400 educators gathered at the Principals’ Conference to deliberate on improving the quality of education and assessment in Pakistan
Aga Khan University Examination Board (AKU-EB) in partnership with the Oxford University Press (OUP) hosted the first ever Principals’ Conference. The conference sessions enabled educators to think critically about how they can inspire energy, excitement and enthusiasm for learning among students.
The speakers stressed on the need for reconceptualisation of assessment and encouraged the education leaders to move beyond the narrow understanding of assessment as a test of rote-memorisation. Dr Naveed Yousuf, Associate Director, Assessment, AKU-EB, during his session on ‘Principles of Assessment - A Leaders' Perspective’ raised several important questions such as “What is the vision and mission of our institutions? What is the vision for education at a national level? What do we as leaders want to achieve? What is our dream for education?” He added that, “objectivity is to reduce the examiner’s bias by developing the marking schemes, rating scales and the criteria for assessment.”
Am eena Saiyid, Managing Director, OUP during her session on ‘True Value of Books’ shared, “Education is indeed a lifelong and natural process parallel to awareness and observation - a basic trait, almost a reflex within us. But when we speak of formal education, acquired in a systematic and progressive way, it is linked to schooling. It is a triangular relationship of learner, teacher and knowledge and this is where books come into the equation.”
The conference provided a networking opportunity and encouraged the principals to work together and form associations so that they can promote the agenda for better education in a more effective manner. Esteemed speakers including Dr Mola Dad Shafa, Head of Professional Development Centre, North Pakistan and Ms Lubna Khalid, Director, SZABIST Schools and Colleges, reiterated the need for a strong relationship between private and public sectors schools. They stressed that education sector needs to be looked at in a holistic manner and the private schools should share and help towards the adoption of best-practices in the government schools.
While talking about leadership and management in schools, Dr Sadrudin Pardhan, Advisor to Provost, Aga Khan University, said, “ teachers being the front line are the most important asset for a school and in their leadership role, the principals need to encourage ownership and empowerment amongst teachers and provide them the direction and support they need.”
During the panel discussion on ‘Impact of Pre-service and In-service Teacher Training,’ the speakers mutually agreed that trained teachers are able to deliver learning content more effectively by putting the students at the heart of the teaching process and encouraging them to develop independent problem-solving skills. While talking about the current trends in education, the panellists also underscored how tuition devalues education at school and highlighted the need to curb this practise.
Dr Ahsana Dar, Advisor R&D, Herbion Pakistan, conducted a debate on ‘Best Practices for Teaching and Learning Science’ where she talked about the challenge of attracting students to learn science and the role of teachers in making science interesting for students. This was followed by a conversation with Professor Sir Brian Heap, Former Master of St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, Research Associate at the Centre for Development Studies, University of Cambridge, UK, on the Value of Education in Global Context.
The conference concluded with an invigorating panel discussion on ‘The National Curriculum, Global Ideas, Local Context’ led by Dr Sarfaroz Niyozov, Director of Aga Khan University - Institute for Education Development, Yu-ling Liu-Smith, Researcher and Senior Instructor, Aga Khan University - Institute for Educational Development and Dr Mohammad Idrees Asad, Member of the Curriculum Wing, Government of Pakistan. “Curriculum is a live document and should be updated regularly, there are many global trends and market needs which need to be inculcated in the curricula” said Dr Mohammad Idrees Asad, during the discussion.
While delivering his closing remarks, Dr Sarfaroz Niyozov said he looked forward to attend the conference next year that will have a greater focus on research. Dr Niyozov urged the principals to reflect on the purpose of education, as it serves not just to prepare the workforce for market economy but also shapes the human character.