Friday, January 6, 2012

Inquiry-based Learning For Pakistani Children

Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.

Improving quality of education is just as important as broadening access to it for Pakistan to reap full demographic dividend of its young population. Inquiry-based learning is an important pillar of the efforts undertaken by Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) and The Citizens Foundation (TCF) to improve quality of education.



Inquiry-based learning is a method developed during the discovery learning movement of the 1960s. It came in response to a perceived failure of more traditional rote learning. Inquiry-based learning is a form of active learning, where progress is assessed by how well students develop experimental, analytical and critical thinking skills rather than how many facts they have memorized.

Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) has initiated “La Main a La Pate” – an Inquiry-Based Learning program in Pakistan with the support of the French government. First launched in France in 1996, the program is aimed at renovating and revitalizing the teaching of science in primary schools. In Pakistan, the PSF has organized three workshops to train teachers since the Pakistan launch of “La Main a La Pate” in 2010. The most recent workshop was in December 2011 that was conducted by two French trainers, Michel Ouliac and Patrick Marcel. It was attended by 30 teachers from Islamabad, Kot Addu, Rawalpindi and Karachi, according to a report in The Express Tribune newspaper.

A similar inquiry-based teaching effort has been undertaken by The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a non-profit organization running 730 schools serving over 100,000 students in different parts of Pakistan. It is described in a recent book "Back to Pakistan: A Fifty-Year Journey" by Leslie Noyes Mass. Mass was in US Peace Corp who served as a young volunteer back in 1960s in Pakistan. The well-written book is about her return to Pakistan and her impressions of the country 50 years later. In 2009, Mass found a very different Pakistan: more education for children, a much larger population, and a place not nearly as friendly to the United States as it was when she first went there in 1960s.

Here's how Mass describes inquiry-based methods used at a summer science camp for TCF children at primary and secondary levels:

"Inquiry is a form of active learning where progress is assessed by how well students develop experimental and analytical skills rather than by how much knowledge they possess. In a science curriculum, this means that students are presented with a problem and the teacher guides them to solve it without making the solution explicit. This requires students to work together, to think critically, and to search for solutions based on the evidence rather than the predefined "correct" answer."

Then she goes on to describe the details of the experiments used to teach primary and secondary students.

Both PSF and TCF deserve kudos for promoting inquiry-based methods to encourage more active learning and critical thinking at an early age. These skills are essential to prepare Pakistani youngsters to be capable of facing the challenges of living in a highly competitive world in which the wealth of nations is defined in terms of human capital.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Pakistan Primary Education Crisis

Indian Students' Poor Performance on PISA and TIMSS

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

India Shining, Bharat Drowning

PISA's Scores 2011

Teaching Facts versus Reasoning

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

Peepli Live Destroys Western Myths About India

PISA 2009Plus Results Report

16 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story published in Fast Company about an "Education Revolution" in Pakistan:

TED Fellow, social entrepreneur and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is on a mission to foment Pakistan's education revolution.

The province of Sindh, where Obaid-Chinoy is based, decided less than two months ago to completely revamp public school textbooks, and the government enlisted Obaid-Chinoy to help. "There needs to be an overhaul," Obaid-Chinoy tells Fast Company. "Textbooks are outdated and I've been working with the government on how to encourage critical thinking and move away from rote memorization....It's tough, because the mindset is not there. The teachers are essentially products of the same system. We have to break the culture, which takes a long time."

Sindh's teachers now spend extensive time in professional training with education experts to try and reform the instruction of English, math, and social studies. "We're really making this a movement for education for social change," Obaid-Chinoy says.

"People are excited by it. Everyone's getting into it, rolling up their sleeves. We're trying to bridge the divide between the public and private school systems," which, she says, is at the heart of Pakistan's education challenges. The poorer schools are under-resourced and are often recruiting grounds for young terrorists. By improving the public education system, the less-fortunate children have a better shot at a solid future, away from terrorist groups, and local leaders hope to accomplish improvements by focusing on textbooks and teacher trainings.

"Pakistan also feels it needs to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of education and that was the genesis for the education overhaul," says Obaid-Chinoy. "Terrorism defines us today," but, she says, there was a time when the country was known for its vibrancy and sense of hope.

Obaid-Chinoy is doing her part in other ways to revamp Pakistan's education system. In 2007 she started CitizensArchive.org, the country's first digital archive documenting its oral history with interviews, rare photos, and other online collections. The initiative allows students in schools throughout Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India to better understand Pakistan and its history and Obaid-Chinoy was able to interview several notable figures who have since passed away, such as Deena Mistri, one of the country's first female educators. And students around South Asia are now engaged in learning exchanges with students in Pakistan, to help the countries build bridges.

