Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Student Math Skills in India and Pakistan

Recent World Bank report on student learning in South Asia is depressing. Sri Lanka is the sole exception to the overall low levels of achievement for primary and secondary school kids in the region.  The report documents with ample data from various assessments to conclude that "learning outcomes and the average level of skill acquisition in the region are low in both absolute and relative terms". The report covers education from primary through upper secondary schools.

Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014

Buried inside the bad news is a glimmer of what could be considered hope for Pakistan's grade 5 and 8 students outperforming their counterparts in India. While 72% of Pakistan's 8th graders can do simple division, the comparable figure for Indian 8th graders is just 57%. Among 5th graders, 63% of Pakistanis and 73% of Indians CAN NOT divide a 3 digit number by a single digit number, according to the World Bank report titled "Student Learning in South Asia: Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Priorities".

Here are some excepts from the World Bank report:

Unfortunately, although more children are in school, the region still has a major learning challenge in that the children are not acquiring basic skills. For example, only 50 percent of grade 3 students in Punjab, Pakistan, have a complete grasp of grade 1 mathematics (Andrabi et al. 2007). In India, on a test of reading comprehension administered to grade 5 students across the country, only 46 percent were able to correctly identify the cause of an event, and only a third of the students could compute the difference between two decimal numbers (NCERT 2011). Another recent study found that about 43 percent of grade 8 students could not solve a simple division problem. Even recognition of two-digit numbers, supposed to be taught in grade 2, is often not achieved until grade 4 or 5 (Pratham 2011). In Bangladesh, only 25 percent of fifth-grade students have mastered Bangla and 33 percent have mastered the mathematics competencies specified in the national curriculum (World Bank 2013). In the current environment, there is little evidence that learning outcomes will improve by simply increasing school inputs in a business-as-usual manner (Muralidharan and Zieleniak 2012).

In rural Pakistan, the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) 2011 assessment suggests, arithmetic competency is very low in absolute terms. For instance, only 37 percent of grade 5 students can divide three-digit numbers by a single-digit number (and only 27 percent in India); and 28 percent of grade 8 students cannot perform simple division. Unlike in rural India, however, in rural Pakistan recognition of two-digit numbers is widespread by grade 3 (SAFED 2012). The Learning and Educational Achievement in Punjab Schools (LEAPS) survey—a 2003 assessment of 12,000 children in grade 3 in the province—also found that children were performing significantly below curricular standards (Andrabi et al. 2007). Most could not answer simple math questions, and many children finished grade 3 unable to perform mathematical operations covered in the grade 1 curriculum. A 2009 assessment of 40,000 grade 4 students in the province of Sindh similarly found that while 74 percent of students could add two numbers, only 49 percent could subtract two numbers (PEACE 2010).




The report relies upon numerous sources of data, among them key government data (such as Bangladesh’s Directorate of Primary Education; India’s National Sample Survey, District Information System of Education, and National Council of Education Research and Training Assessment; and Pakistan’s National Education Assessment System); data from nongovernmental entities (such as Pakistan’s Annual Status of Education Report, India’s Student Learning Study, and its Annual Status of Education Report); international agencies (such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] Programme for International Student Assessment [PISA] 2009+ for India; the World Bank Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project in Bangladesh); and qualitative studies undertaken for the report (such as examining decentralization reforms in Sri Lanka and Pakistan). The study also uses the World Bank Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) framework to examine issues related to ECD, education finance, assessment systems, and teacher policies.



I hope that this report serves as a wake-up call for political leaders and policymakers in Pakistan to redouble their efforts with significant additional resource allocations for nutrition, education and healthcare.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Who's Better for Pakistan Human Development?

History of Literacy in Pakistan

Myths and Facts About Out-of-School Children in Pakistan

PISA, TIMSS Results Confirm Low Quality of Indian Education

India Shining, Bharat Drowning

Learning Levels and Gaps in Pakistan by Jishnu Das and Priyanka Pandey

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

PISA's Scores 2011

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

Peepli Live Destroys Western Myths About India

PISA 2009Plus Results Report

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Innovation in Pakistan

Culture of innovation has enabled huge productivity increases and major improvements in peoples' living standards since the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Europe in the 18th century. It has resulted in a monumental power shift from the East to the West and led to the European colonization of the rest of the world.

