Pakistan Needs to Promote “Lifelong” Learning Systems at Every Level: Experts

Experts addressing the third annual Principals’ Conference, organised by Aga Khan University Examination Board, in coordination with Oxford University Press, emphasised the importance of Lifelong Learning systems to equip students not only with valuable tools for personal development, but also represent a holistic approach that affects educators, parents and entire communities.

Dr Shehzad Jeeva, Director Aga Khan University Examination Board in his presentation said students in the country are facing an increasingly globalised world that places a heavy emphasis on a knowledge-based economy and multidisciplinary skills.

“The challenge for educational institutions in Pakistan, therefore, is to inculcate a sense of intellectual curiosity and a passion for learning that goes beyond formal academic years within their students,” he said reiterating that it is not only students who need to evolve into lifelong learners – this was a pertinent need for all of us and therefore requires system level changes in education for teachers, parents, principals’ and communities to develop into enduring pupils.

Former chair of the European Council of International Schools’ English as a Second Language & Mother-tongue Committee, Eithine Gallagher, in her keynote address titled “‘Is Inspirational Pedagogy the Key to Preparing Children for Lifelong Learning” highlighted the importance of maintaining a balance between mediums of instruction and mother languages.

“You can not turn off what you already know, and children will learn a lot more if they are not forced to turn-off their home tongues,” she said mentioning that when we tell children to think only in English or Urdu.”It doesn’t make any sense because we think in all languages,” she said.

Short, inspiring, TED-style talks titled “Educators as Change Agents” were delivered by Aamna Pasha, Associate Director of Teacher Development at AKU-EB; Karachi Institute of Technology and Entrepreneurship founder, Afaque Riaz Ahmed and Kiran Foundation’s director, Sabina Khatri.

Ms. Khatri said mental and emotional health practices in the world of education were probably the most overlooked and yet the most integral components in transforming our society.

Ms Pasha’s talk focused on the importance of studying humanities for societal development with focus on the fact that problems are never one-dimensional – they are always multifaceted. “They require academicians from multiple disciplines to come together to address them,” she said emphasizing that this is exactly what Pakistan needs.

There was also a panel discussion titled, “Education for all – Vision 2030”, with leaders in Pakistani education including: Baela Raza Jamil, Abbas Rashid and Irfan Muzaffar discussing methods for inclusivity, quality education and lifelong learning in a local context.

The role of the private sector in driving education for all, the pros and cons of technology as a cost effective means to expand access to quality education, and the role of language in education, particularly English as a medium of instruction also came under discussion during the day long moot.

Ameena Saiyid, Managing Director, Oxford University Press Pakistan in the closing remarks said the quantum and quality of education affects all aspects of human life – employment possibilities, economic performance, quality of life, social relationships, quality of thought, even the value of leisure.

“It is central to the single most important sector of societal activity, on which so much else hinges,” she said.
Ms. Saiyid appreciated AKU-EB’s contribution to education in Pakistan saying that it is significant as it affects every part of society in Pakistan. The conference, attended by over 360 principals from all over the
country brought together a diverse group of schooling leaders on a single platform and showcased original classroom research.

Thirty one abstracts were also presented on issues such as formative assessment in primary schools, case studies of educational institutions serving impoverished communities and the role of inquiry as a dynamic teaching learning approach.