And throughout her education work, Obaid-Chinoy's medium is often filmmaking. She makes about one film per year and has covered a range of topics from jihadi schools to female victims of acid attacks. Her next film will look at 9/11 through the eyes of different figures, in commemoration of the 10th anniversary this year.

"My mother gave up her dream of becoming a journalist when she got married and I think she always wanted to make sure that her six children pursued their dreams. I have four sisters and all of us work in male-dominated professions in Pakistan." And Obaid-Chinoy now brings that same sense of passion and justice to her work and thanks to her, her country may soon become a bright spot for global-minded education.


http://www.fastcompany.com/1731268/pakistan-education-revolution

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting excerpt of a World Bank blog on cell phone use in education in Pakistan:

In Pakistan, some innovative folks are exploring how basic text messaging (SMS) can be used in the education sector to the benefit of people with even very low end mobile phones, leveraging the increasing high teledensities found in communities across the country.

What's happening in Pakistan in this regard? A lot, it turns out, although admittedly only in pockets and at a rather modest scale to date. The country is perhaps not unique in what is being explored (most everything being tried there is being tried in various other places as well), but that doesn't mean it isn't quite interesting. For example:

In February, almost 150 third year students at Asghar Mall College in Rawalapindi (note: 'third year' in this context would be the rough equivalent of the first year at university in, for example, the United States) for whom authorities had mobile phone numbers on file began participating on a voluntary basis in a daily vocabulary quiz exercise delivered by SMS. These young men -- from middle to lower middle class backgrounds -- are sent a simple multiple choice question. Texts are addressed to each student individually, using the equivalent of a 'mail merge' function that will be familiar to anyone who has had to send out 'blast' emails or faxes). They reply via SMS, and then receive an automated response, based on their answer. In this response, their answer is repeated, a notation is made about whether the answer given was correct or not, and the correct answer is incorporated into a sample sentence.
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One thing perhaps that is worth mentioning here is that, for some of these students, who have been educated in a system where very large, lecture-based classes are the norm, this may be the first time they have received 'personalized' feedback of any sort from their instructors.

The team in Pakistan is asking all sorts of interesting questions as part of their work. How can the potential impact of each message be maximized, especially given that these messages constitute just one small part of a large stream of messages -- cricket scores, notes from friends and family, jokes, news items, scripture passages and horoscope advice -- that students receive every day? What is best learned or reinforced through such interactions? What are the most effective ways to sequence and scaffold such messages over time?

In the process, much user-related information is being collected, helping to answer some basic questions for which there are not yet good, reliable data:


How many young students have phones?

How many can afford to participate in education-related activities via mobile phone -- and are willing to do so?
(Related to this: Are there ways to subsidize SMS traffic for various populations? And what if people actual respond to the SMS quizzes -- can this sort of thing at scale?)


Vocabulary-building and grammar quizzes are just two potential applications possible as part of this sort of SMS-based interaction; opportunities for quizzes in various academic areas are easily imagined. This could be great for test preparation, for example -- a potentially fertile market for private firms in Pakistan. Indeed, project proponents hope to use this as a way to help to stimulate private sector activity and innovation in this area, especially for young entrepreneurs, given what have turned out to be very low piloting costs.


http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/sms-education-pakistan

http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/sms-pakistan-2

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed by HEC Chair Javaid Laghari published in The Express Tribune:

There has been a quiet revolution in the last two years, particularly in improved quality, access and relevance, which are the cornerstones of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

Quality is a ‘process’ and cannot be improved overnight by dialling ‘Q’. Quality enhancement cells have been established in 81 universities which will monitor and ‘own’ quality and report to the HEC’s QA (Quality Assurance) division. Six accreditation councils, including in business and computing, have been established, and these will accredit professional programmes. An institutional performance evaluation (IPE) process has begun, and by next year, the universities will be given a scorecard on good governance. For the first time ever, universities and programmes are being ranked as per international standards, and the results will be published by the end of the year. A two-day orientation of newly-appointed vice-chancellors (VCs), facilitated by two British VCs and one American university president, was organised — also for the first time — to inculcate leadership and to improve quality in governing higher educational institutes.

Accessibility to university education among the population is now 7.8 per cent, and not 5.1 per cent as implied by Dr Tahir, and we are well on our way to reaching 10 per cent by 2015 as per the education policy, despite a 10 per cent cut in higher education funding. Pakistan spends 1.7 per cent of its GDP on education, and only six other countries in the world spend less. Of this, 0.22 per cent is spent on higher education and not 0.3 per cent as the article incorrectly states. Under these circumstances, the HEC has done wonders!

