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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

ICT, the new hope for Pakistan’s education system - The Nation

Nelson Mandela called education “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” There can be no question that Pakistan today is in dire need of change; and that need for change lies in our educational system. In order to achieve equity in education, excellent learning and teaching, professional development of teaching staff and an efficient education system, it is essential that we find ways to incorporate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into our teaching methodologies and classrooms.

We have already seen evidence of this taking place abroad — the Khan Academy is one example that has made a global name for itself. What this has demonstrated is that as times — and students — evolve, teachers and teaching methods need to evolve too. This means augmenting or in some cases completely stepping away from conventional teaching methods. One organisation that has taken great strides towards integrating ICT in the classroom is United We Reach (UWR), a US-based non-profit organisation whose approach is to promote critical thinking, direct engagement of students, and collaboration in order to diminish rote learning.

As it stands today, the Pakistan education system suffers from inequality in educational outcomes on a massive scale. There are significant variations in the quality of education provided from one child to the next. This is the pervasive issue of a lack of equity literacy. To combat this challenge, UWR combines cutting-edge technology with modern pedagogy, thereby providing an effective and scalable method of providing quality education. The organization provides scripted lessons to teachers through a tablet-based delivery system, allowing them to ensure that every lesson in every UWR-affiliated school is taught exactly the same. This ensures that all students are given an equal opportunity for success. Furthermore, the pedagogical techniques utilised in these scripts cater to the needs of multiple learning styles, so that each child’s needs are addressed. UWR’s technology- based delivery system also allows the organisation to reach hundreds of thousands of schools with ease.

Tablet-based teaching is ground breaking not only because it lends itself to scalability, but also because it allows close supervision of each teacher in each UWR-affiliated school. Data analytics allow UWR to monitor lesson progress, teacher attendance, and student attendance, learning and progress continuously. In order to capitalise on the advantage technology can provide in an educational setting, UWR also provides each school with a digital lab, fitted with tablets for student use. Students visit the digital lab once a week to complete assessments that test their understanding of concepts taught over the previous week. Based on these assessment results, the students are immediately provided with educational games targeted to address the gaps in their understanding. Thus each child receives individualised concept review for the areas in which they are struggling.

UWR also gathers, collates and curates data through its digital labs installed in each school to use Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence to prescribe and administer educational interventions in each and every child to ensure ‘no child left behind’ in terms of measurable educational outcomes. It is a sophisticated comprehensive Big Data solution centered on Artificial & Augmented Intelligence

(Al) based predictive analytics. All software development, data analytics and Al work is being carried out in-house at UWR’s Lahore headquarters.

The programme endeavors to measurably promote educational equality through equity literacy. The curriculum is structured on the core of the Punjab curriculum augmented with pedagogics of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). As such UWR adds Digital Labs, Science Rooms, and Art Rooms to all its schools. UWR promotes comprehension-based learning and embeds entrepreneurship education Pre-K through 12th in an endeavor to create a new generation of empowered students who will be job creators and not job seekers.

With changing times, teachers and educators too need to change. Innovation is compulsory in every area of life for which technology plays a vital role. In today’s world we see that if an individual is computer illiterate he or she cannot progress in life. Teaching is considered to be a skill, and to polish this art, we need pioneering techniques. Information Communication Technologies are currently at the forefront of new inventions, and can provide a hotbed of new ideas for teachers to be more productive. While Pakistan is still working on implementing such new ideas, UWR has taken the steps necessary to entirely change the educational system taking it to a whole new and advanced level in the few places where it is being implemented.

Of course, there are challenges. Universities and high schools have long ago been acquainted with modern I teaching techniques, but it has been extremely difficult to get traditional teaching methods out of early and middle year schools, especially government institutions which often lack the budgets or requisite tools to implement modern, computer literacy. However, if there is a will to implement change, then change becomes a precursor for revolution; and Pakistan’s education system today is in need of precisely that kind of change.

The whole point of densifying the pool of knowledge is to transform information into socially beneficial knowledge, skills, and values, to modernise society, improving the standards of living and prepare a knowledgeable and skilled workforce. ICT has not only influenced our educational system, but has also greatly impacted our lives in terms of socialising and learning. Our new generation is better equipped with using technology in a more productive way. Giving them easier access to technology within the classroom will result in a paradigm shift, unleashing their hidden talents, initially limited to unexposed minds, textbooks and classrooms.

ROHOMA RIAZ,

December 22.



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