IBL to Raise Quality of Education in Pakistan
Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.
Improving quality of education is just as important as broadening access to it for Pakistan to reap full demographic dividend of its young population. Inquiry-based learning is an important pillar of the efforts undertaken by Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) and The Citizens Foundation (TCF) to improve quality of education.
Inquiry-based learning is a method developed during the discovery learning movement of the 1960s. It came in response to a perceived failure of more traditional rote learning. Inquiry-based learning is a form of active learning, where progress is assessed by how well students develop experimental, analytical and critical thinking skills rather than how many facts they have memorized.
Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) has initiated “La Main a La Pate” – an Inquiry-Based Learning program in Pakistan with the support of the French government. First launched in France in 1996, the program is aimed at renovating and revitalizing the teaching of science in primary schools. In Pakistan, the PSF has organized three workshops to train teachers since the Pakistan launch of “La Main a La Pate” in 2010. The most recent workshop was in December 2011 that was conducted by two French trainers, Michel Ouliac and Patrick Marcel. It was attended by 30 teachers from Islamabad, Kot Addu, Rawalpindi and Karachi, according to a report in The Express Tribune newspaper.
A similar inquiry-based teaching effort has been undertaken by The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a non-profit organization running 730 schools serving over 100,000 students in different parts of Pakistan. It is described in a recent book "Back to Pakistan: A Fifty-Year Journey" by Leslie Noyes Mass. Mass was in US Peace Corp who served as a young volunteer back in 1960s in Pakistan. The well-written book is about her return to Pakistan and her impressions of the country 50 years later. In 2009, Mass found a very different Pakistan: more education for children, a much larger population, and a place not nearly as friendly to the United States as it was when she first went there in 1960s.
Here's how Mass describes inquiry-based methods used at a summer science camp for TCF children at primary and secondary levels:
"Inquiry is a form of active learning where progress is assessed by how well students develop experimental and analytical skills rather than by how much knowledge they possess. In a science curriculum, this means that students are presented with a problem and the teacher guides them to solve it without making the solution explicit. This requires students to work together, to think critically, and to search for solutions based on the evidence rather than the predefined "correct" answer."
Then she goes on to describe the details of the experiments used to teach primary and secondary students.
Both PSF and TCF deserve kudos for promoting inquiry-based methods to encourage more active learning and critical thinking at an early age. These skills are essential to prepare Pakistani youngsters to be capable of facing the challenges of living in a highly competitive world in which the wealth of nations is defined in terms of human capital.
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TED Fellow, social entrepreneur and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is on a mission to foment Pakistan's education revolution.
The province of Sindh, where Obaid-Chinoy is based, decided less than two months ago to completely revamp public school textbooks, and the government enlisted Obaid-Chinoy to help. "There needs to be an overhaul," Obaid-Chinoy tells Fast Company. "Textbooks are outdated and I've been working with the government on how to encourage critical thinking and move away from rote memorization....It's tough, because the mindset is not there. The teachers are essentially products of the same system. We have to break the culture, which takes a long time."
Sindh's teachers now spend extensive time in professional training with education experts to try and reform the instruction of English, math, and social studies. "We're really making this a movement for education for social change," Obaid-Chinoy says.
"People are excited by it. Everyone's getting into it, rolling up their sleeves. We're trying to bridge the divide between the public and private school systems," which, she says, is at the heart of Pakistan's education challenges. The poorer schools are under-resourced and are often recruiting grounds for young terrorists. By improving the public education system, the less-fortunate children have a better shot at a solid future, away from terrorist groups, and local leaders hope to accomplish improvements by focusing on textbooks and teacher trainings.
"Pakistan also feels it needs to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of education and that was the genesis for the education overhaul," says Obaid-Chinoy. "Terrorism defines us today," but, she says, there was a time when the country was known for its vibrancy and sense of hope.
Obaid-Chinoy is doing her part in other ways to revamp Pakistan's education system. In 2007 she started CitizensArchive.org, the country's first digital archive documenting its oral history with interviews, rare photos, and other online collections. The initiative allows students in schools throughout Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India to better understand Pakistan and its history and Obaid-Chinoy was able to interview several notable figures who have since passed away, such as Deena Mistri, one of the country's first female educators. And students around South Asia are now engaged in learning exchanges with students in Pakistan, to help the countries build bridges.