What the writer fails to mention is the new emphasis on ‘knowledge exchange’. Ten offices of research, innovation and commercialisation (ORIC) have been established this year, and 20 more are in the pipeline to bridge the gap between university research and industry. With a 30 per cent increase in research publications and PhD dissertations in the last two years, a focus on relevant research and a new programme to establish incubators and technology parks, the Pakistani higher education sector is on its way to become an economic powerhouse in the next two years.

This is the soft and quiet revolution taking place at our universities which is already becoming visible and changing the lives of millions of youth who are the beneficiaries of higher education in Pakistan.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/290255/a-quiet-revolution-in-higher-education/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on the state of education in Sindh province:

Around 94 per cent of grade III students in Sindh cannot read sentences in English, Urdu or Sindhi after being taught in grade II, according to the Annual Status of Education Report 20ll (ASER) Sindh, which was launched on Monday.

The report highlighted the major differences between children, from five to 16 years, in 17 rural areas of Sindh with that of Karachi district.

For example, the enrolment rate of children, between three to five years, was found to be only 38% in rural Sindh while 69% in Karachi.

In the age group of six to 16 years, only 29% of the children were enrolled in schools in rural areas while in Karachi it was 71%.

Around 25% were not attending school at the right age – six to 10 years, in the rural areas. In Karachi, only five per cent did not attend school. In the 17 districts which were surveyed, around 90% attended government schools, 10% private schools and less than one per cent went to madrassahs. It was just the opposite for Karachi – 27% attended public-sector schools while the majority studied in private schools. Kashmore had the most alarming figures – around 45% children in the district did not go to school.

The report also surveyed the studying habits of children. It revealed that private-school students took more tuitions than those studying in public-sector. Around 18% children in rural Sindh, studying in private schools, took tuitions as compared to only 2.6% who went to government schools. The report also stated that there were more girls in government schools in Karachi (63%) while there were more boys in private schools (52%).

The good news

Not all of the facts in the report were alarming. According to it, Karachi had the highest literacy rate for mothers – 82%, as compared to Lahore and Peshawar.

The criticism

The educationists present at the launch criticised the government vehemently for its ‘non-serious attitude.’ However, they put forward some recommendations about how to use the information in the ASER report to good use.

Dr Thomas Christie, the director of the Aga Khan University (AKU) Education Baord, said that the report should also have included the number of languages exposed to children and if they were multilingual.

The director of AKU Institutes for Education D4evelopment, Dr Muhammad Memon, said that questions like why were the head teachers not able to do their jobs effectively and why did they get benefits when they did not even go to schools, needed to be answered as well.

He suggested that the process by which the teachers were selected and how they were prepared should also be examined.

Economist and former advisor to the chief minister, Kaiser Bengali, said that he had presented a charter of school reforms to the chief minister but it never made it to the cabinet. He also shared some features of his proposal, saying that there were 49,000 schools in the province while there was a need for only 15,000. “The principals in government schools should have full authority and should take action against teachers who don’t turn up.” Bengali suggested that the teachers should be relived from election duties.



http://tribune.com.pk/story/336050/what-is-your-child-learning-in-school-94-per-cent-children-in-grade-iii-cant-read/

http://www.aserpakistan.safedafed.org/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report on a traveling exhibit to promote chemistry learning in Pakistan:

The International Traveling Expo ‘It’s all about Chemistry’ opened at Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) on Wednesday.

Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) in collaboration with the embassy of France in Islamabad and Scientific, Technical, Industrial and Cultural Centre (CCSTI), France has arranged the Expo, prepared by Centre Sciences-France, UNESCO and partners, for providing a first-hand picture of the role of chemistry in daily life to students and general public.

The Expo is aimed at increasing the interest of young people in Chemistry and to generate enthusiasm among students for take chemistry as a subject of their studies.

The expo started its journey in Pakistan from Karachi in January and after travelling through Tandojam, Khairpur, DG Khan, Multan, Lahore, Mansehra, Peshawar and Swat has reached Islamabad from where it would travel to Sibbi and conclude in Quetta.

Study of Chemistry is critical in addressing challenges such as global climate change, in providing sustainable sources of clean water, food energy and in well-being of people.

The science of chemistry and its applications produce medicines, fuels, metals and virtually all other manufactured products.

