Regional Roundtable on Education by LUMS and AKU-IED, December 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Vision

The LUMS – AKU-IED Regional Roundtable (RRT) convened academics, practitioners, policy experts and state representatives who have substantive experience in responding to the complex challenges of education in Pakistan. The aim was to:  

  1. Gain a deeper understanding of the structural, cultural, and intellectual challenges to education reform through the varying, and at times contradictory, perspectives of the researcher, practitioner and policymaker in the landscape of change;
     
  2. Plan a set of tangible outcomes rooted at the nexus of research, policy and practice of education; and
     
  3. Develop a network of partners who are committed to sustaining long-term engagement for the development of productive education research, informed practice, and effective policymaking in Pakistan and the region at large. 

The overarching theme for the Regional Roundtable was “Research, Policy and Practice: The Possibility of a Symbiotic Relationship for Education Reform in Pakistan”. The RRT served as a platform for a critical examination of established approaches and assumptions for the presentation of new knowledge and insights and their application in the field. The purpose was to generate discourse to understand and appreciate the symbiotic relationship between academia and the real world of policy and practice, thus repositioning, and indeed redefining, the norms of engagement across boundaries

Schedule

The Regional Roundtable (RRT) took place over 2 days, occurring one week apart.

Day 1: Saturday 10th December, in Lahore, at the LUMS campus

Day 2: Saturday 17th December, in Karachi, at the AKU-IED campus

 

 

Schedule for Day 1: Saturday 10th December, in Lahore

Time

Stream A

Stream B

09:00am- 09:15am

Regional Roundtable: An Introduction

09:15am- 10:30am

Session A1:

Reform in Student Learning Requires Reform in Methods of Assessment

– Dr. Razia Fakir (AKU-IED)

Session B1:

Assessing the Outcomes of Entrepreneurial Ventures in the Education Space

– Jazib Zahir (LUMS)

10:45am- 12:00pm

Session A2:

Assessment and Evaluation in Education: Students’ Learning Outcome and Classroom Quality

– Dr. Sadia Bhutta & Dr. Nusrat Fatima Rizvi (AKU-IED)

Session B2:

University Rankings: Exploring Quality and the Culture of Competition in Higher Educational Institutions in Pakistan

– Dr. Tania Saeed (LUMS)

12:00pm-12:30pm

TEA

12:30pm- 01:45pm

Session A3:

Right to and Right in Education: Equity Issues in and around Schooling

– Dr. Dilshad Ashraf (AKU-IED)

Session B3:

Education and the Labor Market: Where are the Women?

– Dr. Hadia Majid (LUMS)

01:45pm- 02:45pm

LUNCH

02:45pm- 04:00pm

Session A4:

Governance and Accountability

– Dr. Sajid Ali & Dr. Takbir Ali (AKU-IED)

Session B4:

Reimagining the Future with Design Education
–  Dr. Razia Sadik (PIFD)

04:05pm-05:20pm

Session A5:

Borrowing and Lending of the External Policies and Practices. Implications for Research and Policy Making in Pakistan and the Region

– Dr. Sarfaroz Niyozov & Dr. Mola Dad Shafa (AKU-IED)

Session B5:

Training Teachers to Motivate Students

– Aamna Khalid (LUMS)

05:30 pm- 06:45pm

Session Summaries and Closing Ceremony

 

Schedule for Day 2: Saturday 17th December, in Karachi

Time

Stream A

Stream B

09:00am- 09:15am

Regional Roundtable: An Introduction

09:15am- 10:30am

Session A1:

Reform in Student Learning Requires Reform in Methods of Assessment

– Dr. Razia Fakir (AKU-IED)

Session B1:

Assessing the Outcomes of Entrepreneurial Ventures in the Education Space

– Jazib Zahir (LUMS)

10:45am- 12:00pm

Session A2:

Assessment and Evaluation in Education: Students’ Learning Outcome and Classroom Quality

– Dr. Sadia Bhutta & Dr. Nusrat Fatima Rizvi (AKU-IED)

Session B2:

University Rankings: Exploring Quality and the Culture of Competition in Higher Educational Institutions in Pakistan

– Dr. Tania Saeed (LUMS)

12:00pm-12:30pm

TEA

12:30pm- 01:45pm

Session A3:

Right to and Right in Education: Equity Issues in and around Schooling

– Dr. Dilshad Ashraf (AKU-IED)

Session B3:

Education and the Labor Market: Where are the Women?

– Dr. Hadia Majid (LUMS)

01:45pm- 02:45pm

LUNCH

02:45pm- 04:00pm

Session A4:

Governance and Accountability

– Dr. Sajid Ali & Dr. Takbir Ali (AKU-IED)

Session B4:

Curriculum, Textbooks & Policy

– Dr. Mariam Chughtai & Dr. Faisal Bari (LUMS)

04:05pm-05:20pm

Session A5:

Borrowing and Lending of the External Policies and Practices. Implications for Research and Policy Making in Pakistan and the Region

– Dr. Sarfaroz Niyozov & Dr. Mola Dad Shafa (AKU-IED)

Session B5:

Reimagining the Future with Design Education
–  Dr. Razia Sadik (PIFD)

05:30 pm- 06:45pm

Session Summaries and Closing Ceremony

 

Session Summaries

 

  1.  Reform in Student Learning Requires Reform in Methods of Assessment

 

Faculty Lead

Dr. Razia Fakir Mohammad
Assistant Professor, AKU-IED

 

This session discussed the influence of assessment on the way students learn and understand themselves, and highlighted the necessity to broaden perspectives and practices related to educational assessment in the context of Pakistan. More specifically the questions addressed were:

  • What is learning and what is assessment?
     
  • What are the consequences (intended and/or unintended) of existing assessment practices?
     
  • Determine which assessment practices must be in place that would facilitate learning?
     
  • How to engage key stakeholders in a meaningful manner, creating explicit linkages between teaching, learning, curriculum and assessment?

