Students preferring commerce to science

KARACHI, Dec 28 : According to statistics acquired from the Board of Intermediate Education Karachi (BIEK), the number of students going in for commerce subjects has grown to almost three times more than those taking pre-medical and almost double to those taking pre-engineering disciplines.
“The past 10 years has seen a shift in students’ preferences as far as the choice of subjects is concerned. Earlier, where there were more students getting into pre-medical and pre-engineering, they are now more inclined towards commerce subjects,” BIEK chairman Anwar Ahmed Zai told Dawn.
“Currently, we have 92,000 students in the commerce group and 36,000, including 4,000 doing medical technology, in pre-medical while 51,000 are studying pre-engineering,” he said.
“Actually, the biggest shift in the trend from science to commerce subjects was witnessed over the past four years. The reason for this may be that after taking pre-medical, the students only have one direction to go, besides doing BSc, as they cannot apply for engineering colleges or universities after studying pre-medical subjects.
“For pre-engineering it is still better as they have mathematics there due to which they can still make a switch and go for BCom or BBA if they cannot get admission to an engineering institution,” he added. “As for taking commerce, there is more influx there as it opens the way for more lines such as banking, accountancy, business, management, etc,” he explained.

Reflecting on the issue, the industrialist, educationist and former dean and director of the Institute of Business Administration, Mr Danishmand, also agreed that the trend was more towards business subjects.

“Earlier, it was seen that more male students were going in for pre-medical and pre-engineering disciplines, but after gaining a majority in medical institutions, girls have also turned towards engineering. You only saw one or two females doing engineering earlier, but today their numbers have increased in that field.

“The thing about girls is that they do better in entrance tests to bag most seats in medical and engineering institutions. So they do far better than boys merit-wise,” he pointed out.

“There are also merit requirements to get admissions to medical and engineering institutions. The IBA wants 60 per cent and above marks to consider a candidate for an admission, but there are many other business schools out there with far less percentage requirements and standards which are far lower than the best schools. In Pakistan, there are approximately 100 business schools and with the cream going into the best of them the others can settle for far less, even 45 per cent, so the commerce students know that they will be absorbed somewhere,” he added.

“It is not so easy for medical and engineering institutions to drop their standards in favour of taking in students because there is always the medical and the engineering councils to check on such things. Therefore, commerce students have more chances,” he said.

“But then your fate can take you anywhere like a former head of a bank here who had done Tripos in nuclear physics,” he laughed.

“In time people discover new things and aptitudes about themselves as others, too, discover them,” Mr Danishmand said.

Adding to the discussion, the professor and chairman of the department of architecture and planning, NED University, Karachi, Dr Noman Ahmed, said he didn’t think that the number of students opting for pre-engineering had gone down.

“Engineering options have grown over the past 10 years with the NED going from six programmes to as many as 25 programmes. So the openings for undergraduates have multiplied,” he added.

“Yes, in pre-medical there is this realisation among students that they will have to study further after a five-year MBBS course as specialisation is needed for gaining an employment. And sustaining such a long period of education is not possible for all students,” he said.

“Whereas there are more chances of employment for engineering students after completing their initial four years as by that time they have a strong foundations in physics, chemistry and mathematics, which can get them teaching jobs in schools that allows them to carry on with their studies as well on the side,” he said.

“Of course, there is some change in specific fields such as metallurgy, industrial manufacturing, automobile engineering, etc, after the Steel Mills stopped taking on such expertise and the government policy on importing foreign-manufactured cars was also relaxed. Still, there is a demand for civil engineering, architecture and mechanical engineering overseas, especially in the Gulf states,” he said.

Prof Dr M. Umar Farooq, pro-vice chancellor of the Dow University of Health Sciences, also agreed with the NED professor when he said that more students preferred taking up commerce subjects as they had become more “future-oriented”. “You get established quite late in life in the medical field after graduation as compared to the other fields,” he concluded.Dawn.