PSF Chairman Prof Dr Manzoor Soomro inaugurated the 3-day Expo while French Attache for Cooperation Gilles Angles, AIOU Faculty of Sciences Dean Prof Dr Noshad Khan and AIOU Chemistry Department’s Chairperson Prof Dr Naghmana Rashid were also present on this occasion.

The displays of the expo include Black and White Chemistry, Molecules in Action, Nature Returns with a bang, Intelligent Textiles-Dress Intelligently, Dress Usefully, Materials that Heal Automatically, Oil-bases or Water-based paint, Pure air at home, What’s Going on in my saucepan, Town Water or field Water, Experts against Fraud, When Art and Science Meet, Molecular Motors, Bio-fuels for Green Driving and Responsible Farming etc.

Dr Manzoor Soomro highlighted the PSF programmes and activities for promotion of science in the country for mental developmental of the nation and socio-economic development of the country.

He said PSF’s subsidiary organisation Pakistan Museum of Natural History is playing an important role in imparting education on natural sciences through informal means.

He appreciated French embassy for its cooperation to PSF in its different programmes as well as providing opportunity of higher education to students of far flung areas of Pakistan through its scholarships programme...


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\03\29\story_29-3-2012_pg5_5

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story in The Nation of how USAID is helping Pakistani students improve learning and career planning:

Last year, USAID in partnership with the government of Pakistan organised a technology and cultural exchange programme for these bright young Pakistani’s at Wakefield High School in the USA.

The students shared their experiences in the US with Dr Hatfield, director USAID and Siddiq Memon, secretary Sindh Education and Literacy Department. They shared fun stories from the US, and related how their parents and classmates loved to hear about American culture as well as the difference it had made in how they approached their education and future.

Dr Hatfield answered their queries and affirmed the US commitment to improving education and opportunities. “We want to help students in all parts of Pakistan who improved education resources and environment. With the ‘Links to Learning’ programme, we are especially trying to guide and provide exposure to promising young scholars facing choice of college and specialization, and difficult decisions regarding careers.”

USAID has supported 103 students from Sindh, Balochistan, Fata and rural areas around Islamabad to develop computer and learning technology skills, and to experience progressive classroom environments since 2008. They are taking leadership roles and motivating others to learn making innovative use of technology and tapping into a global learning community.


http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/karachi/04-Apr-2012/usaid-for-improving-education-in-pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal India Realtime piece:

Justice Markandey Katju, a former Supreme Court Justice turned chairman of the Press Council of India, has done it again. Already known for his recent views of the journalists he oversees – they “are of a very poor intellectual level” – he has widened the focus of his condemnation to include approximately 1.08 billion anonymous Indians.

That’s our calculation based on India’s estimated total population, but we made it after Mr. Katju stated in an Indian Express op-ed Monday that he was presenting us with an “unpleasant truth: 90 per cent of Indians are fools.” He was humble enough to attribute a “great defect” to himself, too, though it was one couched in virtue: “ I cannot remain silent when I see my country going downhill. Even if others are deaf and dumb, I am not. So I will speak out.”

And speak out he did.

His first example for reaching his controversial conclusion: “When our people go to vote in elections, 90 per cent vote on the basis of caste or community, not the merits of the candidate. That is why Phoolan Devi, a known dacoit-cum-murderer, was elected to Parliament — because she belonged to a backward caste that had a large number of voters in that constituency.”

Example no. 2: “90 per cent Indians believe in astrology, which is pure superstition and humbug. Even a little common sense tells us that the movements of stars and planets have nothing to do with our lives. Yet, TV channels showing astrology have high TRP ratings.”

Example no. 3: “Cricket has been turned into a religion by our corporatised media, and most people lap it up like opium. The real problems facing 80 per cent of the people are socio-economic — poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, price rise, lack of healthcare, education, housing etc.”

Example no. 4: “I had criticised the media hype around Dev Anand’s death at a time when 47 farmers in India were committing suicide on an average every day for the last 15 years… In my opinion, Dev Anand’s films transported the minds of poor people to a world of make-believe, like a hill station where Dev Anand was romancing some girl.”

Example no. 5: “During the recent Anna Hazare agitation in Delhi, the media hyped the event as a solution to the problem of corruption. In reality it was, as Shakespeare said in Macbeth, “…a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing.”

Mr. Katju says his intention behind his harsh critique is very noble. “When I called 90 per cent of them fools my intention was not to harm them, rather it was just the contrary. I want to see Indians prosper, I want poverty and unemployment abolished, I want the standard of living of the 80 per cent poor Indians to rise so that they get decent lives,” he writes....


http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2012/04/09/india-a-nation-of-more-than-1-billion-fools/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC story on an experiment involving slum children learning to use computers on their own:

(Prof Mitra) has watched the children teach themselves - and others - how to use the machines and gather information.
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Professor Mitra's work began (in 1999) when he was working for a software company and decided to embed a computer in the wall of his office in Delhi that was facing a slum.