Description: C:\Users\zoyah.asad\Documents\Regional RT\RRT PICS\Lhr Pics\2. Razia fakir\Dr, Razia Fakir.JPGThe participants acknowledged that the existing assessment practices (including classroom assessment and national examinations) encourage mainly rote learning instead of problem solving skills and fail to prepare students for the job market. The participants in Lahore agreed that knowledge based assessments fail to motivate students to reflect on and internalize their learning experiences, as mainly their performance and progression are gauged on the basis of examination/test results. Though there are schools that advocate assessment for learning, they too rely heavily on summative knowledge based assessments. Perhaps the status quo of examination culture has been nurtured in this way as a result of parental expectations, or a of lack of understanding of those who are involved in making policy for educational assessment.

There was general agreement that current assessment practices are stressful and cause fatigue in students because those who are able to memorize effectively are labeled “successful”. Whereas, those who are unable to do so are labeled otherwise and as a result suffer low self-esteem. Teachers are only being assessed on the basis of results produced by their students which incentivizes teachers to take a very grade-centric approach. There is a major constrain in understanding of the term “curriculum” and “assessment”; many teachers assume the textbook to be the “curriculum”, and “assessment” to be testing. This culture has led to the use of assessment for reporting rather than for analysis.

In the session in Karachi, it was discussed that private sector examination board is doing a good job of managing assessments and influencing teaching and learning policies. Conversely, a major problem identified with the public board is that the people responsible for assessment design have no interaction with teaching and learning taking place in the classrooms. Another issue identified is the division of staff within the organizational structure of the public board. 90% of the staff is administrative, while only 10% is academic. Conversely, 70% staff is academic in private boards while only 30% is administrative.

It was suggested that the public examination boards should be involved in fora of discussion as it is of utmost importance that examination boards relay information back to stakeholders. It is important to note that there was no representation from the public examination board, though they were invited to the RRT.

The way forward to moving from assessment of knowledge to assessment of skills and attitudes, is to carry out strategically coordinated efforts on several fronts. School systems need to work on creating a mechanism that ensures coherence in the entire learning process of the student through encouraging alternative assessment methods. Academia needs to work in collaboration with public boards, ensuring that high stake examinations should be designed to engage teaching and learning in the classroom. Longitudinal studies needs to be undertaken to understand child success rates in board examinations in relation to the parental aims. Achievements need to be traced back to the type of schooling and assessment practices. A system that tracks the trajectory of students and grades them according to rates of improvement over a period of schooling needs to be explored. Strategically planned efforts need to be made in building capacity for designing assessment at schools within examination boards also need to be implemented. Lastly, a dialogue on philosophy of education centered on issues such as defining learning standards, determining the meaning of assessment itself, assessing literacy programs for different stakeholders, researching alternative assessment methods and their impact, and diversification of assessment tasks needs to take place. This could be achieved by spearheading different collaborations between departments and organizations in the sector to bring in reforms.

 

 

  1. Assessing the Outcomes of Entrepreneurial Ventures in the Educational Space

 

Faculty Lead

Jazib Zahir
Adjunct faculty, Suleman Dawood School of Business, LUMS

 

Description: C:\Users\zoyah.asad\Documents\Regional RT\RRT PICS\Lhr Pics\3. Jazeb Zahir\jazeb.JPG The purpose of this discussion was to understand if those involved in entrepreneurial pursuits to develop new products and services related to education were making a tangible impact. The outcome was bringing together perspectives from the many actors in this space as inputs for future teaching and collaboration.

The Lahore discussion was kicked off by the representatives of Ilm Ideas fund which has recently invested in educational ventures on scale. They were keen to incentivize the private sector and discussed how a strong business sense and ability to control costs was a key factor in their investment decisions. We then heard from the entrepreneurs who had received the investment. The PITB representative spoke about the importance of figuring out whether your product was aimed at the student or teacher. The founder of Nearpeer stressed how his business model relied on identifying the most urgent market needs in education and tailoring content according to it. We then heard from people who were looking at corporate education and learned about the iterative approach they had been using to develop their product. We heard from more people in the public sector who talked about the challenges of making donors develop a long-term vision on measuring impact. From TCF, we heard about entrepreneurial approaches to school management in line with the charter school system. We also heard about private sector approaches involving bringing robotics and the maker movement to schools as well as about the range of education startups being incubated at Basecamp Peshawer.

The Karachi discussion started off with the overviews provided by individual private sector entrepreneurs who focused on the challenges of defining the product and market and getting the right contacts and technical skills to do business in the education sector. We heard the perspective of a company incubated at the Nest I/O incubator as well as that of Sabaq, a large-scale venture also benefiting from the support of Ilm Ideas. We got an overview of how an enterprise of the scale of Oxford University Press was attempting to engage with vendors to develop new interactive content. We heard from people who had set up universities and were pessimistic of trying to improve educational standards at that point in a student’s career. We also discussed the challenges of marketing any product which was not directly linked to existing curriculum and exam performance.

Overall, the discussions in both Lahore and Karachi reinforced the idea there were both private and public sector projects which were being conducted professionally and on scale. The success factors and challenges here were directly linked to professional management training suggesting that there is space for people with a management background to be more involved in the education sector. We also saw the benefits of having an education focus in incubators in terms of generating high growth products in this space. Potential synergies between content and delivery providers were identified among many participants who exchanged contact information.

The Lahore conference had a wider range of representation in the broad space of education entrepreneurship, particularly people interested in education in the corporate sector. Conflicts mostly arose between those who prioritized a short term or long term vision in deciding which products would make the most impact. The Karachi discussion was more focused given the smaller number of people but the main conflict arose between the optimism of the private sector entrepreneurs who were working in their niche areas versus those looking at the education sector in a more holistic manner and feeling pessimistic about endemic problems.

 

  1. Assessment and Evaluation in Education: Students’ Learning Outcomes and Classroom Quality

 

Faculty Leads

Dr. Sadia Bhutta
Assistant Professor and Head, Research and Policy Studies, AKU-IED


Dr. Nusrat Rizvi
Assistant Professor, AKU-IED


The session began with a snapshot of different Pakistani classrooms followed by a brief overview of a ‘good classroom’ from participants’ perspective. The group identified a ‘quality classroom’ as one where learning takes place through students’ engagement in meaningful tasks as well as interaction with teachers, peers and material. With this backdrop three questions were posed for open discussion including:

  • What role would contextually relevant indicators play in improving the quality of classroom practice?
     