And throughout her education work, Obaid-Chinoy's medium is often filmmaking. She makes about one film per year and has covered a range of topics from jihadi schools to female victims of acid attacks. Her next film will look at 9/11 through the eyes of different figures, in commemoration of the 10th anniversary this year.
"My mother gave up her dream of becoming a journalist when she got married and I think she always wanted to make sure that her six children pursued their dreams. I have four sisters and all of us work in male-dominated professions in Pakistan." And Obaid-Chinoy now brings that same sense of passion and justice to her work and thanks to her, her country may soon become a bright spot for global-minded education.
There has been a quiet revolution in the last two years, particularly in improved quality, access and relevance, which are the cornerstones of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
Quality is a ‘process’ and cannot be improved overnight by dialling ‘Q’. Quality enhancement cells have been established in 81 universities which will monitor and ‘own’ quality and report to the HEC’s QA (Quality Assurance) division. Six accreditation councils, including in business and computing, have been established, and these will accredit professional programmes. An institutional performance evaluation (IPE) process has begun, and by next year, the universities will be given a scorecard on good governance. For the first time ever, universities and programmes are being ranked as per international standards, and the results will be published by the end of the year. A two-day orientation of newly-appointed vice-chancellors (VCs), facilitated by two British VCs and one American university president, was organised — also for the first time — to inculcate leadership and to improve quality in governing higher educational institutes.
Accessibility to university education among the population is now 7.8 per cent, and not 5.1 per cent as implied by Dr Tahir, and we are well on our way to reaching 10 per cent by 2015 as per the education policy, despite a 10 per cent cut in higher education funding. Pakistan spends 1.7 per cent of its GDP on education, and only six other countries in the world spend less. Of this, 0.22 per cent is spent on higher education and not 0.3 per cent as the article incorrectly states. Under these circumstances, the HEC has done wonders!
What the writer fails to mention is the new emphasis on ‘knowledge exchange’. Ten offices of research, innovation and commercialisation (ORIC) have been established this year, and 20 more are in the pipeline to bridge the gap between university research and industry. With a 30 per cent increase in research publications and PhD dissertations in the last two years, a focus on relevant research and a new programme to establish incubators and technology parks, the Pakistani higher education sector is on its way to become an economic powerhouse in the next two years.
This is the soft and quiet revolution taking place at our universities which is already becoming visible and changing the lives of millions of youth who are the beneficiaries of higher education in Pakistan.
The International Traveling Expo ‘It’s all about Chemistry’ opened at Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) on Wednesday.
Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) in collaboration with the embassy of France in Islamabad and Scientific, Technical, Industrial and Cultural Centre (CCSTI), France has arranged the Expo, prepared by Centre Sciences-France, UNESCO and partners, for providing a first-hand picture of the role of chemistry in daily life to students and general public.
The Expo is aimed at increasing the interest of young people in Chemistry and to generate enthusiasm among students for take chemistry as a subject of their studies.
The expo started its journey in Pakistan from Karachi in January and after travelling through Tandojam, Khairpur, DG Khan, Multan, Lahore, Mansehra, Peshawar and Swat has reached Islamabad from where it would travel to Sibbi and conclude in Quetta.
Study of Chemistry is critical in addressing challenges such as global climate change, in providing sustainable sources of clean water, food energy and in well-being of people.
The science of chemistry and its applications produce medicines, fuels, metals and virtually all other manufactured products.
PSF Chairman Prof Dr Manzoor Soomro inaugurated the 3-day Expo while French Attache for Cooperation Gilles Angles, AIOU Faculty of Sciences Dean Prof Dr Noshad Khan and AIOU Chemistry Department’s Chairperson Prof Dr Naghmana Rashid were also present on this occasion.
The displays of the expo include Black and White Chemistry, Molecules in Action, Nature Returns with a bang, Intelligent Textiles-Dress Intelligently, Dress Usefully, Materials that Heal Automatically, Oil-bases or Water-based paint, Pure air at home, What’s Going on in my saucepan, Town Water or field Water, Experts against Fraud, When Art and Science Meet, Molecular Motors, Bio-fuels for Green Driving and Responsible Farming etc.
Dr Manzoor Soomro highlighted the PSF programmes and activities for promotion of science in the country for mental developmental of the nation and socio-economic development of the country.
He said PSF’s subsidiary organisation Pakistan Museum of Natural History is playing an important role in imparting education on natural sciences through informal means.
He appreciated French embassy for its cooperation to PSF in its different programmes as well as providing opportunity of higher education to students of far flung areas of Pakistan through its scholarships programme...