"The children barely went to school, they didn't know any English, they had never seen a computer before and they didn't know what the internet was."

To his surprise, the children quickly figured out how to use the computers and access the internet.

"I repeated the experiment across India and noticed that children will learn to do what they want to learn to do."

He saw children teaching each other how to use the computer and picking up new skills.

One group in Rajasthan, he said, learnt how to record and play music on the computer within four hours of it arriving in their village.

"At the end of it we concluded that groups of children can learn to use computers on their own irrespective of who or where they are," he said.

His experiments then become more ambitious and more global.

In Cambodia, for example, he left a simple maths game for children to play with.

"No child would play with it inside the classroom. If you leave it on the pavement and all the adults go away then they will show off to one another about what they can do," said Prof Mitra, who now works at Newcastle University in the UK.

He has continued his work in India.
Stress test

"I wanted to test the limits of this system," he said. "I set myself an impossible target: can Tamil speaking 12-year-olds in south India teach themselves biotechnology in English on their own?"

The researcher gathered 26 children and gave them computers preloaded with information in English.

"I told them: 'there is some very difficult stuff on this computer, I won't be surprised if you don't understand anything'."

Two months later, he returned.

Initially the children said they had not learnt anything, despite the fact that they used the computers everyday.

"Then a 12-year-old girl raised her hand and said 'apart from the fact that improper replication of the DNA contributes to genetic disease - we've understood nothing else'."

Further experiment showed that having a person - known as "the granny figure" - stand behind the children and encourage them raised standards even higher.

Returning to the UK, he fine-tuned his method even further.

He gave groups of four children a computer each and set them a series of GCSE questions.

The groups were allowed to exchange information and swap members.

"The best group solved everything in 20 minutes, the worst in 45 minutes."

To prove that the children were learning, and not just skimming information off the web, he returned two months later and set the same questions. Crucially, this time the children had to answer them on their own with no computer aids.

"The average score when I did it with computers was 76%. When I did it without computers, the average score was 76% - they had near photographic recall."

Professor Mitra has now formalised the lessons from his experiments and has come up with a new concept for schools called SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environments).

These spaces consist of a computer with a bench big enough to let four children sit around the screen.

"It doesn't work if you give them each a computer individually," he said.

For his experiments he has also created a "granny cloud" - 200 volunteer grandmothers who can be called upon to video chat with the kids and provide encouragement..


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10663353

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a PakistanToday story on Pakistan Science Foundation sponsoring enquiry based learning in Pakistan:

The inquiry-based science education (IBSE) is imperative to boost students’ learning process and help them in developing their strong relationship with teachers as learning is a two-way traffic.
Chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) Prof Dr Manzoor H Soomro said this while addressing a teachers training workshop on “Collection, Preservation and Identification of Plant Diversity”, organized by the Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH) and PSF, here on Sunday.
Some 70 science teachers from public and private sectors educational institutions of Rawalpindi and Islamabad participated in the workshop organized as a part of its public education program. The workshop was aimed at imparting hands on training to teachers on techniques of plants collection and preservation as well as their identification for setting up herbaria facility in their educational institutions.
Dr Soomro said the PSF was actively engaged in promotion and popularization of science and technology in the country through a number of programmes, including funding for scientific research, Natural Science Linkage, Industry Research and Development, Science Caravans programs and Inquiry-Based Science Education Programme launched in Pakistan with the collaboration of French Embassy (IBSE).
He said under the IBSE Programme, the PSF organizes training workshops for teachers to train them as master trainers on as to how arouse students’ interest in science subject through easy to understand and interesting experiments.
The chief guest said IBSE programme is going on in 30 schools in the country. He advised the teachers to co-relate this workshop with inquiry-based science education system. He said PSF has been invited to share its experiences about IBSE in an International Conference to be held in Helsinki, Finland in the end of May.
The Chairman also urged the teachers to set up plant herbariums in their institutions so that students could easily become able to identify the plants, which are most valuable natural resource on which survival of not only human beings but entire living things depends. He said PSF and PMNH will provide all possible help in this cause as they have experts of plants sciences.
He said to promote science PSF organized International Travelling Expos on Mathematics, Environment and Chemistry in all major cities of Pakistan. Dr. Manzoor Soomro said these expos received a tremendous response from the educational institutions and thousands of students and teachers benefitted from them. The Chairman lauded PMNH efforts to organize this workshop which would not only benefit the participating teachers in their capacity-building in teaching methodologies and consequently benefit students in their educational pursuits and career building. PMNH Director General Dr Syed Azhar Hasan said PMNH is one of the leading institutions actively involved in research in natural resources and public education for their conservation and sustainable use as well as promotion of science through informal means including popular lectures, film shows, training workshops, exhibitions, competitions, seminars and symposia etc.
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Later, the participating teachers were taken to the field for plants collection. During technical sessions they were imparted training on their preservation, identification and documentation. The participants were awarded certificates in the closing ceremony.