  • Should common indicators be developed for the whole country? Why/why not?
     
  • What procedures and mechanisms (in terms of research, policy and practice) need to be in place in order to develop and streamline indicators to improve classroom practice across Pakistan? (discussed in terms of research, policy and practice)

Description: C:\Users\zoyah.asad\Documents\Regional RT\RRT PICS\Lhr Pics\4. sadia and nusrat\AO5A4230.JPGBoth episodes of discussion (Lahore and Karachi) brought to the surface a difference of opinion in terms of ‘whether we should have common indictors across the country’? Having said that, the intensity of differences varied across the context. Here is a synthesis of the argumentative discussion generated during the two sessions along with a suggested mechanism to develop and validate indicators. 

Indicators would help in establishing transparency, visibility and accountability in the educational system with a particular focus on classroom practice. Furthermore, these indictors would provide a guideline for teachers to assess their own practice and to know ‘where they are’ and ‘where they need to go’. It will also provide a common ‘language’ for evaluators and practitioners to assess classroom practice and make recommendations for further improvement. Once developed and validated, practitioners can also use the same indicators for self-assessment and improvement.

Participants also deliberated on arguments against having common indicators across the country. The common indicators will ‘encourage’ centralization of the educational system at the cost of contextual relevance. Furthermore, the set of indicators may also lead to rhetoric of ‘filling’ forms without necessarily paying attention to improvement of quality. The discussion also highlighted the lack of ‘performance based appraisal for public school teachers’ which may lead to strong resistance as the indicators will lead to performance based appraisal. Interestingly, with all these apprehensions the group (against indicators) was of the opinion that a combination of ‘generalized’ and ‘contextualized’ indicators may help to monitor and enhance quality.

There was considerable discussion on how indicators should be developed. All stakeholders (e.g. teachers, principals, the establishment) need to be engaged in the process of identifying and developing common indicators to enhance ownership and sustainable usage of the systems of indicators for improvement. It was commonly felt that without the involvement of the government as well as the private sector the exercise would not be fruitful. Furthermore, guidelines also needed to be agreed upon: ‘how will indicators be used’, ‘when’ and ‘by whom’? Reviewing the available standards of education within the national policy of the country was suggested as an initial part of this task.

There was a general consensus that what happens in the classroom is central to the educational context and hence the need for classroom reforms. In recent years, the agenda of professional development of teachers has gained momentum in the country; however, an investment in large scale classroom-based studies has a long way to go; yet it is an important undertaking to inform policy that is related to classroom reforms. Evidently, a pre-requisite for this practice-policy nexus is the development and validation of efficient and effective ways to monitor classroom practice. A system of quantitative and qualitative indicators both at macro (i.e. school) and micro (i.e. classroom) level would help to generate generalizable results with contextual information. The discussion seems to have generated interest in the audience to develop and validate indicators through developing an interest group of practitioners, researchers and policy makers. 

 

 

  1. University Rankings: Exploring Quality and the Culture of Competition in Higher Educational Institutes in Pakistan

 

Faculty Lead

Dr. Tania Saeed
Assistant Professor, Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS

 

This session examined the definition of quality, and ranking in higher educational institutions in Pakistan. More specifically the following questions were addressed:

  • What is the meaning of “quality” in HEIs and who defines it?
     
  • What role do market forces play in (re)defining quality education, especially in relation to the concept of “world class”?
     
  • How are ranking systems determining quality of HEIs in Pakistan and globally? Do we need a ranking system?
     
  • Should there be an alternative mechanism for measuring quality for universities in Pakistan, and if so, what should it be?

Description: C:\Users\zoyah.asad\Documents\Regional RT\RRT PICS\Lhr Pics\5. Tania Saeeed\IMG_4309.JPG

The participants in both sessions at Lahore and Karachi highlighted the limitations of the existing HEC ranking system, but also their willingness to engage with the HEC to improve the ranking system. There was a general agreement in both sessions that a system of measuring quality and success is needed especially in lieu of the number of private universities that have mushroomed across Pakistan. Accreditation in such instances is important, but the nature of this accreditation is problematic. The session in Karachi included participants who had set up their own universities and struggled with the HEC criteria that was imposing requirements that could only be fulfilled by universities with large endowments. The existing ranking system further compared universities that had large endowments against smaller universities that did not have the means to compete. The criteria for ranking was also a problem where universities were being pushed to set up their own academic journals to climb up the ranking ladder in instances where institutions did not have the resources to do so, and faculty was more inclined towards publishing in international high impact journals. The Karachi session in particular highlighted a distrust of the ranking system as it exists, accused of giving quantity of outputs more weight over quality of research.

 In terms of ranking metrics, both sessions in Lahore and Karachi highlighted the importance of assessing local impact that has been missing from the ranking system. This is especially true for Social Science subjects where local partnerships between academics, civil society members, policy makers etc. can have more meaningful society level results. It was observed that the metrics used for assessment are designed by individuals who lack disciplinary expertise, thereby negatively impacting quality, for e.g. the quality of practice based Arts education is determined using metrics designed for the Social Sciences presumably by individuals who lack any knowledge about Arts education; for a degree in Education another case exposed the problem of a top down ranking system, where a PhD program had to compromise on its internship component because it was deemed unnecessary by the HEC ranking system, thereby negatively impacting the quality of the PhD program. Universities further felt under pressure to comply to the HEC because of the politics of attestation, where the HEC can refuse to attest a degree by a private university if it does not meet the criteria of quality as defined by the HEC. Participants in the Karachi session in particular questioned the problematic role of a federal body in defining quality for private institutions, and instead suggested the need for an autonomous body, or a number of independent bodies that can create mechanisms to ensure quality of higher education in Pakistan. An example was given of the UK higher education system with different independent organizations providing information of university quality and ranking for potential students. The representative from Information Technology University (ITU) Lahore illustrated a ranking platform that is being developed by the ITU, with users given the option of deciding their variables to assess which university is of the highest quality. The sessions further questioned who the audience is for the ranking, where it was believed that the current format of the HEC ranking does not provide an unbiased view of quality in higher education to potential students. The student participant in the Karachi session who was originally from Peshawar voiced his concern about being misinformed about the top university through the HEC ranking system, which he realized after doing his own research. The student participant in and from Lahore did not trust the local ranking system and selected a private university based on its brand.

