Chemical Education in Asia-Pacific


Zafar H. Zaidi
HEJ Reserch Institute of Chemistry,University of Karach, Karachi, Pakistan

M. A. Rahman
University Grants Commission, Islamabad, Pakistan

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Chemistry is introduced as an independent discipline beginning in class IX. Prior to this some of its basic elements are incorporated in the component of science taught at the lower stages.

The Curriculum in vogue at Class IX to X has been framed in continuity of the scope and content of the science Curriculum for Class-I through VIII and consists of 3 broad areas:

Structural theory of Chemistry: An introductory exposition of structural base is provided and deals with concepts like measurement, atomic structure, chemical bond, the three states of matter, energetics and electrical effects of chemical reactions. The treatment given is essentially non-mathematical.

Elements and their Compounds: Involves a study of the periodic table followed by a discussion of the behaviour and properties of one or two typical members of major groups.with the objective to present a broad picture of the reactivity of some commonly occurring elements and their compounds.

Introduction to other branches of Chemistry: It is intended to present and develop the built-up or Organic molecules (catenation and ring formation) and show the role of functional group in determining their properties. In addition, a descriptive treatment of some important chemical industries based on country raw material is given.

The weightage in terms of teaching time, allowed to the three areas is approximately 50%, 40% and 1-0% respectively.

Chemistry has been allowed 4-periods of 40 minutes each in the scheme of studies. Computing on the basis of an average of 8 months working session in a year, nearly 250 teaching periods (166hrs) are available during the 2-year period for the teaching of Chemistry. Besides this sufficient time has been provided for practical exercises.

The contents of the Chemistry Curriculum at the Higher Secondary stage have been developed in continuation of the Curriculum at the lower Secondary stage. Modern concepts of atomic structure, chemical bonding, state of matter, dynamics, kinetics and energetics of chemical reactions, and the phenomena of the passage of electricity through electrolytes, introduced at the lower Secondary stage in the more or less descriptive manner, are further elaborated and explained in simple mathematical terms so as to produce a more solid base of the structural frame of Chemistry.

Elements and their compounds are introduced in a comparative manner rather than in isolation. It is the intention to give physical properties of elements in a Group and then attempt to correlate these with the gradation in their chemical properties. Explanations are sought for the variation in properties. The emphasis is on how the unifying principles of Chemistry help in understanding and interpreting what is known and how reasonable predications can be made about what is yet unknown. Chemistry has been presented as a logical combination of fact and theory and no attempt has been made to present a mass of unrelated facts. Wherever possible, reference has been made to the processes of industrial/commercial importance.

Organic Chemistry is presented as a unified systematic subject. Emphasis is laid on the type rather than on individual members. Influence of electronic effects, and bond types is made out. The idea is to present Organic Chemistry as a compact unit and stimulate the interest of the student to further study and inquiry.

Very recently, the Government of Pakistan has decided, in principle, to do away with the pre-medical and pre-engineering streams at Higher Secondary level. The new scheme proposed will introduce a single-science stream comprising Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics.

The Curriculum in Chemistry for the new proposed single-science stream at the Higher Secondary level follows the general approach employed hitherto. It has been further improved and rationalised. Emphasis has been laid on problem solving and further building up the concepts governing chemical changes.

The teaching of Inorganic Chemistry has been streamlined, and is discussed in terms of s-block, p-block and d-block elements. Organic Chemistry is introduced in terms of the Chemistry of the functional group and the bond type involved. a brief description of the biologically important compounds is proposed, together with An introduction to Pharmacy, particularly with respect to Therapeutic uses and side effects of some common organic based drugs.

At this stage it is instructive to compare the weightage, in terms of teaching periods, given to various components of Chemistry at Lower and Higher Secondary level(Table 1).

Table 1. COMPARISON OF WEIGHTAGE OF VARIOUS COMPONENTS (Approximate weightages given to)

Level Physical Inorganic Organic Industrial Biochemistry and Pharmacy
Lower Secondary






Higher Secondary (existing)






Higher Secondary (proposed)






 (The industrial component at Higher Secondary level is covered within the 
 Inorganic and Organic components)

The Curriculum has been so developed to emphasise concept formation rather than overload the students with unnecessary and often unrelated facts. Hence, a much greater weightage has been retained for the Physical Chemistry component throughout the Secondary school stage. Biochemistry and Pharmacy have been introduced at this level.