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2012/05/27/city/islamabad/enquiry-based-education-vital-to-boost-learning-process/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Athar Osama in New Strait Times on knowledge economy in Islamic nations:

The World Bank has described the knowledge economy as one in which "organisations and people acquire, create, disseminate, and use knowledge more effectively for greater economic and social development".

However, clarity ends there. The framework put forward by the bank has four dimensions: economic and institutional regime; educated and skilled workforce; efficient innovation system; and information and communications technologies. To assess the status of each dimension, it identifies 148 structural and qualitative variables.

We need a better definition of what knowledge is, and how it can be used, to produce a more accurate index of the knowledge economy in developing countries. For instance, a farmer working in Egypt or Pakistan uses knowledge of land management transferred through generations. Yet this knowledge is hardly captured in modern indices of the knowledge economy.

Although traditional knowledge serves the farmer well, greater access to new science-based information could help if weather patterns or soil quality change due to climate change, for example.

But these intricate details and complex facets of the creation, dissemination, and use of knowledge are difficult to capture and quantify. They receive short shrift when policymakers follow the latest fads in development, such as creating world class universities.

The Islamic World needs to move away from fads and symbolic moves, and make a sustained effort to bring about structural change and introduce new incentives (such as those that will attract better quality teachers) for producing, obtaining and using knowledge in society.

As Rima Khalaf Hunaidi of UNDP rightly notes in the 2003 Arab development report, "There is ... a pressing need for deep-seated reform in the organisational, social and political context of knowledge."

This reform must begin with education at the primary level. In most Islamic countries, the curriculum is too rigid to allow creative thinking, critical inquiry, and free flow of ideas. Students are mostly spoon-fed by an authoritarian figure -- the teacher -- and discouraged from questioning.

Addressing this gap will require experimenting -- fairly rapidly -- with approaches and ideas, to discover what works. Two noteworthy, albeit nascent, experiments to induce creative thinking and critical inquiry at an early age through robotics-based learning tools are happening at National University of Sciences and Technology and a private after-school programme at Robotics Lab in Pakistan.

Only when the Islamic World can produce free-thinking citizens will there be any hope of the emergence of a meaningful knowledge society.


Read more: http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnist/knowledge-economies-still-elusive-in-islamic-world-1.88646

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a description of a recent NPR show on importance of non-cognitive skills for children to succeed:

Ira talks with Paul Tough, author of the new book How Children Succeed, about the traditional ways we measure ability and intelligence in American schools. They talk about the focus on cognitive abilities, conventional "book smarts." They discuss the current emphasis on these kinds of skills in American education, and the emphasis standardized testing, and then turn our attention to a growing body of research that suggests we may be on the verge of a new approach to some of the biggest challenges facing American schools today. Paul Tough discusses how “non-cognitive skills” — qualities like tenacity, resilience, impulse control — are being viewed as increasingly vital in education, and Ira speaks with economist James Heckman, who’s been at the center of this research and this shift.

Doctor Nadine Burke Harris weighs in to discuss studies that show how poverty-related stress can affect brain development, and inhibit the development of non-cognitive skills. We also hear from a teenager named Kewauna Lerma, who talks about her struggles with some of the skills discussed, like restraint and impulse control.

We then turn to the question of what can schools can offer to kids like Kewauna, and whether non-cognitive skills are something that can be taught. Paul discusses research that suggests these kinds of skills can indeed be learned in a classroom, even with young people, like Kewauna, facing especially adverse situations, and also the success of various programs that revolve around early interventions. Ira reports on a mother and daughter in Chicago, Barbara and Aniya McDonald, who have been working with a program designed to help them improve their relationship — and ultimately to put Aniyah in a strong position to learn non-cognitive skills. (38 1/2 minutes)


http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/474/back-to-school

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a TOI story of dearth of research in India:

NEW DELHI: At a time when India is being looked at as the next big knowledge superpower, this could come as a shocker. Just 3.5% of global research output in 2010 was actually from India. In most disciplines, India's share in global research output was actually much below this overall average count.