Both sessions concluded with the suggestion that the HEC should be approached with these problems. In particular, participants in both sessions suggested the need to set up a network of experts in different disciplines who can advise the HEC in refining their metrics for specific disciplines.


 

  1. Right to and Right in Education: Equity Issues in and around Schooling

 

Faculty Lead

Dr. Dilshad Ashraf
Associate Professor, AKU-IED

Description: C:\Users\zoyah.asad\Documents\Regional RT\RRT PICS\Lhr Pics\6. Dilshad\IMG_4392.JPGIn the center of both RRT sessions was the story of a girl who missed one whole school year apparently due to her widowed mother’s concerns over her bunking school to spend time at a friend’s home where she was found watching television. The mother felt this could taint her family honour and, hence, did not allow her daughter to attend school. Due to family’s economic needs, this girl worked with her mother as a domestic aide during this year-long absence from school. With reference to this story, the sessions aimed at developing deeper insights into the questions around girls’ (and boys’) rights to education by examining its perceived meaning in the broader social, cultural, political and economic context. In particular, the participants were invited to reflect on the emergence of rights in the constitutional context and its rootedness in our social structures.

The discussion in the sessions generated many questions for wider public discourse on girls’ enrolment, participation and retention in schools. The participants looked into the availability of frameworks of morale/ethics to locate this discourse on rights in the very complex social structures of our society; deliberating the question of “how and if the young (out of school) girls recognize and understand their rights and if the parents are convinced that education for their daughters has any value and if they consider it a right”. There was also a call for paying attention to and be critical of the paradoxes of our society which has multiple oppressive structures and sub-cultures with little or no value to human beings. There was a consensus that girls’ right to education could not be recognized in a context marred with the widespread serious human rights’ violation.

In the context of rights discourse, the participants in the Lahore dialogue felt a dire need to pay close attention to provincial/district and school level policies which were ambitious but were not implemented effectively. Reflection and critical analysis was proposed so to understand how these policies and practices recognized 25/A and the girl child’s right to education and how teachers and the head-teachers’ decision were reflective of their understanding of girls’ right to education.

The participants in both dialogues emphasized on beginning the rights discourse at the grassroots, which required making the communities aware of their constitutional rights. Better insights into the constitution and constitutional rights, according to the participants, would create an enabling environment for broad-based community mobilization ensuing public debate and discussion on constitutional stance on girls’ and boys’ fundamental right to education. Grassroots level advocacy is needed.

In the Lahore dialogue, poor quality schooling and the economic necessity were identified as two important factors guiding parents’ decisions of their daughters’ schooling. The participants debated if economic necessity overrides the value and need of sending children to school for their education as many parents would calculate return of education in monetary terms. It was, therefore, considered fundamental for the policy makers, provincial, district and local stakeholders including school leaders, teachers and parents to discuss and debate multiples views on the returns of education.  This discussion also highlighted the need of more encompassing multidimensional view on girls’ access and right to education as quality education in schools alone might not bring the most disadvantaged and hard to reach girls to schools. The participants emphasized over the need to examine how education interventions accompanied with strategies geared towards addressing families’ economic needs could yield desired results as generational poverty appeared to be the most important barrier for girls’ uninterrupted access to and participation in quality education.   

Educational governance, in general, and efficient oversight of gender equality related reforms, in particular, emerged as serious concerns in the discussions. The examined the systems in place to monitor girls’ regular attendance and participation in schools; monitoring the implementation of 25/A commitments certainly required systems to monitor girls’ regular attendance/participation at school and address cases of frequent and prolonged absence from schools. Questions arose around state's responsibility and what has been its response to the millions of out-of-school girls and boys. In Karachi, participants made a reference to reforms such as girls’ stipend programme which due to inefficient governance might not have reached to the most deserving. A critical review of state’s commitment towards equitable access to education in the context of complex and politically challenged governance system was deemed appropriate to explore possibilities of gender equitable, right-based and depoliticized education.

The experience of this young girl also warranted reflection on ability of formal and structured model of education to recognise unique circumstances of young girls and boys whose socio-economic conditions and cultural norms hinder access to education. Community-based alternate education models and systems could fulfil educational needs of the children living in the margins.

Participants in both sessions recommended a reflection on presence of successful and equitable education systems/models in the country and in region. In Karachi, the chief executive officers of The Citizen Foundation (TCF) and Aga Khan Education Services, Pakistan (AKESP) presented long history of successful interventions towards gender equity in education. Both organizations considered socio-economic and cultural sensitivities while developing its policies and practices of schooling with a long-term vision to improve girls’ position in their communities. Diverse measures by TCF and AKESP included policy on more girls to boys ratio, location of the school within the mohalla, ensuring safe and secure environment within the school boundary, freeship for siblings with enrolment of a girl child, and deployment of female teachers. It was suggested that community-centered initiatives of these organizations should be thoroughly examined. Public private partnership could allow replicating successful policy and practices such as above in more disadvantaged and hard to reach communities. There was consensus about community’s role in educational governance and community-centered approach to educational reforms. The reforms needed to be community oriented with an explicit aim to transform cultural barriers in girls’ access to schooling.

The dialogues have identified a number of researchable topics around rights approach to girls’ education including a study on “what works and why” to examine how different successful local and regional models (community-centred or community-led) have successfully catered for girls’ educational needs within their own communities. Another study was recommended to examine how the state levels the field for creative, innovative and unique education models which can address issues of access access. The participants also suggested a study to explore how relationship between communities’ views of returns of education and families’ economic needs shape girls’ opportunities for education. 

A way forward for policy included a critical reflection on what works, what has not worked, and how we could move toward better policy.  Two dimensions for future policy discussions included, a) what economic or non-education incentives were needed, and b) what was the positionality of parents on education and how their position can be improved.

Collaboration of state and non-state actors such as philanthropists (corporate sector) was deemed appropriate for serious undertaking of educational innovation around school management committee and other community platforms.

