Karachi: If Pakistan wants to improve people’s lives and boost economic development, then the quality of education and learning is an essential foundation stone and teachers have to be well-prepared to develop innovative but local practices tailored to the needs of their learners, said experts at the 10th International Conference organised by the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development.
This was the discussion on the first day of the three-day conference that will host over 100 workshops, plenary sessions and presentations.
Success or failure in achieving ‘education for all’ is not just by providing access but by assessing what children learn and the quality of their education experience. Quality education contributes to economic growth with learning having a direct impact on growth and development.
For quality education, a ‘renewed focus’ on the three pillars of an education system, on teachers, teaching quality and learning and particularly on learning that uses evidence-based ‘indigenous’ models has to become part of practice. Only then can Pakistan take steps towards achieving the new global Sustainable Development Goals on education – Goal 4 to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning by 2030.
World leaders may have committed themselves towards ensuring that all children, regardless of their background, achieve relevant and effective learning outcomes in the next 15 years. But there is an on-going debate on what comprises ‘relevant and effective learning’, and how this can be measured noted keynote speaker Pauline Rose, Professor, International Education and Director Research, Equitable Access and Learning Centre, University of Cambridge.
Dr Rose suggested tracking progress towards a universal target that, at a minimum, ensures that all children – regardless of their wealth, gender, where they live, or whether they have a disability – complete primary school and achieve the basics in reading, writing and mathematics. What is important is adopting a ‘stepping-stones’ approach to assessing progress for the most deprived. “Where do we need to get to in the next five years, and in the five years after that? If we don’t stagger our assessments, we will lose sight of the most disadvantaged,” said Professor Rose.
The quality of teaching can be improved by incorporating best practices from around the world but it is critically important that these best practices are not transposed without understanding learners and their local context and cultures cautioned experts.
Dr Sarfaraz Niyozov, Director, IED highlighted that worldwide, education is witnessing a reinvigoration of indigenous knowledge and models, a welcome change in countries with rich historical and cultural traditions of teaching and learning such as Pakistan. Equally important is that one should not fall into the trap of romanticising the indigenous but assess “local models for their quality, equity and inclusivity”.
As teachers are central to the quality of student learning, teacher quality itself is deeply connected to the quality of teachers’ own learning. “Teachers’ openness to and capacities for learning from multiple sources and challenging perspectives is the key to survival of teaching as a respectable profession and teachers as esteemed professionals.”
The first day saw several concurrent sessions covering 24 presentations and 2 symposia on subjects ranging from understanding teachers’ sense of self-efficacy to transforming children from passive recipients to active participants through activity-based learning in primary schools in the coastal belt of Sindh.