Inside Edopia: Teachers Are The First Step In Evolving Education

Students learning at Edopia

This is the second edition of the Inside Edopia series, focusing on an alternative learning school located in Islamabad, Pakistan. Click here for the first edition.

Recent debates concerning the proper way to measure the quality of an individual school, school system, or countries approach to education seem to have been quelled. A 2008 survey by New York University of education researchers found that over two-thirds agree using value-added measures (VAM) — which examine how students grow from year to year — are an effective way to measure school quality. As opposed to nine percent of researches who felt judging raw test scores — proficiency — was the best method for evaluating schools and teachers.

The United States has shown concerning educational trends in recent years. The 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results saw 15-year-old US students’ place 24th in science and 38th in math out of the 71 total countries tested. While tests like the PISA commonly measure averages and base level proficiency, they are still cause for concern.

Pakistan faces unique challenges of its own. While last year Pakistan saw an increase in educational spending, the countries education budget remains near the bottom in South Asia on nearly every metric. Women are specifically at risk by the lack of educational spending within the country; nearly two-thirds of illiterate adults in Pakistan are women. Young girls living in poverty are the most harmed, with nearly over half having never been able to attend to school.

Pakistan’s literacy rate sits at approximately 60%, which is far below the 88% millennium developmental goal the United Nations required the country to meet by 2015.

However, the literacy rates for females in Pakistan are dire and highlight a gender disparity:

The country’s overall female literacy rate also came down by 1% from 48% in 2012–13 to 47% in 2013–14. The figures suggest there is still a long way to end gender disparity in education, as the male literacy percentage stood at 70% like previous years.
In Punjab, the female education percentage witnessed a decline of 2% from 54% to 52% from 2012–13 with the male literacy rate pegged at 71% in both years.
In Sindh, the female literacy rate was 43% compared to 47% of the previous year. Male education in Sindh witnessed a decrease in percentage from 72% to 67% as compared to 2012–13.
In K-P, the female literacy percentage increased to 36% from 35% with the male percentage sustaining at 72% in both years.
Balochistan leads the provinces in female literacy figures with an improvement of 2% to 25% from 23% of the previous year.

Pakistan native and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai founded the Malala Fund which invests in educational initiatives for girls and women in Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya, and a number of other countries. However, further initiatives and a different approach to education within Pakistan are needed to improve the nations approach to education and attract teachers who are willing to take a new approach to education.

Due to constant influx at the Federal Education and Professional Training Division (which currently is without a Minister), and a lack of educational spending, innovative schools such as Edopia operate without federal funding, relying on donations to run the school. The Edopia staff feels the first step in securing quality public education is finding the correct teachers who will subscribe and thrive in a progressive atmosphere which measures students on growth and not proficiency.

When speaking to Azka Khan (Head of Professional Development and Literacy Coordinator) and Samreen Kazmi (Middle Years Coordinator and 9th Grade Science Teacher) both spoke highly of the democratic system at Edopia, a system which empowers students of all ages allowing them to vote on all matters involving the school. Along with showing a passion for seeing their students grow throughout the course of the school year, a sentiment echoed by other teachers at the Edopia School.

Teachers along with the core team of Edopia refine their approach through the professional development training from Project Zero through Harvard University:

Project Zero was founded by the philosopher Nelson Goodman at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1967 to study and improve education in the arts. Goodman believed that arts learning should be studied as a serious cognitive activity, but that “zero” had yet been firmly established about the field; hence, the project was given its name.
Over the years, Project Zero has maintained a strong research agenda in the arts while gradually expanding to include investigations into the nature of intelligence, understanding, thinking, creativity, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural thinking, and ethics. The organization has conducted dozens of major research initiatives, published over 90 books and hundreds of articles and reports, and collaborated with countless partners. Project Zero’s work takes place nationally and internationally, in a variety of settings; while much of the research occurs in schools, an increasing amount is focused on businesses, cultural organizations such as museums, and online. In addition, Project Zero offers symposia and workshops, most notably the annual summer institutes.

The approach employed Project Zero, Edopia, and other schools following this revolutionary educational format could be the template for building a public education system which represents even the poorest of citizens globally.

During the interview with Azka Khan and Samreen Kazmi, the two spoke about the different approach teachers must take at Edopia School, their experiences teaching at the school, how the democratic system operates, how students take to a non-competitive educational atmosphere and detail the Life Skills and Community Engagement Week (LSE).

Watch Walter Interview Azka & Samreen Part 1:

Watch Walter Interview Azka & Samreen Part 2:

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