Last year, USAID in partnership with the government of Pakistan organised a technology and cultural exchange programme for these bright young Pakistani’s at Wakefield High School in the USA.
The students shared their experiences in the US with Dr Hatfield, director USAID and Siddiq Memon, secretary Sindh Education and Literacy Department. They shared fun stories from the US, and related how their parents and classmates loved to hear about American culture as well as the difference it had made in how they approached their education and future.
Dr Hatfield answered their queries and affirmed the US commitment to improving education and opportunities. “We want to help students in all parts of Pakistan who improved education resources and environment. With the ‘Links to Learning’ programme, we are especially trying to guide and provide exposure to promising young scholars facing choice of college and specialization, and difficult decisions regarding careers.”
USAID has supported 103 students from Sindh, Balochistan, Fata and rural areas around Islamabad to develop computer and learning technology skills, and to experience progressive classroom environments since 2008. They are taking leadership roles and motivating others to learn making innovative use of technology and tapping into a global learning community.
The inquiry-based science education (IBSE) is imperative to boost students’ learning process and help them in developing their strong relationship with teachers as learning is a two-way traffic.
Chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) Prof Dr Manzoor H Soomro said this while addressing a teachers training workshop on “Collection, Preservation and Identification of Plant Diversity”, organized by the Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH) and PSF, here on Sunday.
Some 70 science teachers from public and private sectors educational institutions of Rawalpindi and Islamabad participated in the workshop organized as a part of its public education program. The workshop was aimed at imparting hands on training to teachers on techniques of plants collection and preservation as well as their identification for setting up herbaria facility in their educational institutions.
Dr Soomro said the PSF was actively engaged in promotion and popularization of science and technology in the country through a number of programmes, including funding for scientific research, Natural Science Linkage, Industry Research and Development, Science Caravans programs and Inquiry-Based Science Education Programme launched in Pakistan with the collaboration of French Embassy (IBSE).
He said under the IBSE Programme, the PSF organizes training workshops for teachers to train them as master trainers on as to how arouse students’ interest in science subject through easy to understand and interesting experiments.
The chief guest said IBSE programme is going on in 30 schools in the country. He advised the teachers to co-relate this workshop with inquiry-based science education system. He said PSF has been invited to share its experiences about IBSE in an International Conference to be held in Helsinki, Finland in the end of May.
The Chairman also urged the teachers to set up plant herbariums in their institutions so that students could easily become able to identify the plants, which are most valuable natural resource on which survival of not only human beings but entire living things depends. He said PSF and PMNH will provide all possible help in this cause as they have experts of plants sciences.
He said to promote science PSF organized International Travelling Expos on Mathematics, Environment and Chemistry in all major cities of Pakistan. Dr. Manzoor Soomro said these expos received a tremendous response from the educational institutions and thousands of students and teachers benefitted from them. The Chairman lauded PMNH efforts to organize this workshop which would not only benefit the participating teachers in their capacity-building in teaching methodologies and consequently benefit students in their educational pursuits and career building. PMNH Director General Dr Syed Azhar Hasan said PMNH is one of the leading institutions actively involved in research in natural resources and public education for their conservation and sustainable use as well as promotion of science through informal means including popular lectures, film shows, training workshops, exhibitions, competitions, seminars and symposia etc.
Later, the participating teachers were taken to the field for plants collection. During technical sessions they were imparted training on their preservation, identification and documentation. The participants were awarded certificates in the closing ceremony.
The World Bank has described the knowledge economy as one in which "organisations and people acquire, create, disseminate, and use knowledge more effectively for greater economic and social development".
However, clarity ends there. The framework put forward by the bank has four dimensions: economic and institutional regime; educated and skilled workforce; efficient innovation system; and information and communications technologies. To assess the status of each dimension, it identifies 148 structural and qualitative variables.
We need a better definition of what knowledge is, and how it can be used, to produce a more accurate index of the knowledge economy in developing countries. For instance, a farmer working in Egypt or Pakistan uses knowledge of land management transferred through generations. Yet this knowledge is hardly captured in modern indices of the knowledge economy.
Although traditional knowledge serves the farmer well, greater access to new science-based information could help if weather patterns or soil quality change due to climate change, for example.
But these intricate details and complex facets of the creation, dissemination, and use of knowledge are difficult to capture and quantify. They receive short shrift when policymakers follow the latest fads in development, such as creating world class universities.