Countries in the East have finally begun to understand the value of innovation since achieving independence which came after a couple of centuries of subjugation by European powers.


Efforts to promote innovation in Pakistan are being spearheaded by several different groups including DICE Foundation and Pakistan Innovation Foundation.  Both DICE and PIF focus almost entirely on higher education institutions.

Before assessing the situation and making recommendations on promoting innovation in Pakistan, it's important to understand the history of innovation by studying the examples of major innovations since the industrial revolution.

James Watt:

James Watt (1736-1819) is credited with the innovation of the steam engine which is believed to have enabled the Industrial Revolution in Scotland. Watt only had high school education. He never studied at a college or a university. His invention enabled a wide range of manufacturing machinery to be powered.  His steam engines could be sited anywhere that water and coal or wood fuel could be obtained and provided up to 10,000 horsepower to run large factories. It could also be applied to vehicles such as traction engines and the railway locomotives. The stationary steam engine was a key component of the Industrial Revolution, allowing factories to locate where water power was unavailable.

Thomas Edison:

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), the man who invented the light bulb, was probably the most prolific inventor since the Industrial Revolution. He had no formal education. He was a tinkerer who worked with his hands to come up with many devices and was awarded over 1000 patents by the U.S. Patent Office. His innovations were transformational in their impact: electric light and power utilities, sound recording, and motion pictures, all established major new industries world-wide. Edison's inventions contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications. These included a stock ticker, a mechanical vote recorder, a battery for an electric car, electrical power, recorded music and motion pictures.

Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) invented Apple personal computer. Jobs revolutionized several industries from computing and personal electronics to publishing and entertainment. Jobs, a highly prolific innovator, attended college briefly but did not complete college education. Jobs, too, was a tinkerer who worked with his hands to create things.

These examples clearly establish that some of the most prolific innovators have been people who had little or no college education. It is therefore not wise to limit promotion of innovation to just the college level.

In fact, it is much more important to start promoting innovation during early years in primary and secondary schools. It can be done through inquiry-based learning and provision of tools and training at the K-12 school level. Some examples are as follows:

Inquiry-based Learning:

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) and The Citizens Foundation (TCF) are beginning to promote inquiry-based methods to encourage more active learning and critical thinking at an early age in Pakistan. 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 and innovation.

Maker Movement:

The Maker Movement is a technological and creative learning revolution underway around the globe. It has exciting and vast implications for the world of education. New tools and technology, such as 3D printing, robotics, microprocessors, wearable computing, e-textiles, “smart” materials, and programming languages are being invented at an unprecedented pace. The Maker Movement creates affordable or even free versions of these inventions, while sharing tools and ideas online to create a vibrant, collaborative community of global problem-solvers.

Maker movement is helping spawn facilities in many different cities around the world. These places have a wide range of both hardware and software tools and classes available to help people to create and "make" things with their own hands.

The only possible example of "makerspace" that comes close in Pakistan is Robotics Lab that 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. 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.”

Out-of-the-Box Thinking:

The key to innovation is not necessarily advanced education and training in a certain field. It is out-of-the-box thinking. Major innovations have often come from people working in unrelated fields. Recent examples of such innovations from people of South Asian origin include Zia Chisti's Invisalign and Salman Khan's Khan Academy. Both Zia and Salman came from investment banking background before they revolutionized the fields of orthodontics and education.

Summary: 

Encouragement of the culture of innovation should begin during children's formative years in primary and secondary schools. Innovation requires free out-of-the-box thinking. History tells us that some of the biggest innovators were tinkerers with little or no formal education in the fields of their biggest and most transformative innovations. Groups and foundations promoting innovation in Pakistan need to increase their outreach to the school kids. As a start, they can expand inquiry-based learning and build more makerspaces like Karachi's Robotics Lab in partnership with private industries and foundations in major cities.

