Innovation in Education: Lessons for Entrepreneurship in Pakistan
Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of International Education; Director of Global Education and of International Education Policy
Imran Sarwar, Co-Founder, Rabtt; MPP Class of 2013, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
The third Video Conference of the new SAI Series of Webinars focused on ‘Innovation in Education: Lessons for Entrepreneurship in Pakistan’. Professor Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of International Education and Director of Global Education and of International Education Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Imran Sarwar, Co-Founder, Rabtt (Connection); MPP Class of 2013, Harvard Kennedy School of Government led the discussion with academic sites across Pakistan. In addition, for the first time a Facebook event for the Webinar attracted 120 people to virtually attend the event – our partner, Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission provided a live web link for online streaming so that the discussion was available to anyone with an internet connection.
Professor Reimers started his presentation on ‘Educating to Change the World’ with acknowledging how much education has changed over the last 25 years – the very fact of the Video Conference itself through which sites were virtually connected is a demonstration of how much technology has enhanced access around the world. He said we are in a new era in history when instead of top-down planning individuals and small groups of people are taking on big challenges – it’s a time of great potential change. He spoke of the fact that we need to move from teaching low-level cognitive skills that had been the focus of much formal education in the past to higher level leadership skills for the 21st century by developing adaptable skills to apply knowledge and learning in new ways. He spoke of the great work of Injaz al-Arab under the visionary leadership of Soraya Salti that he has been helping evaluate over the last 2 years and the phenomenal outcomes of the program in developing a sense of agency in youth and the ability to see challenges as opportunities. He also spoke of the ability inherent in all of us to teach and that we can’t expect professional teachers to bear all the burdens of teaching – he exhorted the audience to action. In reply to a twitter question about encouraging business and academia linkages, he spoke of an example from Monterey, Mexico about an innovative approach taken by a University president who asked local government and business leaders how his institution could help them grow – he then led the change to respond to those social demands – exactly the kind of model higher education needs to move towards to be a center for development and innovation in the 21st century.
Imran Sarwar spoke of his experiences along with a friend and colleague from LUMS, Aneeq Ahmed Cheema when they formed Rabtt in the summer of 2011. Listening to his personal story of how he managed family and social expectations in going down his chosen and unconventional path to make a start at changing the reality of children who attend public sector schools was heartening. He exhorted would-be entrepreneurs to not wait to start till conditions were perfect or support was forthcoming – he said, start now and you’ll attract people who think like you to join your work – and that money and finances will also flow to the work you start! He spoke of how privileged children from elite schools live in their bubbles while children in public sector schools are very street smart. Rabtt is working on connecting these two worlds. Professor Reimers reiterated that a progressive society must be more equitable and heartily endorsed Imran’s efforts –at the end he asked us all to free ourselves from toxic mentalities and begin to take responsibility to change social conditions – now!
Mariam Chughtai (doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education) ably moderated the Videoconference and handled switching between different sites enabled by HEC’s Virtual Education Project and Erum Sattar (doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School) moderated an active twitter feed on: #SAIEdInnovation
Co-sponsored with the Harvard Pakistan Student Group