Finally, the dialogues recommended a need to mobilize public and civil society actors for creating an environment for rights discourse at the grassroots- this would require making the constitution and explanation of rights accessible for wider public through translation of relevant sections in Urdu and other local languages.

 

  1. Education and the Labor Market: Where are the Women?

 

Faculty Lead

Dr. Hadia Majid
Assistant Professor, Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS

Co-leads

Syeda Warda Riaz, Graduate Student, LUMS
Fatima Bilquis, Graduate Student, LUMS


The purpose of this discussion was to consider why there are such few women in Pakistan’s labor market, particularly highly educated ones. The discussion also explored what steps can be taken to increase women’s participation rate in the labor force. The following questions were addressed:

  • Why aren’t more women working?
     
  • What is the role of curriculum in presenting ‘role models’ for women and the role of curriculum and teachers perpetuating gender stereotypes?
     
  • How accurate are the statistics on female labor force participation? Is there an underreporting of the large number of home based female workers?

 

Description: C:\Users\zoyah.asad\Documents\Regional RT\RRT PICS\Lhr Pics\7. Hadia\IMG_4450.JPGThe session began with a discussion on current statistics of female labor force participation. The average female labor force participation for women in Pakistan for the last 25 years has been 17%, 75% of these women have no formal education. Only 32% of women with tertiary education are participating in the labor force. This leads us to question why the educated class of women is not participating in the labor force.

Participants discussed the reasons behind such low rates of female participation. The low rate of participation can be attributed to a lack of employment opportunities for women, workplace harassment, lack of access to public space specifically public transport, influence of conservative society and the role of school curricula on perpetuating gender stereotypes.

 The discussion examined what exactly are the job opportunities for women, specifically focusing on the discrimination in the labor market. A participant in Lahore pointed out that professions such as teaching are considered “acceptable” for a woman but not so much for a man. The influence of gender discrimination and of conservative society has effectively barred women from increasing the number of “acceptable” roles they can take on. Participants in Karachi also examined the opportunity cost of work. One participant highlighted that nearly 50% of doctors produced in Pakistan are female. However, the actual number of female doctors in the public space is very small due to the “doctor bride” phenomenon, emphasizing the point that women are unable to work long hours and remain out of the home as they are the primary care givers in the household. The discussion also examined the workplace environment, where participants agreed on workplace harassment being the primary reason why women do not leave their homes to take part in the labor market. The fear of harassment and one’s safety while using public transport or occupying public space bars the entry of women to the labor force even further. Additionally, the lack of maternity and paternity leaves and day care facilities causes the opportunity cost for working to rise which greatly effects a woman’s decision to participate in the labor force.

There was general agreement in both Lahore and Karachi that school curriculum has played a very important role in conditioning both men and women to view women in only certain roles and occupations. A participant in Lahore pointed out that illustrated books for children depict all professions, with the exception of teachers and nurses, to be secured by men. Curriculum in public schools particularly have a lack of historical female heroes. As a result, a vacuum for role models that women could look up to has been created perpetuating the notion that there is no space for women in Pakistan’s labor force. Aside from curricula, there are very few men taking on the role of primary school teachers in Pakistan’s labor force, reinforcing the stereotype in the minds of children that teaching is a female profession.

Participants discussed certain steps that should be taken to increase women’s participation in the labor force. While there has been heavy public funding in Punjab to recruit women into the work force, very little is being done in terms of framing policy to ensure female work force retention and promotion. Participants agreed that women mentoring women should be encouraged as counseling at earlier stages in women’s academic or working careers can prepare women better for the labor force. Institutional/organizational support at a policy level for zero tolerance for harassment policies, day care facilities, maternity and paternity leave and safe transport facilities are necessary to ensure the retention of women in the work force. The question of what the role of the government should be arose, since implementing these policies is financially a costly endeavor.

It was also concluded that the definition of “productive work” needs to be reevaluated as there is a large number of invisible women- home based workers and workers employed in online ventures- that are underreported, making the statistical representation of women in the labor force inaccurate. More data needs to be collected on the informal economy to paint a clearer picture of how many women are engaged in the labor force.

 

 

  1. Governance and Accountability

 

Faculty Leads

Dr. Sajid Ali
Associate Professor, Head, Graduate Programmes and Coordinator, Doctoral Programmes, AKU-IED

Dr. Takbir Ali
Assistant Professor, AKU-IED

Description: C:\Users\zoyah.asad\Documents\Regional RT\RRT PICS\Lhr Pics\8. Sajid ali and Takbir Ali\IMG_4670.JPGBoth at Lahore and Karachi the session began with a brief overview of the theme by the presenters. Dr. Sajid Ali stressed upon the need for understanding the notion of ‘governance’ as process rather than merely as structures. He further mentioned that governance is usually seen in a narrow sense; there is a need to examine governance from a process point of view. Accountability, as a pillar of good governance, is about making public service providers answerable to the public about their performance. Dr. Takbir Ali shared a brief summary of the findings of a quasi-ethnographic study conducted about governance in and around schooling. He highlighted that in education governance informal structures play more important role than formal structures.  Decision-making in educational governance is mainly controlled by four distinct power bases. There is a complex nexus between and among these power bases. One of the conclusions reached is that the child – who should be the most important beneficiary of education system - is invisible from education system. There is a need to bring the child to the center of education system and all governance structures and processes should be developed around it.  

 

Discussions were guided by the following two major questions posed by the presenters:

  1. What are the issues related to governance?
  2. How these issues affect the education sector at large?

The participants began by examining a snapshot of different Pakistani classrooms. They tried to problematize the concept of ‘governance’ and highlighted how quality of education in public sector is tied with good governance and strong accountability.  The discussion both in Lahore and Karachi brought to the surface a number of issues, a brief summary of the discussions is as follows:

  • Educational governance is a system of administration & management of education in the country. The governance includes allocation and utilization of funds, demonstration of transparency in decision making, and continuous efforts for maintaining quality. Governance includes structures (hierarchies, markets, networks and communities), processes (how policies are made, how strategies are developed and implemented?) and accountability (ways to utilize public funds, transparency in decision making, assuring achievement of quality outcomes). There was a discussion around simplicity of this definition that separates structures and processes, however, both in reality seem to be intricately connected.
     
