Dr. Abdul Baseer Qazi is an assistant Professor at the Software Engineering Department Bahria University Islamabad Campus. Dr. Qazi has a diverse academic background, with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a Master's degree from the Hamburg University of Technology in Information and Communication Systems and an MBA in Technology Management from the Northern Institute of Technology, Hamburg. He also holds a 1-year diploma in Computer Sciences from the NWFP Board of Technical Education. Furthermore, he obtained a PhD in Technology and Innovation Policy jointly from the United Nations University – MERIT and Maastricht University, the Netherlands.
Dr. Qazi had the unique opportunity of working for four Fortune 500 companies, IBM, Siemens, NXP Semiconductors and Philips in Germany and the Netherlands. In his last assignment as Program Manager at Philips Medical Systems he was responsible for the Medical-IT division for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). Moreover, he is a passionate serial entrepreneur having successfully ventured several startup firms in the past. PrintWorks was a desktop publishing and printing services firm which he founded and ran during 1994-98. Cosmo Computer Works, a hardware sales and services company which he co-founded in 1997 is still operational. KTC-International, co-founded in 2005, was an Import/Export venture which imported customized MP4 players/digital cameras from China for the German market and exported used IT equipment to Pakistan. KTC also explored trading opportunities of Sri Lankan tea together with Meezan Group of Industries. BrickWorks was a construction firm active in the housing sector of Islamabad and Peshawar. LandWorks was a real estate company established in order to benefit from the rising tide in the property market of Islamabad. His current ventures are the tech startup, BestinPK and the University-Industry Exchange portal, UnidustryX.
Recently team Yolo had the opportunity of having a candid conversation with Dr. Baseer Qazi and this is what he has to say.
What is the idea behind UnindustryX initiative and how will it benefit the youth?
I had the opportunity of doing an MS in Information and Communications Systems from Hamburg University of Technology in Germany. Similarly I studied Management at the Northern Institute of Technology, a German elite private institute. Later I went on to acquire a PhD degree in Innovation and Technology from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Through all these years of education abroad, I not only saw, but personally benefited from the strong Academia-Industry linkages present in these two countries. To say the least, these linkages and exchanges between their universities and industries form the lynchpin of their success in innovation and technology. When I came back to Pakistan, this was the one thing that I missed here and always wanted to contribute towards. Having met Mr. Jamshed Inam CEO YOLO e-mag was a blessing in this regard. His HR background and MNC exposure gave the two of us the right skillset and network to start a venture which would address and bridge this gap.
Do you agree to the notion that our current education system needs improvement? What steps should be taken to improve the quality of education in Pakistan?
Whoever denies this must be disconnected from reality! Of course it does need improvement on a war-footing. We are losing ground, that too at an alarming rate. Once we were the flag bearers of Science and Technology worldwide, we now have difficulty in merely employing science to solve our own problems. This state of affairs is unacceptable and UnidustryX is one step in the right direction for changing this. It should however be clear that many such steps will be required if we are serious in changing the fate of this nation.
Regarding the steps, I think the first should be to clearly define the greater purpose of education. This means education should not be seen as a way to (just) earn a livelihood. No, rather the overarching goal should be to be able to fulfill the reason why Allah (swt) created the humans i.e. “Wa ma khalaqtul Jinna wal insa illa liya’budun” (I have not created Man and Jinn, but that they worship. Surah Ad-Dhaariyat: Verse 56). Once this is the intention, studying to become a doctor will also become an act of worship, as it’s not done as a career alone, but to worship Allah by serving mankind. Becoming a researcher will also become an act of worship by discovering new cures and building better technologies. This connection with the correct purpose will guide and motivate the students and thereby give rise to positive competition, where students want to excel in learning and understanding. Unlike negative competition, where students compete in numbers and grades which more than often leads to depression, jealousy and in worst cases even suicide!
The next step should be to revamp teaching methodologies and connecting it to reality. The teaching methodology needs to be well acquainted with the reality of the subject, context, students and so forth so on. Any teaching devoid of reality will remain abstract and the mind has a very small capacity to process abstract information, especially at a younger age. It is at this stage that UnidustryX will play its role, by bringing the ‘reality’ of industry, i.e. the real problems to Universities for their students to work on them, instead of abstract problems.
You have the privilege of acquiring a PhD degree from abroad how was that experience?
It was a wonderful experience, full of learning, exploring and hard work.
It is obviously true that our education system for the most part is descriptive whereas internationally the education system is analytical. How easy was it for you as an international student to adjust in an entirely different system?
You are euphemistically terming it ‘descriptive’ whereas perhaps a more explicit way to describe it would be that it’s based on rote-learning. That’s an unfortunate reality. As a parent I try to challenge this with my children and as a teacher I try to rectify this with my university students. We need to focus more on developing critical thinking. Unless our students learn to ask the right questions, they are doomed to lag behind in the international arena. One quick way to address this is by inculcating the habit of reading in our pupils.
Please name any of your teachers who greatly influenced you in life?
It is difficult to name the numerous teachers who have contributed towards what I am today, so I will just mention the two whom I think I owe the most. At school level Mr. Nasir Azam Sahibzada, my Physics teacher had a great influence on my life, both as a teacher and later as a mentor. The other is my PhD supervisor Prof. Dr. Adam (Eddy) Szirmai. His temperament serves as a guideline for me as to how I should deal with my supervisees.
Do you agree to the idea that students in Pakistan do not fully use their potential when compared to students in Europe and the United States?
I don’t agree with this statement. I think it needs further contemplation. You can’t compare apples with oranges, right? There is no comparison between the opportunities and resources the Western world has to offer to its students compared to Pakistan. Moreover, our students are so engulfed in worries about survival, be it how to pay the next gas bill, or the anticipated wave of inflation or electricity load-shedding, all issues that are detrimental to their focus in schools, colleges and universities. I am sure that if given level playing field, our students can outperform any other students and I myself am proof of this!
What is your message to our global readers?
I would like the global readership to appreciate and understand the problems which the ordinary people here are faced with on a daily basis, before passing any judgments. The best way to do that is to visit Pakistan. Khush Amdeed!
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