The Islamic World needs to move away from fads and symbolic moves, and make a sustained effort to bring about structural change and introduce new incentives (such as those that will attract better quality teachers) for producing, obtaining and using knowledge in society.
As Rima Khalaf Hunaidi of UNDP rightly notes in the 2003 Arab development report, "There is ... a pressing need for deep-seated reform in the organisational, social and political context of knowledge."
This reform must begin with education at the primary level. In most Islamic countries, the curriculum is too rigid to allow creative thinking, critical inquiry, and free flow of ideas. Students are mostly spoon-fed by an authoritarian figure -- the teacher -- and discouraged from questioning.
Addressing this gap will require experimenting -- fairly rapidly -- with approaches and ideas, to discover what works. Two noteworthy, albeit nascent, experiments to induce creative thinking and critical inquiry at an early age through robotics-based learning tools are happening at National University of Sciences and Technology and a private after-school programme at Robotics Lab in Pakistan.
Only when the Islamic World can produce free-thinking citizens will there be any hope of the emergence of a meaningful knowledge society.
Read more: http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnist/knowledge-economies-still-elusive-in-islamic-world-1.88646
Ira talks with Paul Tough, author of the new book How Children Succeed, about the traditional ways we measure ability and intelligence in American schools. They talk about the focus on cognitive abilities, conventional "book smarts." They discuss the current emphasis on these kinds of skills in American education, and the emphasis standardized testing, and then turn our attention to a growing body of research that suggests we may be on the verge of a new approach to some of the biggest challenges facing American schools today. Paul Tough discusses how “non-cognitive skills” — qualities like tenacity, resilience, impulse control — are being viewed as increasingly vital in education, and Ira speaks with economist James Heckman, who’s been at the center of this research and this shift.
Doctor Nadine Burke Harris weighs in to discuss studies that show how poverty-related stress can affect brain development, and inhibit the development of non-cognitive skills. We also hear from a teenager named Kewauna Lerma, who talks about her struggles with some of the skills discussed, like restraint and impulse control.
We then turn to the question of what can schools can offer to kids like Kewauna, and whether non-cognitive skills are something that can be taught. Paul discusses research that suggests these kinds of skills can indeed be learned in a classroom, even with young people, like Kewauna, facing especially adverse situations, and also the success of various programs that revolve around early interventions. Ira reports on a mother and daughter in Chicago, Barbara and Aniya McDonald, who have been working with a program designed to help them improve their relationship — and ultimately to put Aniyah in a strong position to learn non-cognitive skills. (38 1/2 minutes)
The human brain is one of nature’s most fascinating and mysterious creations, with its full potential still unknown. And Prof Tony Buzan is on a quest to understand how it works.
Buzan and his team have picked Pakistan as the starting point for their Butterfly Universe Initiative, a global movement for mental literacy that focuses upon ‘learning how to learn’. The project aims to unleash the potential of five million children in the country by 2020 through mind mapping.
“Our goal is to have a mentally literate world, and for that, everyone must think,” explains Buzan, the inventor of the mind mapping method and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2014. History, according to him, has witnessed every developed country being led by critical thinking — and the creativity and energy he sees in Pakistan’s people makes him think it is the perfect place to begin his mission.
“In this digital age, there are manuals for everything but our brains,” says Buzan. “Our vision is simple: learn how to understand your brain.”
There are three things he looks for in the teachers selected for his project: the ability to imagine, the vision to daydream and the passion to educate. “We as a team gave a formula to our master trainers to train teachers, who will further teach students to broaden their mental horizons and see the flip side of the picture.”
Over the course of the project, the teachers will be shown how to open up their minds, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. “The beautiful, vibrant butterfly we see was not always that way — it was a caterpillar that went through the stages of transformation,” Tariq Qureishy, the CEO of Vantage Holding and founder of 100% MAD (Make A Difference), draws a butterfly on a piece of paper to illustrate his point. “Unfortunately, our system never lets our teachers and students evolve beyond the cocoon.”
He hastens to add that the children are not at fault — it is the system and the teachers that share equal responsibility. “Our project is unique because we try to make learning for fun for children and teaching interesting for teachers.”
One thousand trained teachers from four different schooling systems, including The Citizens Foundation and The City School, have already started promoting mind mapping within their schools. “We are targeting 100 schools for a year, where teachers get two hours of training every evening and the students learn through a full-day training programme on Saturdays,” Qureishy shares the plan for the project’s initial phase.