  • Poor governance is considered as the major issue in education sector, perhaps, it is an over diagnosed issue. A case of STEP project was shared which started from 2008 and ended in 2016. The project aimed at improving the school system around Sindh, Gilgit Baltistan and Baluchistan.13 schools were selected through purposive sampling – where diversity with respect to gender, ethnicity and urban and rural context were kept into consideration. Findings of the study revealed that decision making in the government sector is largely done by four ‘power-bases’ i.e. bureaucratic structure (from Ministry of Education to head-teacher), community elites (and their areas of priority and interest), international donor agencies and the School Management Committee. Findings reveal that there is a trust deficit between bureaucrats and community leadership which many a time triggers governance related issues and make stakeholders play tug-of-war for the power of making decisions. The decisions are made mainly on the basis of personal preferences rather than considering what is beneficial for the school itself. Consequently, students’ enrollment registers have duplications and mistakes, absenteeism and dropouts increase, illegal appointments/transfers are made, and individual accountability is compromised.
     
  • Disappointment from public education sector was shared. The vicious circle of poor governance in public education sector, where blame game is continued (teachers blame school management, school management blames community elites, community elites blame bureaucratic structure and so on) was identified as the main reason why the public education sector remains in despair. Questions were raised i.e. who should be given power to decide what? Whose ‘say’ matters the most in decision making? What role should parents, students and teachers play in decision making?
     
  • However, a few participants in Lahore highlighted that there is a hope in education, and provided the following examples, to support their argument:
     
  1. Small scale success stories: for example ‘adopt a school program’ was a philanthropic program that achieved its outcomes at certain places and was successful in bringing about a small positive change in public sector education.
  2. Media and judiciary taking serious note of education related matters and becoming vibrantly involved in education, can also be seen as a positive development that occurred over the years. Campaigns such as the Zara Sochiye campaign and others organized by Alif Ailaan for example have drawn public attention to the quality of education in public schools.
  3. The influence and power of community elites to bring about positive change in the school has brought forward positive outcomes in some government schools.
  4. Continuous updating of data of teachers and students through government agencies using biometric system has made it possible to detect ghost teachers, trace duplications in enrollments and so forth.
  5. Donor agencies are now collaborating with each other, to bring a synergized and sustained effect, rather than working in their own silos.
     
  • Since the discussions were focused on government schools, one member shared that when talking about governance of education, the private sector should be included as well. As both public and private institutions are delivering education in Pakistan, governance of education should aim at attaining quality of education in both the sectors and building upon the partnerships between the two, rather than excluding private sector completely.
     
  • In the Karachi discussion, the research questions and method used by the governance study was critiqued for being ‘typical’ research which brings forward the ‘same-old’ problems that are now part of common knowledge and highlighted time and again in media. The case was made for alternative ways of doing research that bring forth new insights pertaining to problems of governance on the basis of which solutions can be designed. Examples include:
     
  1. Why the same students are enrolled in three different schools? How can we curb the duplication in records?
  2. Why is the clerk more powerful than the head-teacher in a government school setting? What are the hidden-factors that bestow high power to low-rank staff? How do head-teachers balances the power to take decisions?
  3. How do public institutions learn to carry out corruption?
  4. What is the purpose of education for different stakeholders? Is there any dissonance between the purposes that they delineate? If so, why?
  5. Is the purpose of education aligned with our curricula, textbooks, teaching and learning mechanisms in classroom? How is it different in private schools and public schools? Why?

Definition of governance may include the decision making processes, bureaucratic structures and their interrelationships. “Governance” needs to be redefined to include the governance of the whole education system including public and private. A different and perhaps a new framework for looking at the issues of governance, to unearth the things that we do not know, perhaps a focus on informal structures and processes rather than formal could be a way forward in understanding governance issues in Pakistan. Research that brings forth new and important knowledge about cultural realities and contextual intricacies can then inform policies and practices that can show ways to improve governance and decision making in public and private school education. There is a need to devise and test strategies that bring improvement in resolving governance issues at a smaller scale and find ways to scale up successful strategies. The implications were discussed in terms of: creating a new narrative for education in Pakistan; ensuring that the children who are in school are not ‘out of education’. Educational structures and institutions need to bring children from the periphery to the center of educational decision making process. The performance of any education system depends on accountability; the concept of accountability is quite weak, especially self-accountability. Accountability needs to be strengthened for effective governance in education.

 

  1. Curriculum, Textbooks and Policy

 

Faculty Lead

Dr. Mariam Chughtai
Country Director Pakistan, Harvard South Asia Institute, Associate Director School of Education Project, LUMS, Post-Doctoral Fellow, LUMS

Description: C:\Users\zoyah.asad\Documents\Regional RT\RRT PICS\Karachi Pics\11.  Mariam Chughtai\171216(150).JPG The purpose of this discussion was to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and constraints faced by the various stakeholders engaged in the complex ecosystem of processes of textbook writing, publishing and distribution. This discussion also examined the larger debates in curriculum and textbook policy, examining the debate on the privatization of textbook writing and publishing processes in particular.

Participants began by giving a snapshot of the current landscape of curriculum and textbook policy, deliberating the question of why are there different textbooks in the private and public sectors. Representatives from Oxford University Press (OUP) shared their perspective. Government schools make use of textbooks published by provincial boards. However, in the recent past it was determined that many of these textbooks were not relevant to the context of Pakistan. OUP began a review of textbooks, starting with grade 1 science books and continued to review textbooks up till the grade 8. However, the lead role for reviewing textbooks for grades 9 and 10 was given to the local textbook boards. As a result, the process of textbook review has not been a coordinated and holistic one. A participant also pointed out that the process of textbook review and publishing is a product of different governments, emphasizing the point of a lack of holistic efforts. It was also discussed that the stakes of elite schools have no involvement here as children belonging to those schools are not reading textbooks published by provincial boards.

