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November 20, 2015

‘Quality, not quantity, needs to be Pakistan’s focus in education’


November 20, 2015

For Pakistan to improve its people’s lives and boost economic development, the focus of decision makers must be on the quality of education and learning being imparted across the country, with particular attention towards teachers' training and innovation in the sector.
This was the general assessment put forward by experts at the 10th International Conference organised by the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development (IED) that commenced on Thursday.
“Success or failure in achieving ‘education for all’ cannot just be gauged by the number of children being provided access to education, as the main point of assessment remains the quality of their educational experience,” said the keynote speaker on the occasion, Pauline Rose, professor of international education at the University of Cambridge and director of the varsity’s Research, Equitable Access and Learning Centre.
“Focusing on the latter remains imperative as it is only quality education that could truly contribute towards economic growth and development. To achieve that aim, there needs to be renewed focus on the three pillars of an education system; on teachers, teaching quality and learning and, particularly, learning that uses evidence-based indigenous models.”
Once this change comes about, she added, Pakistan could actually start moving towards achieving the new global Sustainable Development Goals on Education and ensuring inclusive, quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030.
Speaking about the 15-year commitment made by world leaders to ensure all children, irrespective of their background, achieve relevant and effective learning outcomes, Prof Rose said that what comprises as ‘relevant and effective learning’ and how it could be measured remains up for debate.
She 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 work on our assessments, we will lose sight of the most disadvantaged,” said Prof Rose.
As for the need for innovation in the education sector, she asserted that the quality of teaching could only be improved by incorporating the best practices from around the world.
However, she warned that it remains critically important that these ‘best practices’ are not simply transposed without understanding the learners’ needs, their local context and cultures.
In his talk, IED Director Dr Sarfaroz Niyozov highlighted that education around the world was 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.
However, he said that it was equally important that one should not fall into the trap of romanticising the indigenous and assess “local models for their quality, equity and inclusivity”.
As teachers remain central to the quality of student learning, he added, the quality of the education acquired by the teachers was deeply connected to what they would be imparting to their students.
“Teachers’ openness to and capacity 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 of the conference saw several concurrent sessions covering 24 presentations and two symposia and, over the three-day period, over 100 workshops, plenary sessions and presentations would be conducted.

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