Here's a video of my friend Ali H. Cemendtaur's visit to Karachi Robotics Lab:

http://vimeo.com/58856985


Visiting Robotics Labs, Private Limited in Karachi, Pakistan from Ali Cemendtaur on Vimeo.
Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Industrial Revolution Power Shift

Steve Jobs' Syrian Father

Inquiry-Based Learning in Pakistan

3D Printing in Pakistan

Zia Chishti's Innovation in Orthodontics

Human Capital Growth in Pakistan

Khan Academy Draws Pakistani Visitors


Friday, August 1, 2014

Consumer Confidence Boosts Pakistan Eid Sales

Eid and Ramzan sales, making up over 40% of annual revenue of retailers in Pakistan, are estimated to have jumped 10-15% this year, according to early data reported in the news media.

Nielsen, a global provider of data on consumers, reports that Pakistan consumer confidence has held steady at 99 for two consecutive quarters. This compares favorably with consumer confidence figures which declined over the previous quarter in the overall Middle East/Africa region. Among the region, UAE led the way for Middle East/Africa consumer confidence with an index of 109, a decline of five points from first-quarter 2014. Egypt (81) reported a drop of six points compared to the first quarter. South Africa posted the only regional confidence increase, climbing three points to 85, and confidence held steady in Saudi Arabia (102).

Global Consumer Confidence Index Report. Source: Nielsen 


More than half (56%) of Middle East/ Africa respondents in Nielsen consumer surveys viewed their personal finances in a positive light which held steady from the first quarter. In Pakistan, 59 percent of the respondents believed the state of their finances was good or excellent, up from 57 percent in the first quarter of this year.

“Pakistani consumers are generally optimistic as seen by mostly high consumer confidence scores over the last three years. However, a score of 99 in the first as well as the second quarter of this year, is the highest we’ve seen since the second quarter of 2011,” said Mustafa Moosajee, Managing Director, Nielsen Pakistan. “This reflects the overall mood in the country, especially relating to economic conditions. The economy is showing signs of recovery but macro challenges remain.”

Pakistan's Nielsen consumer confidence index of 99 is just below 100, a level that indicates optimism. Countries at or above 100 are: China (111), India (121), Indonesia (124), UAE (114), Philippines (111), Thailand (108), Brazil (106), Switzerland (104),  Saudi Arabia (102), Peru (101), United States (100), Denmark (100) and New Zealand (100).

Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to data compiled by Euromonitor International, a consumer research firm. Pakistan's rising middle class consumers  in major cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad are driving sales of international brand name products and services.  Real estate developers and retailers are responding to it by opening new mega shopping malls such as Dolmen in Karachi and Centaurus in Islamabad.

Dolmen City, Clifton, Karachi
Here's a recent video of a CNN report on "British Brand Invasion" from Dolmen Mall in Clifton district of Karachi:



 http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2013/04/01/mohsin-bristish-brands-in-pakistan.cnn

Pakistan has continued to offer much greater upward economic and social mobility to its citizens than neighboring India over the last two decades. Since 1990, Pakistan's middle class had expanded by 36.5% and India's by only 12.8%, according to an ADB report titled "Asia's Emerging Middle Class: Past, Present And Future.

.



Dolmen Mall Clifton Featured on CNN from DHAToday on Vimeo.

Rising consumer is good but not sufficient to boost economic growth to meet the needs of growing population. What Pakistan requires badly now is significant new investments, both foreign and domestic, to overcome the ongoing energy crisis and rejuvenate the manufacturing sector.


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Educational Attainment in Pakistan

Foreign Visitors to Pakistan Pleasantly Surprised

Pakistan's Infrastructure and M2 Motorway

India Pakistan Comparison 2011

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers


FMCG Consumption Boom in Rural Pakistan

Pakistan Visits Open  Indian Eyes

Monday, July 21, 2014

3D Printing Revolution Comes to Pakistan

3D printing (also called stereolithography or additive manufacturing) is a process for making a three-dimensional object of almost any shape. It uses a 3D model or other electronic data source primarily through additive processes in which successive layers of material are laid down under computer control.

