KARACHI: Although educational challenges in Pakistan are huge and require efforts at multiple levels, a single change that could transform the sector is to shift its focus from rote learning to activity based educational tools that encourage children to think, analyse and question, said experts at a conference on Tuesday.
The discussion titled `Transforming education in changing times` was organised by the Charter for Compassion Pakistan in collaboration with the Eqbal Ahmed Centre for Public Education.
Opening the discourse, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy said that educational problems had multiplied over the decades with the result that Pakistan today stood far behind not only from the developed countries but also from its regional partners.
`Today it`s not sufficient that children can memorise their lessons. The modern concept of education is to involve children in discovery. This methodology has produced brilliant minds that have made their marl< in the field of science and technology,` he said.
Speaking about quality learning, managing director of the Oxford University Press, Pakistan Ameena Saiyid said it was vital to expose children to different material of knowledge and information and then let them form their own opinion.
`The four Cs important in a learning experience are; critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration,` she said.
Dr Almina Pardhan briefed the audience on the development of early childhood education in the country. Though the government was bound to early childhood education through international and local commitments, there were still challenges as the critical area was still low prioritized and faced issues such as funding constraints, lack of teachers` training and poorly resourced classrooms, she said.
Her presentation was followed by a question-and-answer session during which speakers shared their concerns over the present state of education and recommended measures to rectify it.
It was said that there was no single solution to all the problems being faced in the private and public sector education and what was needed was to initiate reforms at every level. Teachers`training, they said, was one of the most vital areas that required improvement.
An important problem discussed was related to school syllabi that in some cases contained text which, it was said, could help develop extremist mindsets.
It was also highlighted that non Muslim children across the country were often forced to learn the Islamic text present in school syllabi. The practice, it was pointed out, was a major violation of the constitution that provided a safeguard against such actions.
`No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own,` Dr A. H. Nayyar cited Clause 22 of the constitution in a recorded video message.
He showed school textbooks pertaining to subjects other than Islamiat published by Punjab and Kyber Pakhtunkhah governments that contained Islamic text which, he said, non-Muslim children were forced to study.
Dr Mohammad Memon, Dr Shehnaz Wazir Ali, Hajra Ahmed and Amin Hashwani also spoke.