Practical component of the Curriculum of school level Chemistry: Practical components have been devised along with the theory and it bears relevance and strengthens the theoretical concepts. The practical component at Lower Secondary stage is derived largely from teacher demonstrations and student exercises. These exercises cover almost all major conceptual areas of the subject and as such strengthen and supplement the theory. Simple exercises have been proposed and assistance has been derived even from everyday occurrences and common phenomena; a work-book has been prepared and prescribed.

The practical component at Higher Secondary stage comprise ithe dentification of common acidic and basis radicals together with simple volumetric estimations. The exercises are, therefore, concentrated on the inorganic component of the theory. However, an attempt has been made in the proposed Chemistry Curriculum to rectify the situation and some diversity has been provided. Acquisition of skills and exercises having a bearing on the applications of Chemistry have been included, thus emphasising to some extent utilitarian aspects of Chemistry.

The size of enrollment in Chemistry at the higher secondary stage approximates 1,70,000.

Preparation of materials: The Text-Books are written mostly by a panel of authors This work is usually co-ordinated by the National Bureau of Curriculum and Text Books and preparation of the manuscript and its publication is entrusted to one of the Provincial Text-Book Boards.

Teacher competency: The entry qualifications of a Lower Secondary School Science teacher is a Bachelor of Science Degree together with a Degree in Education (B.Sc., B.Ed.). It is, therefore, expected that the science teacher possess the requisite qualification in the areas of content and methodology.

The minimum requirement for appointment as a Chemistry teacher at Higher Secondary stage is a Masters Degree in Chemistry, In services training programmes are introduced by the Directorate of Education to up-date or train the teachers. These programmes were held at universities and at major colleges.

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Chemistry at the undergraduate level is taught as an elective subject at degree college. These colleges are affiliated to any-one of the general universities, within whose jurisdiction the college is located. 3500 such colleges, for men and women, offer instruction at the undergraduate level, and currently have a total enrollment of over 1,800,000 offering the science group. It is estimated that well over 1,500,000 offer Chemistry as one of the elective subjects.

The undergraduate programme is a 2-year activity after higher secondary and leads to a B.Sc. (Pass) degree.

The medium of examination is English with the option to answer in Urdu. However, an overwhelming majority of students answer in English.

The Inorganic Chemistry component is developed around periodic classification of elements and involves detailed treatment of the typical elements and their important compounds, emphasising the diagonal relationship, wherever this is significant. Chemical bonding, in particular the valence bond theory and molecular orbital theory is discussed. To emphasise the role of in-organic chemicals in development, some of the important chemical processes, particularly from national considerations, are also described.

The curriculum of Organic Chemistry is developed, as previously, around the functional group and the bond type. The hydrocarbons, carbonyl compounds, nitrogen compounds and hydroxy compounds are considered. Mechanistic considerations have been highlighted wherever necessary. The underlying principle is to develop an understanding of the type rather than the individual members. A brief survey of the organo-based industries, together with biologically important organic compounds has been prescribed to focus on the utilitarian aspect of Organic Chemistry.

Separate practical components, with respect to the three branches, have also been devised. These revolve around qualitative identification of inorganic mixtures and simple organic compounds, preparation and estimation of common compounds, and determination of common physical properties, like surface tension, viscosity, refractive index, transition temperatures and order or reaction.

The three branches of chemistry, together with their practical components, are given equal weightage for purposes of evaluation.

Continuation of the philosophy of curriculum development at the Higher Secondary level has been maintained while developing the curriculum at the undergraduate level. Concept formation rather than rote memorization has been emphasised. Derived topics, like natural products in Organic Chemistry etc. have been left out.

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Besides the 2-year undergraduate programme, operative in colleges affiliated to the general universities, Chemistry is offered as a 3-year programme leading to a B.Sc.(Hons.) degree. The curriculum for the first two years of study is essentially derived from that of the 2-year undergraduate programme. It is during the third year that some advanced topics like the Chemistry of natural products etc. are offered.

The 3-year programme is offered at universities of Sindh, and Baluchistan only.

A student who has successfully completed the 3-year programme is entitled to admission to a 1-year graduate programe leading to M.Sc. which is invariably completed by submitting a dissertation/thesis on an approved research project.

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The graduate programme in chemistry is imparted by universities. These are grouped into:

Affiliating general Universities: The Universities of Peshawar, Gomal, Punjab, Multan, Bahawalpur, Quetta, Sindh and Karachi, besides operating graduate programmes of their own, affiliate colleges located within their territorial jurisdiction.

