period of computer education and training. Formal education of computer was not available in our educational institutions.

Second Phase 1975 to 1983 - Computer education on High Level: During this period some of our universities started formal computer education at high level and started offering Post-graduate Diploma (PGD) and M.Sc. courses in Computer Science. On lower level provincial technical boards also started offering certificate courses in computer programming like Fortran and Cobol and data entry operations.

Third Phase 1983 to 1990 - Education mostly based on Microcomputer: The quantum jump of computerisation realised worldwide in early eighties, when Microcomputers flooded the markets. One can easily imagine that the number of computers installed worldwide were 9000 in 1960, which reached a number 450,000 till 1978. When the computer revolution started in early 80s the numbered of computers reached a figure of 2.5 million in 1981. About half of them were installed only in year 1980-81. This computer revolution hit our country too in 1983 when government allowed the import of PC's in personal baggage and liberalising the overall computer import policy. During this period the computer education was brought to ordinary person from special people, and computer education started at the level of ordinary people.

For the sake of our convenience, we can divide computer education in Pakistan in 4 levels, namely: (i) At elementary/school level, (ii) At Provincial Technical Boards level. (iii) At University level and (iv) Vocational training and Continuing educational level.

At Elementary/School Level: Unfortunately, so far there is no prescribed syllabus of computer education in our schools. Only few private schools are offering computer education as an extra subject and charging high fee. Each School is following its own syllabus. A private professional body. Pakistan Association for Computer Education in School (PACES) is providing some help to its member schools in connection with course outlines for computer education, preparation of reading material, and training of teachers. Now our government is planning to set up 120 computer centres throughout the country with the help of United Nations Development Programme & UNESCO. This project would cost about 60 million Pakistani Rupees.

At Provincial Technical Board level: This second level of computer education is relatively more organised. At this level provincial technical boards are responsible for organising and regulating computer education. Provincial boards have their own prescribed curriculum which is being followed by their affiliated institutions. Private and semi-government institutions registered with provincial technical boards are offering Certificate, Advance Certificate and Diploma Courses. The duration of these courses varies from 3 months to 2 years. Following courses are being offered by Provincial technical boards:

* Short courses in programming languages and application packages ranging from 3 months to 6 months duration.

* Nine months Diploma in Computer Applications offered by Punjab Board of Technical Education.

* Two years Diploma in Computer Science based on 4 Modules each of 6 months is offered by Sindh Board of Technical Education.

Again there seems no coordination and collaboration amongst our technical boards of education. Diploma offered by Sindh Board is of 2 years and that of Punjab is of only 9 months. Naturally, their teaching subjects and curriculum will be different. There are over 60 institutions registered with Sindh Board of Technical Education in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Nawabshah. According to a careful estimate over 100 non-registered computer training institutes are in operation in these cities.

At University Level: Teaching of Computer Science as a subject started very late at university level in Pakistan. First Post-graduate Diploma in Computer Science was started in 1973-74 at Islamabad University (now Quaid-i-Azam University). First degree programme in Computer Science was initiated in 1976-77 at 2 universities. M.Sc. at Quaid-i-Azam University and B.Sc. programme at University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore, Later on UET converted it into M.Sc. programme. According to our information, so far 10 Pakistan Universities and their affiliated institutions are offering Post-graduate Diploma (PGD) courses, B.Sc., BE and M.Sc. courses in Computers. Again the curricula vary from one institution to other institution, and they seems no coordination and cooperation amongst them.

Karachi University, IBA affiliated with Karachi University; NED Engineering University; BCCI (Fast) affiliated with Karachi University; Peshawar University; University of Engg. & Tech. Lahore; Mehran University of Engg. & Tech. Jamshoro; Bahauddin Zakaria University, Multan; Gomal University, Dera Ghazi Khan and Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad are offering such courses. According to careful estimates about 400 to 500 students per year would be receiving diploma and degrees from there.

At Vocational Training & Continuing Education Level: A number of institutions throughout Pakistan are offering vocational training or continuing computer education for professionals. Some of the names are, National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA); Pakistan Computer Bureau, Islamabad; Computer Training Centre (CTC), Islamabad; Petroman, Karachi; Pakistan Institute of Management (PIM), Karachi. Courses offered by these institutions are usually designed to train the professionals or end users on different computer programming languages and application packages. These institutions also offer high level courses for updating the knowledge of computer professionals. Some of the issues which are badly affecting our computer education are as follows:- a) Lack of any standard school-level

curriculum for computer education

which could cater to the needs of

Pakistani school students. b) Relatively low quality of computer

education offered by many colleges

and universities. c) The use of outdated second-generation

computers in some of the academic

institutions. d) Non-availability of qualified and

competent teachers in adequate numbers. e) Extreme shortage of professional

manpower at levels of Systems

Analysts, Programmers and

Researchers who could be motivated

to provide teaching inputs as visiting

faculty members. f) Absence of a positive thrust by the

government. g) Absence of teachers training for

computers at all levels.


Quality of education cannot be improved in one day or just by the efforts of a single government or private body. It needs long terms and exhaustive efforts by our government, professional bodies, academic institutions and all relevant persons. Our suggestions to improve the quality of computer education are as follows:

Computer Education Policies:

Government must establish a long term computer education policies at all levels. It should include the following: a) Supply of better hardware to academic

institutions. b) Better terms & conditions for computer

faculty, instead of promoting them on

length of service. c) Opportunities provided for updating of

knowledge for computer faculty. d) Coordination of universities with local

industry. e) Strict rules of students admission in

computers. f) Better library facilities at campuses and

to ensure the regular supply of new

books to the library. g) Strengthening of computer professional

bodies like Computer Society of

Pakistan. h) Inclusion of competent computer

professional in government advisory

boards and committees related to

computer. i) Subsidy may be provided on the

purchase of computers for academic

institutions. j) Frequent organisation of seminars and

conferences on computer & computer

education. k) Develop better telecommunication


Standardisation of Syllabus: We must have standard syllabus at the following levels: School Education, Education at Technical Board level, University Education.

Standardisation of Quality of Training: There is an urgent need to standardise the quality of computer training and expertise. To do this, it is proposed that the professional bodies like Computer Society of Pakistan should initiate a programme of professional examinations to evaluate the professionals. Examinations may be organised by an examination committee which may be selected from experienced computer educationists and professionals.

On-going Training: Professional education in any field is an on-going process. In the field of computer science the continuity of education is a must, as this is one of the most rapidly changing fields in terms of technology as well as new techniques. It can be validly argued that a person having passed qualifying examinations say 10 years ago may not be a in a position to claim to be a computer professional in the current day environment unless he/she has kept in touch. As such a mechanism is needed to ensure that computer professionals can keep themselves up to date so as to maintain the high level of skills.
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Author:Saleem, Farrukh
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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