Sample this - India's share of world research output in clinical medicine was a meagre 1.9% in 2010, 0.5% in psychiatry, 1.4% in neurosciences, 1.8% in immunology, 2.1% in molecular biology and just 3.5% in environmental research.

In mathematics, India's share of world output stood at around 2% in 2010 while it was 17% for China. In case of materials sciences, India's share of world research stood at 6.4% in 2010 while China's stood at 26% -- a rise from 5% in 1996.

While India's research on physics stood at 4.6% in 2010, China's stood at 19%.

In 2010, India's largest shares of world research output were in chemistry (6.5%), materials science (6.4%), agricultural sciences (6.2%), pharmacology and toxicology (6.1%), microbiology (4.9%), physics (4.6%) and engineering (4.2%).

India is often referred to as the next big place for computer sciences. But the figures on its research is abysmally low. Only 2.4% of global research on computer sciences was from India in 2010 while the world share moved to three emerging research economies - China 15%, Korea 6.3% and Taiwan 5.7%.

India's global share of research in economics stood at 0.7% in 2010 while in social sciences it was worse - 0.6%.

The biggest declines in volume of research between 1981 and 2010 were in plant and animal sciences (-2.2%) and agricultural sciences (-1.6%). The most significant expansions were in pharmacology and toxicology (+4.2%), microbiology (+3.2%) and materials sciences (+3.1%).

These are the findings of the study on India's research output and collaboration conducted by Thomson Reuters and recently submitted to the department of science and technology.

"India has been the sleeping giant of Asia. Research in the university sector, stagnant for at least two decades, is now accelerating but it will be a long haul to restore India as an Asian knowledge hub. Indian higher education is faced with powerful dilemmas and difficult choices - public/private, access/equity, uncertain regulation, different teaching standards and contested research quality," the report said.

According to it, India's share of world output in engineering fell from 4.3% in 1981 to 2.2% by 1995. India later regained its lost share, increasing to 4.25 by 2010. However, even then, India was overtaken by China (16.4%), Korea (5.4%) and Taiwan (4.4%).

India, where agriculture dominates economic standards, had quite a large share in agricultural sciences which averaged 7.45% over the 1981 to 1995 period, well ahead of other emerging research economies. Its share, however, fell to 6.2% in 2010. Even in the field of plant and animal sciences, the global research output fell from 6.1% in 1981 to 3.9% in 2010.

The report said, "India has a long and distinguished history as a country of knowledge, learning and innovation. In the recent past, however, it has failed to realize its undoubted potential as a home for world class research."

It added, "During the 1980s and 90s, the output of India's research was almost static while other countries grew rapidly, particularly in Asia. China expanded with an intensity and drive that led it rapidly to overtake leading European countries in the volume of its research publications. India is just beginning on this gradient."


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-accounts-for-just-3-5-of-global-research-output-Study/articleshow/16551045.cms

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Thane Richard, a Brown University student who did a semester abroad at St. Stephens College in India:

“Wait, what?! You are studying here for three years just so you can go do it again for four more years?” I could not grasp the logic of this. What changed my understanding was when I started taking classes at St. Stephen’s College. Except for one, they were horrible.
This was not an isolated incident — all my fellow exchange students concurred that the academics were a joke compared to what we were used to back home. In one economic history class the professor would enter the room, take attendance, open his notebook, and begin reading. He would read his notes word for word while we, his students, copied these notes word for word until the bell sounded. Next class he would find the spot where the bell had interrupted him, like a storyteller reading to children and trying to recall where he had last put down the story. He would even pause slightly at the end of a long sentence to give us enough time to finish writing before he moved on. And this was only when he decided to show up — many times I arrived on campus to find class abruptly cancelled. Classmates exchanged cell phone numbers and created phone trees just to circulate word of a cancelled class. I got a text almost daily about one of my classes. My foreigner peers had many similar experiences.
---------------
To pause for a moment, here is the problem with me talking about this topic: right now many Indians reading this are starting to feel defensive. “Nationalist” is a term I have heard as a self-description as they defend Mother India from the bigoted, criticising foreigner. They focus on me rather than the problem. I have had people unfriend me on Facebook and walk out on meals because I politely expressed an opinion on politics or history that went against the publicly consented “Indian opinion.” For a nation that prides itself on the 17 languages printed on its currency, I am greeted with remarkable intolerance. Even after living in India for close to three years, attending an Indian college, working for an Indian company, founding an Indian company, paying taxes in India, and making India my home, I am not Indian enough to speak my mind. But in a nation that rivals all others in the breadth of its human diversity, who is Indian enough? Because if loyalty and a feeling of patriotism were the barometers for “Indianness,” rather than skin colour or a government document, then I would easily be a dual U.S.-Indian citizen. This Indian defensiveness is false nationalism. It is not a stance that cares about India, it is one that cares about what others think of India, which is not nationalism. That is narcissism.
My voice should be drowned out by the millions around me who are disappointed with how they have been short-changed by the Indian government — their government. Education is one of the most poignant examples of this and serves as great dinner conversation amongst the elite:
“The Indian education system is lost in the past and failing India.” Everyone at the table nods, mumbles their concurrence, and cites the most recent Economist article or Pricewaterhouse Cooper study on the matter in order to masquerade as informed....