Non-Affiliating Universities: The Quaid-i-Azam University, and Allama Iqbal Open University at Islamabad, operate programmes in chemistry.

Technical Universities: Four Universities of Engineering and Technology and three of Agriculture exist and these offer compulsory supportive a Chemistry programme relevant to the area of their interest. Recently the University of Agriculture at Faisalabad has opened graduate programme in Chemistry, with emphasis on Agricultural chemistry,. The University of Engineering and Technology at Lahore, besides offering a limited M.Sc. programme in chemistry, also offers Ph.D. programme in the subject. The size of the Chemistry programmes at these two Universities, however, continues to be small.

University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir: The University is conducting graduate programme in Chemistry and has 4 colleges (4 men and 2 women) affiliated to it.

Affiliated Colleges: Some colleges affiliated to University of the Punjab and of Peshawar offer graduate programmes in chemistry and some have a sizeable enrollment and a qualified faculty.

Universities are autonomous bodies and have their Boards of Studies. Each University has developed some measure of specialization in one or more areas of chemistry. The University Grants Commission, therefore, while framing the Curriculum at the graduate level, has kept these considerations in view and has attempted to define the details of core courses only, considered essential to the broader understanding of the subject and leaving the individual Universities to develop advanced and specialised courses in accordance with their resources. The Commission, however, has listed such courses.

It is to be noted that besides the traditional branches, biochemistry, analytical chemistry and applied chemistry have been introduced at the graduate level. A student has the option to opt for one of these.

Examination: The examination in chemistry consists of written papers, thesis, dissertation, viva-voce and practical as provided in the syllabus, provided that only such candidates as have obtained first or second class in the Bachelor's Degree Examination or have obtained Honours Degree irrespective of the division shall be allowed to offer thesis in lieu of one or more written papers, wherever permissible. The minimum number of marks required to pass the graduate examination are thirty-three percent in each paper and in the practical examination.

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5. M. Phil/ Ph.D. PROGRAMME

M.Phil programme is offered by the Universities of Peshawar, Karachi and Sindh. The Quaid-i-Azam University, Centre of Excellence in Physical Chemistry at Peshawar, HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry, University of Karachi and Centre of Excellence in Analytical Chemistry at Sindh University, Jamshoro, University of the Punjab and University of Engineering and Technology at Lahore and the Agriculture University Faisalabad.

M.Phil is a 2-year programme and comprises a research project besides appropriate course work.

The facility of the Ph.D. programme at a University depends largely on the availability of qualified research supervisor and also the equipment to carry out the work. Ph.D. programme is entirely research based and can be completed in not less than three years. At present 200 students are working towards their Ph.D. in Chemistry.

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A 4-year undergraduate programme in Chemical Engineering is offered at the University of the Punjab, Universities of Engineering at Lahore, Jasmshoro and Karachi. In addition 2-year graduate programme in Applied Chemistry is offered at Karachi University.

A 2-year graduate programme in biochemistry is offered at the University of Karachi. Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre at Karachi and the Post-Graduate Medical Institute, Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology at Lahore offer M.Phil programme in the subject.

The size of intake in Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry is significant.


School year Nature of Chemistry course Duration of programme Diploma/Degree awarded
9-10 elective 2 years Secondary school
11-12 elective 2 years Higher Secondary
13-14 elective 2 years B.Sc.
13-15 compulsory 3 years B.Sc.(Hons.)
16 compulsory 1 years M.Sc. (After Hons.)
15-16 compulsory 2 years M.Sc.
17-18 compulsory 2 years M.Phil
Ph.D. programme cold be undertaken at the conclusion of M.Sc. or M.Phil programme.

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The universities in Pakistan, unfortunately, were not modelled to serve as Centres for the promotion, and least of all utilization of research. In fact the oldest of the Universities - the University of the Punjab - functioned largely as an affiliating and examining University for quite sometime even after the establishment of Pakistan in August, 1947.

The Pakistan Universities have not developed a strong tradition of research but certain departments in each university have excellent manpower and facilities for conducting studies in specified fields.

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Information about the field of study and addresses of the person and institution may be obtained by the Office of the Chemical Society of Pakistan, HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry, University of Karachi. Pakistan.

Tel +92 21 4992785

Fax.+92 21 4963373

Email or to the Head of the Chemistry Departments of the Universities.

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