Participants highlighted several issues during the discussion. There was an attempt to include global perspectives in textbooks, however this attempt did not translate into a reality. Participants highlighted the portrayal of women restricted to only domestic scenarios as an example. Attempts of portraying women in a progressive light is limited to women leaving the house primarily to fulfill domestic needs like purchasing groceries. There was general agreement that, as a result of a lack of including global perspectives, our textbooks are failing to challenge children to ask questions, come up with varying perspectives and become problem solvers. The discussion deliberated questions such as is there a need of any prescribed knowledge? How is knowledge selected to be included in textbooks? Participants also discussed the issue of how content for textbooks is selected i.e. what knowledge is deemed necessary and who should make these decisions? Do teachers have the space to bring about changes in textbooks?

The teacher’s perspective was brought in where participants agreed that the textbook is an important tool in the hands of the teacher. As a result, the question of teachers themselves being including in the process of writing textbooks arose. There was a general agreement that there exists a nexus of teaching, textbooks and instruction. Participants also discussed the debate of the textbook becoming the end in itself for teachers i.e. teachers are completely reliant on the textbook to disseminate knowledge, not going beyond the textbook in the classroom raising the question of why teachers have become so textbook reliant? The point that a good teacher can do a lot for students even while using a poor textbook was made.

In conclusion, it was agreed that a thorough review is required to reevaluate the processes by which textbooks are written. It was emphasized that enough time, and coordinated efforts are essential to an effective review of these processes. It was also concluded that the researcher’s perspective should be involved in the domain of practice in order to have a more inclusive form of education.


 

  1. Training Teachers to Motivate Students

 

Faculty Lead

Aamna Khalid
Assistant Professor, Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences

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The aim of this session was to examine why teachers are unable to intrinsically motivate their students and inculcate in them the love of learning. The outcome of the session was clearly defined at the beginning i.e. a teacher training workshop related to the said area. The discussion participants ranged from teachers, trainers and curriculum developers to school administrators and directors. Thus, we were able to highlight different perspectives on the issue.

A clear-cut conclusion was derived from the entire discussion – student motivation cannot be separated from teacher motivation. If we want teachers to intrinsically motivate their students then the teachers themselves need to be motivated to love what they do, to be passionate about their subject areas and to show their students this passion and enthusiasm for learning. This conclusion was based on the premise that motivation is infectious. Work on enhancing teacher motivation and then watch these teachers successfully use strategies to motivate their students.

The discussion was centered on the fact that to motivate students, teachers need to go the extra mile in their classrooms, and only intrinsically motivated teachers are able to effectively use student motivational strategies that promote learning for the sake of learning. To this effect the participants listed the following strategies that teachers should use:

  • rewarding and praising the learning process and effort rather than the end product and ability
  • focusing feedback on the learning behavior and not on the person
  • minimizing public evaluations, social comparisons, and competition
  • promoting learning / mastery goals and collaborative learning
  • treating errors as an important stage of learning
  • providing students autonomy and control over tasks, goals and learning strategies
  • linking tasks to student interests
  • clarifying the purpose of tasks and their real-world significance

To take this issue further, the discussion focused on the commercialization of education and the detrimental effects of a grade-centric education policy, where teachers are focused on only churning out A-grade students by promoting rote-learning and the use of test-taking strategies. The love for learning doesn’t go well with this culture of education as a commercial venture.

Thus, if we are to work on intrinsically motivating our students then we need to develop teacher training programs that target teacher motivation and train teachers to value learning, be passionate in the classroom, be willing to making learning enjoyable and meaningful, and to be well-versed in TQM (time quality management). These programs / workshops should target a shift away from authoritarian leadership and move towards empathy. Empathy in terms of catering to different student backgrounds, intellectual levels, needs, learning styles and strategies, and awareness of learning disabilities. Thus, we need to work on teacher attitudes about the real meaning of ‘transfer of knowledge’ where teachers aim to create an environment that leads to the development of intrinsic motivation and a love for learning. Hence, a training workshop that focuses on effective strategies for motivating students must first include a component on developing autonomous, mastery-oriented, enthusiastic teachers who are themselves intrinsically motivated and love to teach. Because, motivated teachers lead to motivated students.
 

  1. Borrowing and Lending of the External Policies and Practices. Implications for Research and Policy Making in Pakistan and the Region

 

Faculty Leads

Dr. Sarfaroz Niyozov
Associate Professor, Director AKU-IED

Dr. Mola Dad Shafa
Associate Professor, Head, Professional Development Centers North and Chitral, AKU-IED

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The two dialogue workshops conducted on this topic indicate that the question of borrowing and lending of external policies and practices was of a considerable interest to the audience, which in this case, the academia and policymakers. It is of interest because the topic speaks to an array of scholarly discourses and political-economic debates about larger themes of colonialism, colonized mindset and body as well as post-colonial mental, material, economic and cultural dependencies. Expressions such as donor’s agenda, bureaucrats’ short-term artificial solutions and political gains and imposition were indications of the awareness.  

Description: C:\Users\zoyah.asad\Documents\Regional RT\RRT PICS\Lhr Pics\10. sarfaroz moladad\IMG_4859.JPGThe discussions in both places (Lahore and Karachi) also showed that the participants were aware of the complexity of the issue of borrowing external policies and practices. There was no uniform view about the nature and meaning of global best practices, who decides these as best practices, why Pakistan should borrow, how it should borrow ideas and what are the implications of such borrowing. While the participants critiqued borrowing and lending, they also critiqued self for doing so, mindlessly and uncritically and proposed intelligent borrowing. The participants were also cognizant that the so-called ‘global best practices’ comprise of mix bag of items some are good and others not so good. The participants showed considerable self-criticality and reflexivity in explaining the success of borrowed policies. Critique of one’s cultural mores and habits such as throwing garbage, in spite of availability of garbage bins was an example.

