Saira Waseem has been on a journey to inculcate respect, empathy, peace and patience in young minds through their school curriculum. As the outcome, she wants the grown-ups adhere to the principles of unity, faith and discipline.
Saira believes that value-based education is no longer imparted in our schools. “The only job of schools is now to yield good results,” she said as she spoke with The News on Wednesday. According to her, the real job of educational institutes is the nation- and character-building. “We cannot [only] bombard our students with information.”
She is of the view that when respect, empathy, peace and patience are implanted in the students through the curriculum, the outcome has to be unity, faith and discipline. “I believe that unity, faith and discipline cannot be injected into one’s mind. This has to be the outcome [of value-based education],” she stressed and added that over the years, extremism and intolerance have increased in our society which can be tackled with a value-based curriculum.
For this purpose, Saira launched her cost-effective schooling system, International Learning Hub, in Islamabad’s G-13 area and Gujranwala’s Quaid-e-Azam Town in August 2019. She took three years in designing a value-based curriculum for her schools and training teachers for that.
An educationist by profession, Saira is now the chief executive officer of her schooling system. She has a degree in economics from the University of the Punjab and has also completed several educational leadership courses.
The International Learning Hub is a growing family of private schools providing quality education to students guided by their core values — excellence, diversity, dignity, growth and integrity. These values, according to her, define the schooling system.
The schools also employ a holistic and dynamic approach for children by not only reaching soaring heights in academics but equally excelling in co-curriculum activities for a healthy balance and forward thinking.
By excellence, they believe that they will not be able to achieve their desired impact until they sustain dedication for delivering their core values in their students. By diversity, they believe in embracing all aspects of human diversity and value its necessity to ensure a vibrant learning community. They are committed to ensure intercultural diversity in their curriculum and students.
The value of dignity signify their commitment to the highest standards of honesty, fairness, respect, professionalism and scholarly ethics. By growth, they mean that they are committed to fostering professional and personal growth of all their students through promoting lifelong learning and leadership development.
By integrity, they consider character-building to be an integral aspect of their programmes as learning without personal integrity will be of little value to the individuals and society. Schools, according to Saira, generally do not take into account the holistic development of their students. “We also need to teach the parents that they aren’t sending their children to some race,” she said and added that the children need a grooming house where they are holistically developed. This is exactly what she aims to provide at her schools, which will soon be opened in Karachi and Lahore as well, she said.
Her schools currently start from Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) — that is 2.5 years of age — and go till class seven. “We have trained our team how to embed our hidden curriculum in our students,” she said and shared that their hidden curriculum is very much value-based.
“We have entered the market to provide a solution to high-end fee structure,” she said. She also shared how they had developed a cost-effective programme while complying with international standards.
In their curriculum, she said, they work on a child’s prime and specific areas. “Initially, we work on prime areas and then branch out to specific areas,” she explained and added that how only a book or classroom is not enough for the children. “We believe in art lab, science lab, digital lab,” she said, adding that such labs had been included in their curriculum.
In 2017, Saira worked with then federal government on the value-based curriculum for classes one to five. She also arranged a value conference in 2018 in Islamabad and represented Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and Sri Lanka soon after the Army Public School incident in conferences on education.