Can we design “Backwards” to move forward?

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Education is one of the most mistreated sectors in Pakistan, being neither the priority of our nation nor the government. However, it has become the beloved sector, the idée fixe, for the private investors who work for business capitalism. Because of its neglected condition, there is no monitoring and no check and balance, thus, we are sitting on the tip of a volcano which may erupt any time.


Education is one of the most mistreated sectors in Pakistan, being neither the priority of our nation nor the government. However, it has become the beloved sector, the idée fixe, for the private investors who work for business capitalism. Because of its neglected condition, there is no monitoring and no check and balance, thus, we are sitting on the tip of a volcano which may erupt any time.

Being an educationist, an observer of the world’s education models, I suggest that we seriously need to re-design our education model. And this redesign must be ‘Backward Design’: an idea of teaching framework introduced by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTigh back in 1998. It must be clear that this is not a teaching framework only but a mindset; the mindset of successful people and nations.
Re-design this education Model:  Follow the three steps of backward Design.

Step 1: What is the Big Idea? 
Every established education model keeps an aim, which decides the destiny of the nation. If you don’t know where to go, what is the use of packing your luggage and positioning vehicles? In the same way, we shouldn’t pretend that we know what the aim is but decide in black and white where our nation should stand after 50 years. Vision is not something for a short period of 5 years but caters for generations.

The policy makers and ministry of education need progressive people with a vision not the orthodox bureaucrats who can’t think beyond their scales and fringe benefits and are the true bête noire of the failure of our system. There is need to launch an educational emergency. Evolution is never a steep curve but a gradual guided process. Transformation is always time consuming that needs patience and consistency. We need legislation to build national consensus to write a new social contract for the nation. Legislation must bind all future governments to follow the new contract at any cost. They all must follow the laissez-faire attitude to the policy once decided.

We need to decide now the face of our future generations; that is what we want for our generations: Scientists? Literary persons? Artists? What? Above that we need to seriously ponder and reflect where we lack. In my opinion, we need generations who will be more tolerant, empathetic, honest and truthful; hence fulfilling the true aim of education.

Once we decide, we should move forward and look at the available education channels. What systems suit?  We need to seriously and with great responsibility decide, once and for all, which system will be the primary education system. We need to bring vital changes in our own education model in terms of quality and added values. There is no harm is selecting a foreign curriculum if we don’t find competent people to design our own curriculum to international standards. But we need to revise and decide and follow it religiously, not for short term period.

Step 2: Place Checks and Monitoring
It is not sufficient to decide to think big and leave it .Instead, we need to decide well before implementation how we will ensure that our aim and goal is on its way. We need to design authentic monitoring systems to ensure that we are on the right track. For example, if we would decide to promote tolerance and empathy through education, we need to ask authentic survey companies to design and run tools to measure the moods and temperature of the society. Success entirely on the basis of degrees and transcripts is useless. We have wasted half a century in pretending and claiming that we are the most genius nation on this planet. We need to be cruel with self-analysis and critique. Tools should be devised to check the general nation’s norms by other methods. In fact new diagnostic tests should be devised and run on our nation to see how far we have reached. It is vital to note that all the tools and mechanisms must be devised well before starting the implementation process.

Step 3: Implementation
Actually, the whole nation is the stake holder in any education system. While implementing, the very first thing is the content that would be taught from primary to doctorate. What to teach is really the backbone of an educational system and needs complete overhaul. Again, it is extremely crucial that not the orthodox, but the progressive people should come forward to take the responsibility to devise the mechanics of curricula. Furthermore, we need to make sure to be authentic in designing the curricula. We don’t again need people who copy and paste blindly as per tradition while making any curriculum. Revising national curriculum needs lot of brainstorming, consultation and revisions, above all dedication and true love for education and progress

To begin with, we must add values and promote formative assessments to release the pressure of high stakes testing at school level. The unfortunate mad race of scoring and grading led us to nowhere, except promoting the culture of cheating and shortcuts. Secondly, we need to revise the criteria for teachers as well. Teaching profession should no more be like an orphanage where the discarded of all professions or bored housewives come and teach. This will definitely take time, but with quality training, the teachers can be groomed and polished to meet the international standards. The important factor to be noted is we should   be careful about training as well because not every training is quality training par excellence. We need to meet international standards and for that we need to avoid slogans and face the grim reality.

In addition to, at University level the biggest threat is the authenticity and validity of what is taught. The second biggest dilemma is the fake research and plagiarism. All substandard journals should be banned. A strict eye should be kept on the professors and the teachers and promotions should only be awarded if their research is acknowledged by the high ranked research journals. We need strict legislation against plagiarism to stop those pseudo scholars who are holding positions at the moment, but do not contribute at all. It is high time not to be scared of big degree and titles, but respect should be given to true teaching and research. Again legislation is required to penalize those institutions who just distribute degrees, since they are no more different from the cause célèbre fake degree scandal. One workable way is that all new private universities should be brought under high taxation circle, but with their progress in terms of research and contribution in literature acknowledged by the world’s best research institutes and journals, their taxes can be minimized; ultimately, zero tax status can be awarded for the highest credibility and producing crème de la crème scholars and researchers. Such a  mechanism can easily be devised. It is time we all who know what true education is rise and meet the challenge together and move forward.

Education is not solely a mechanical process but it is organic in nature. It is meant for humans to emerge as better humans: all depends on the definition of ‘better’. If we keep zero tolerance for quality and honesty, we can one day stand parallel to the world’s finest education models. Let us all strive for this aim and finally bid adieu to the many old crumbling systems which are stopping us from achieving our goal.

Article by Umair Qureshi - Teacher, Educationist, ASCD Emerging Leader 2015, International Conference Presenter, Tedx Speaker, Oxbridge Fellow, CEO 'Leaders in Education & Academic Development (Pvt) Limited, Founder and Executive Director Islamabad ASCD Connected Community, Activist for Educational Reforms and Legislation, Originated Nationwide Project for Teachers Empowerment & National Teachers Internship Program.
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EducationForAll Pakistan: Can we design “Backwards” to move forward?
Can we design “Backwards” to move forward?
Education is one of the most mistreated sectors in Pakistan, being neither the priority of our nation nor the government. However, it has become the beloved sector, the idée fixe, for the private investors who work for business capitalism. Because of its neglected condition, there is no monitoring and no check and balance, thus, we are sitting on the tip of a volcano which may erupt any time.
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EducationForAll Pakistan
http://www.educationforall.pk/2015/10/can-we-design-backwards-to-move-forward.html
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