http://www.thehindu.com/features/education/college-and-university/an-indian-education/article4683622.ece

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a couple of excerpts on stories about Lego stores in Pakistan:

1. Express Tribune June 10, 2013:

Lego has finally made its way to Karachi. Originated in Denmark, the toy line consists of colourful interlocking plastic bricks which come in an array of shapes, gears and figures. At the launch of its first store in Pakistan on Friday at The Forum, Lego fans — children and parents — were busy constructing plastic architecture and enjoying a family day out.
The huge turnover reflects two things: there is a die-hard Lego following in Karachi and it clearly appeals to people of all age groups, not just children. Lego bricks are playful and can be assembled in numerous ways — you can construct objects such as vehicles, building and robots, wherever your imagination takes you.
At the launch, the store was abuzz with children as young as three (along with their parents) who were busy deciding which toy to take home. Children above the age of 10 were seen huddled on small tables busy building castles and buildings.
Amongst many parents present, Chheena Chappra, a mother who was seen with her 11-year-old son Habib said, “I have literally grown up playing this game [Lego] and years later, I see my young son being so involved in it. I think I am more excited than my son that Lego has come to Pakistan,” she exclaimed.....The price range starts at Rs500 and can go up to Rs100,000 and above. The colourful boxes were labeled with price tags, which were much more expensive compared to other toys in Pakistan. However, Saleem feels that the price is competitive. “Keeping the Dubai market in view, we have Lego toys at a much cheaper price,” he said..


http://tribune.com.pk/story/561411/dont-fall-to-pieces-lego-is-in-town/

2. Daily Times Aug 27, 2013:

With only a few months since its first store opening in Karachi, the Danish toy brand LEGO is all set to expand its operations in all major cities in Pakistan.

The giant toy company, which is known all over the world for inspiring children and young people to develop into responsible members of society through fun, learning and high-quality creative play activities, also aims to implement its education programme for local schools across Pakistan.

Bilal Saleem, country head LEGO Pakistan, stated, “Children are our role models. They reinvent the world and themselves in it over and over again, surprising themselves and others in what they can create and do. In Pakistan, there is a great need to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals, especially within education. As we seek to expand our operations in Pakistan, we want to make our contribution by setting up educational institutes across the country. These institutes will deliver teacher-tested, classroom – ready solutions for engaging and inspiring young learners and combine the unique, inspiring qualities of LEGO bricks with subject-specific tools and curricula so classroom teachers can meet key learning objectives.”


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C08%5C27%5Cstory_27-8-2013_pg7_11

Riaz Haq said...

Afala ta'qilun (Why don't you reason?), Afala tatafakkarun (Why don't you think?), Afala tadabbarun (Why don't you focus?) are all from the Quran which repeatedly challenges its readers to think, to reason...

Quran also says that if we do not reason(think) are worse than animals. (25:44)

Riaz Haq said...

3D printing technology was introduced in Pakistan when Robotics Lab was launched in 2011 in Karachi. It was founded by two friends Afaque Ahmed and Yasin Altaf who had previously worked in Silicon Valley. They bought a 3D printer for the lab as a tool to help children learn science.

In addition to serving children, the Robotics Lab has attracted commercial clients such as Pak Suzuki Motors, architecture firms and college students doing senior projects, according to the Express Tribune newspaper. The founding duo is now looking for ways to expand its audience.“Our goal is to push this science lab to TCF schools, a nationwide school network covering about 150,000 underprivileged students,” says Ahmed. The project, however, is currently pending because of funding constraints. “We have asked them to find some big donor for this purpose. Currently, we train these children only through field trips to our labs.”

http://www.riazhaq.com/2014/07/pakistan-joins-3d-printing-revolution.html