The participants listed a number of educational policies such as EMO, PPP, to dissect the politics, economics, culture of borrowing and lending as well as raise deeper questions about local capacities and skills in developing local ideas and policies. The following key insights came out from the two rounds of discussion:

  • There is a need for academics’ and intellectuals’ engagement with both external and local practices;
  • More research into this area, more forums and spaces are needed to allow for such critical and self-critical engagements;
  •  External policies and practices are contested as social constructs; they can be reshaped to serve different agendas and purposes. This insight raises a deep question about whether a discourse formulated as “borrowing and lending”, and dissecting ideas into western and non-western is a correct one. Will not that erroneously lead us to assuming that everything indigenous and local is good and everything global is bad? Is it not better to develop a methodology to evaluate these policies and agendas’ (both local and global) purpose, ethics, and implications;
  • While concepts and approaches such as localization and hybridization are important as part of intelligent borrowing, it is critical to question what do this contextualization and localization aim at and lead to;
  • There is a need to generate local practices and policies: grounded in the local realities, aim to improve the educational situation from within, and are grounded in local languages and traditions. It is not possible, however, to develop such policies and practices by ignoring the global ones. In any case, critical approach needs to be applied to local practices and traditions to make them relevant and meaningful. Such an approach implies a synthesis approach, whereby local and global are interrogated and new model is produced.
  • In any case, the topic of borrowing and lending seems to have resonated with the audience and generated deep interest.  Further research needs to engage areas such as:

1.       How are education policies developed and made in Pakistan and region?

2.       What are the potentials for developing locally-grounded education policies?

3.       What are the processes and methods involved in developing such policies?
 

  1. Reimagining the Future with Design Education

 

Faculty Lead

Dr. Razia Sadik
Assistant Professor, Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design (PIFD)

Description: C:\Users\zoyah.asad\Documents\Regional RT\RRT PICS\Lhr Pics\9. Razia Sadik\IMG_4599.JPGThe discussion addressed the communication gap between the industry and academia, and how it needs to be addressed through various inputs into relationship building. It was established that academia has the responsibility to educate the industry. This could be achieved through a sustainable and goal oriented series of conferences and discussion forums such as policy dialogues. Policy stakeholders, HEIs, international partners, and the HEC need to work together to develop a support structure for this dialogue. A national council of design that serves as a standardization body should be formed.

Industry-academia linkages can also be established through a variety of ongoing events such as exhibitions, conferences, the formation of national and local centers of design, co-creation of projects in design labs collaboratively set up and managed by academia and industry, employment and internship quotas for students and the engagement of faculty as consultants for the industry.

Design education and industrial partnerships need to work together towards raising the bar to create markets, rather than only catering to existing ones, by producing better design outcomes that address locally as well as globally relevant industry standards, industrial ethics, as well as aesthetics.

Participants agreed that design should be considered as a field in its own right, and design pedagogy needs to be offered as separate from art pedagogy, as it design is a vast field and with very different contexts and end goals than art. There need to be more universities dedicated to teaching design specifically. Design pedagogy needs to become more inclusive of problem-solving and design thinking. Teaching methodologies need to change drastically. There was general consensus that an institute of design pedagogy that can provide a national platform for design educators is needed, as there are simply not enough good design educators around.

Participants agreed that curricula need complete revision. A paradigm shift is needed to make design education more interdisciplinary. For instance, design education should embrace subjects like anthropology, sociology, ethnology, and the sciences. Design should also be integrated into other subjects. Participants in both Lahore and Karachi agreed that art and design should be taught from the early years. Therefore the K-12 curriculum should also integrate an understanding of design to some extent.

Participants acknowledged that the skills for 21st century design practice are currently missing from Pakistani society as well as the majority of design programs in higher education. Skills are different from competencies, and they should be offered in various formats, including as well as outside the university. There should be an option for diplomas for those who either don't have time or access to higher education that leads to degree programs. For example, there is a large population of highly skilled technicians who have learned mainly in informal learning situations. While their skill levels are extremely high, they might not have the competency to undertake a degree program. Currently, there is no support for lower degrees for such students at the higher education policy level, as it is not flexible enough to accommodate people with varied learning capabilities or difficult occupational commitments that prevent them from enrolling in degree programs. An example would be certificate programs in design technology which also offer credit mobility, so that students taking these courses still have the option of completing a degree program with a flexible timeline, if they wish.

On the other hand, it was also emphasized that the degree award in the field should, in fact, be considered as the standard to sustain the integrity of various design disciplines. It was suggested that many of the problems in the industry are because curricula that are being taught in HEIs are based on a reproduction model. They lack the sense of innovation and creativity relevant to the 21st century. Methods of learning, as well as newer subject areas that are relevant for design today, are missing from the majority of curricula. Design programs are geared more towards generating profits (through student enrolment) and income generation through graduates who might fit cookie cutter industry placements and roles. The contribution of design curricula in HEI’s to the industry has therefore become stagnant.

Research in design education is needed on a variety of issues and aspects of the field. First and foremost the local context of design education in HEIs needs to be documented. Research is needed on what’s being taught, who is being taught, who are the faculty, and what industries are being served. There needs to be collaboration between educational research and design educators to produce local research, which in turn should be used to develop local policies in higher education in design, rather than something adopted from abroad. Furthermore, research about the field of design should be more accessible to society so that they understand the crucial need for design disciplines to be developed.



Regional Roundtable on Education Outcomes

Two Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have been seeded using the platform provided by the Regional Roundtable on Education. These SIGs are currently in the development phase.

  1. Women in the Labor Force

    Faculty lead: Dr. Hadia Majid, Assistant Professor, Mushatq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS

The primary objectives of this SIG will be to:

  1. Track the intersection of women's educational achievement and their labor force participation (LFP). Here, we look at not just quantity but also the quality of educational attainment, and consider how women's LFP at both the extensive and intensive margins varies with different metrics of education;
  2. Consider the economic, social, cultural and, political factors that influence both the intersection of the education and labor markets for women. In this regard then, our purpose is to look into the institutional mechanisms affecting women's LFP and educational attainment and;
  3. Look into policy affects through communication with relevant government departments such as the women's development department by engaging with policymakers.
  4. Higher Education

    Faculty lead: Dr. Tania Saeed, Assistant Professor, Mushatq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS

    The Higher Education SIG promotes research on exploring issues of education quality in universities across Pakistan. Dr. Saeed’s on-going research examines the purpose of a university in Pakistan today. How is quality education defined within the university, by external and internal bodies? What is the role of local and international university rankings and the drive towards a “world class” university in defining quality? And most importantly, how do students/parents and the market intersect within the university? The goal is to promote greater debate on Higher Education quality and development amongst academics, researchers and policy makers in Pakistan and around the world.