“It is believed that if a butterfly flaps its wings in one place, it can cause a hurricane weeks later in a distant location,” says Qureishy. “The 1,000 butterflies that we have trained have started flapping their wings. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the world joins in.”
Speaking at an international webinar “Future of (online) education in Pakistan”, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said that the project aimed at bringing STEM schools for grades six, seven, and eight, adding that the project would be the first of its kind in Pakistan.
“This year, we abstracted 464 schools at the federal level from all the provinces that we are turning into a STEM school,” the minister for science and technology said.
Chaudhry said digital education was the only way forward for securing a bright future for the country. “We want to take up about 5,000 government schools. We want to upgrade them as a STEM schools,” he said. “Digital education is the future of Pakistan.”
The webinar was organized by Coded Minds Pakistan, a global iSTEAM and leadership company. Local and international education experts participated in the webinar to discuss the future of online education in Pakistan. According to Chaudhry, his ministry was already working on establishing digital education in the country way before the COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking on the subject, Dr Ahsan Feroz of Pakistan Science Foundation, currently working on the STEM school project, said the project was in the approval stage. “As soon as the budget is approved, we will immediately start working on the project,” he added. Punjab Education Minister Murad Rass said access to internet was a major challenge in promoting online education.
Prime Minister Imran Khan approved on Friday the launching of the STEM education project aimed at promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in 400 higher secondary schools across the country.
In the first phase, the prime minister approved the setting up of special science labs in 40 schools in collaboration with the universities. Subsequently, roughly 100,000 children in 400 schools would have access to education and training in modern sciences.
STEM— science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is the idea of educating students in the four specific disciplines in an interdisciplinary and applied approach instead of teaching them as separate subjects.
Imran gave approval of the project during a meeting to review several new projects of the Science and Technology Ministry. It was attended by Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Adviser on Commerce Razak Dawood, finance secretary, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman and others.
During the meeting, the minister briefed the prime minister about some of the important projects, achievements and future plans of the ministry for the promotion of science and technology in the country.
Chaudhry apprised the prime minister of the progress made so far on the proposed project of establishing a university of modern education in engineering and emerging technologies at the Prime Minister House.
The minister also gave briefing on a project aimed at providing employment to youth and women by setting up clean water supply plants across the country. He also presented a proposed roadmap for increasing the country's potential for the manufacturing of medical devices and a detailed plan to modernise the agriculture sector and increase agricultural production by utilising modern technology.
Appreciating the proposals for the agriculture sector, increasing the country's exports and promoting science and technology in the country, the prime minister said that Pakistan's young generation had immense potential.
Here's the question: "Babar Azam has hit a cover drive by given kinetic energy of 150J to the ball by his bat. a) At what speed will the ball go the boundary if the mass of the ball is 120g? b) How much kinetic energy footballer must impart to a football of mass 450g to make it move at this speed?" says the question that has been widely shared on social media platforms."
The picture of this question in the book has gone viral on the internet with some fans even trying to find the answer.
(Picture shows the following kinetic energy = 0.5x mass x velocity squared. 120 grams ball driven with 150 joules energy achieves 50 meters/sec speed)
The Dawood Foundation's MagnifiScience Centre (MSC) and Aga Khan University (AKU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in pursuit of their common goal of equitable human advancement by launching projects in teacher training, innovation in science, education, informal learning, healthcare, learning technologies and the environment.
As per the terms of the MOU, both institutions will synergize through knowledge sharing, exchange of students and professionals, provision of trainings, consultations and workshops and implementation of research to foster the development of the youth and advancement of professionals.
“This collaboration will prove to be a great asset for the advancement in science education and environment. Together with AKU, we aim to provide people of our society with platforms where they can learn and prosper" said Syed Fasihuddin Biyabani, Chief Executive Officer of The Dawood Foundation.
Education that fosters problem-solving, creativity, and innovation is known to prepare youth for the fast-changing, increasingly global and technological world. I am grateful to the Dawood Foundation for joining hands with us to achieve excellence in providing such an education." said Dr. Anjum Halai, Vice Provost of Aga Khan University.
Both organisations agreed to designate their institutional representatives to implement programmes through this Memorandum of Understanding over a five-year term, to fulfil their aim of transforming science education in Pakistan.
The MagnifiScience Centre is an inclusive space to provide scientific exposure with hands-on learning experiences to everyone, irrespective of demographics and socio-economic backgrounds.