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.”

3D printing has excited Pakistanis like Ali Ahsan to build his own 3D printer, according to a story published in Pakistan Today. He was inspired to make things by his father. “My father was a ‘maker’. He always enjoyed problem solving wanted to make life easier. We never saw electricians, plumbers, carpenter coming to our house. He use to do everything by himself and fortunately as a kid I always stood beside him carrying tools and watching what he is doing. That’s what made me a mechanical engineer, a little different as I was pre-trained by a full time mentor. “It was a favour that I wanted to return by doing something similar for my own children. With 3D printing, I can’t tell you the exact moment it all started, but my wife and I spared a room (we call it the Maker Room) with all sorts of tools electronics. And that’s sort of where it all began! The first thing we made were LEGOs for my children and we ended up at LEGO Mindstorm. With an environment of learning you actually don’t have to teach they learn by mimicking you".

Softonix, a Karachi-based creative design agency, started a commercial 3D printing service to offer 3D models to their clients starting in 2012. As the popularity of 3D printing grew among the users of the service, Tayyab Alam told 3DPrint.com that “seven out of ten calls asked us for 3D printers instead of the 3D printing service.” Softonix responded to growing demand by launching 3D Xplore subsidiary to sell 3D printers.

"So we started working on the plans to design and manufacture Pakistan’s very own 3D printer brand, and finally we launched [our line of] 3D Printers for consumers, back in March 2014,” said Alam. “Xplorer 3D is Pakistran’s first 3D printing brand, providing state of the art and affordable 3D Printers. Currently our printers are being manufactured in China and assembled in Pakistan, but we do have future plans to start manufacturing them right here. Currently our product range starts from DIY 3D printing kits to professional level 3D printers.”

Working replicas of expensive scientific equipment could be made for a fraction of conventional costs using cheap 3D printers, possibly saving developing world labs thousands of dollars each time, says a researcher who has authored a book on the subject. The advances in 3D computing mean the age of appropriate technology – affordable, sustainable solutions designed and built to meet local needs – may be here, argues Joshua Pearce, a materials science and engineering professor at Michigan Technological University in the US, in an article in last month's Physics World magazine, according the Guardian newspaper.

3D printing technology has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing. It can be used for 3D model-making, rapid prototyping and production of a range of products for industrial and consumer applications as well as prosthetic limbs and human organs. CAD files for such products can be created by designers from scratch for new designs or downloaded from the web in stl format and modified and customized.

While the industrial use of 3D printers has accelerated, the consumer market for 3-D printing will reach $600 million in 2017, up from $70 million to $80 million last year, according to Kenneth Wong, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. in San Francisco.

Here's a video of a friend Ali Hasan Cemendtaur from Silicon Valley visiting Robotics Lab in Karachi:


Here's Lisa Harouni on 3D Printing:


DEVELOP3D Live: Lisa Harouni, Digital Forming - Talk from DEVELOP3D on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Robotics in Pakistan

Inquiry Based Learning in Pakistan

Pakistani-American Pioneered 3D Technology in Orthodontics

Pakistani Brothers Spawned $20 Billion Security Software Industry

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fireeye Goes Public

Are there Good Hackers? 

Pakistani-Americans Enabling 2nd Machine Revolution

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan Richest South Asian in America

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 

US Promoting Venture Capital & Private Equity in Pakistan

Pakistani-American Population Growth Second Fastest Among Asian-Americans

Edible Arrangements: Pakistani-American's Success Story

Pakistani-American Elected Mayor


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pakistani-American's Invisalign Technology Revolutionized Orthodontics

Zia Chishti, a Pakistani-American serial entrepreneur,  founded his first company Align Technology in 1997 in Silicon Valley on the idea of creating clear plastic braces by using advanced 3-D computer imaging. The technology now trademarked as Invisalign has helped millions of people straighten their teeth for a beautiful smile without enduring the pain and unsightly looks of the traditional steel brackets and wires used in orthodontics.

Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth
After graduating from Stanford Business School, Chishti wore braces when working as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley. When his braces were removed he wore a clear plastic retainer. He noticed that when he did not wear the retainer for several days his teeth would move. However, putting the retainer back on helped bring his teeth to their desired, straightened state. It was this observation that a clear plastic device was capable of moving his own teeth that led to Chishti to conceive a process that became the Invisalign System.

A background in computer science gave Chishti the insight that it was possible to design and manufacture an entire series of clear orthodontic devices similar to the retainer he wore, using 3- D computer graphics technology to straighten teeth. He and his co-founder Kelsey Wirth started Align Technology in 1997 to realize this vision. The process has now evolved to make extensive use of 3D printing for creating a series of braces to apply gentle pressure to straighten teeth over several months. In 2012 alone, the company printed 17 million transparent dental braces for patients.

Align Technology went public in 2001 raising $130 million by selling 10 million shares at $13 each. The company's 2013 revenue was $660 million and net income was $65 million.

Chishti also started The Resource Group (TRG) in Pakistan in 1999. TRG Pakistan claims to be "the country’s largest provider of BPO services with 4 locations in Karachi and Lahore – Pakistan’s largest cities and financial centers". A 2005 Washington Post story introduced what TRG does in these words: "In a chic downtown lobby across the street from the Old Executive Office Building (in Washington DC), Saadia Musa answers phones, orders sandwiches and lets in the FedEx guy....And she does it all from Karachi, Pakistan".

Chishti also founded OrthoClear in 2005 along with several other former Align employees to compete with Align. OrthoClear received $10 million in VC funding from London-based 3i Group and set up its production facilities in Lahore, Pakistan. Soon after, Align Technology slapped OrthoClear with a lawsuit for patent infringement and filed a parallel petition with the US International Trade Commission for unfair competition.

Align claimed that OrthoClear utilizes Align's trade secrets and infringes twelve Align patents, comprising more than 200 patent claims, in the production of the OrthoClear aligners at a facility in Lahore, Pakistan. The complaint requested the ITC institute an immediate investigation and ultimately issue an exclusionary order, enforced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, excluding OrthoClear aligners from importation into the United States.

OrthoClear Inc. and Align Technology Inc. settled their litigation in a Consent Decree with a promise by OrthoClear to stop accepting cases in the United States and a payment of about $20 million from Align for OrthoClear's intellectual property.

After settling with Align, Chisti started another company called ClearCorrect which also made invisible braces. ClearCorrect argued and the International Trade Commission (ITC) agreed that ClearCorrect and its former OrthoClear employees did not violate the Consent Order when they imported digital dental data from Pakistan to make ClearCorrect aligners. However, a Federal Circuit said last week that such rulings are not reviewable by the ITC under the ITC's own rules until after the completion of the investigation, and that the ITC never waived its rule.

The Court ruled that the language used by the parties in the 2006 Consent Order was adequate to prohibit importation by electronic transmission, and remanded the case to the ITC to determine at trial whether the former OrthoClear (now ClearCorrect) employees violated the Consent Order by transmitting digital dental data to ClearCorrect.

The Court did not reach the question of whether section 337 gives the ITC jurisdiction over electronic articles (an issue Align won with both the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the ITC and now the subject of a separate ClearCorrect appeal). The case will now be remanded back to the ITC, which will presumably assign a new ALJ to handle the case going forward. So the litigation goes on while the consumers continue to pay the high price for use of clear braces.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani Brothers Spawned $20 Billion Security Software Industry

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fireeye Goes Public

Are there Good Hackers? 

Pakistani-Americans Enabling 2nd Machine Revolution

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan Richest South Asian in America

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 

US Promoting Venture Capital & Private Equity in Pakistan

Pakistani-American Population Growth Second Fastest Among Asian-Americans

Edible Arrangements: Pakistani-American's Success Story

Pakistani-American Elected Mayor