Saturday, March 16, 2013

Learntive: NEDUET's Silicon Valley Alumni Offer Digitized Lessons For Pak Schools

DVDs and YouTube videos are at the heart of Learntive, a Silicon Valley NEDians' initiative to promote better learning among school students in Pakistan.

Founded in 2012, Learntive has begun with the launch of a YouTube channel and video CDs containing complete lectures for  Sindh mathematics text books for grades 9 and 10. Learntive has already given 2300 CD sets to district education officers for distribution to teachers at government-run schools in Sindh province. 

In addition to working with Sindh government, Learntive is also sharing digitized lessons with various other organizations including The Citizens Foundation (TCF) which runs nearly 1000 schools across Pakistan, Development in Literacy (DIL), and Indus Resource Center (IRC). 

L to R: Dr. Nasir Ansar (Director General Colleges, Sindh), Pir Mazahar ul Haq (Senior Minister, Education & Literacy Department, Sindh), Sajjad Abbasi (Special Secretary, Education & Literacy Department, Sindh),
Anees Ahmed Kaim Khani ( Learntive Team Member)
 The initial funding for the initiative has come mainly from Pakistani-American alumni of NED University who are working in Silicon Valley, California. Silicon Valley NEDians have also volunteered their time and the production facilities to narrate and produce the videos. Of particular note are  the contributions of time and money made by my friends Suhail Ahmad, Ali Hasan Cemendtaur, Abbas Zaidi and Raghib Husain, all graduates of NED University in Karachi, Pakistan.  Ali Hasan Cemendtaur is also working with Bilal Musharraf of Khan Academy to ensure Urdu translations of its online tutorial videos.  Ali's voice can be heard in several instructional videos posted online. 

Digitizing lessons is the first step toward helping teachers provide better instruction in classrooms. Such content can also be distributed through high-speed broadband expansion.  A recent industry report indicates that Pakistan has become the fourth fastest growing broadband market in the world and the second fastest in Asia.

Source: OECD Global Education Digest 2009

The quickest and the most cost-effective way to broaden access to education at all levels is through online schools, colleges and universities. Sitting at home in Pakistan, self-motivated learners can watch classroom lectures at world's top universities including UC Berkeley, MIT and Stanford. More Pakistanis can pursue advanced degrees by enrolling and attending the country's Virtual University that offers instructions to thousands of enrolled students via its website, video streaming and Youtube and television channels.

Clearly, the concept of virtual instruction is finding its way to K-12 education. Increasing number of Pakistanis are drawn to the Khan Academy channel on YouTube making Pakistanis among its top users. Learntive and Virtual Education for All are a local Pakistani initiatives extending the concept to primary and secondary level.

All of these technological developments and various open courseware initiatives are good news for making education available and accessible to satisfy the growing needs in Pakistan and other emerging countries around the world seeking to develop knowledge-based economies of the 21st century.

Here's a Learntive video:

Here's a video of NED Alumni Convention in Silicon Valley:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani-Americans in Top Venture Deals in Silicon Valley

12-Year-Old Pakistani Girl at Davos, Switzerland

Pakistan Rolls Out 50Mbps Broadband Service

More Pakistan Students Studying Abroad

Inquiry Based Learning in Pakistan

Mobile Internet in South Asia

Allama Iqbal Open University

Online Courses at Top International Universities

Pakistan Virtual University

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Pakistan Primary Education Crisis

Indian Students' Poor Performance on PISA and TIMSS

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

India Shining, Bharat Drowning

PISA's Scores 2011

Teaching Facts versus Reasoning

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece on Shehzad Roy's "Chal Parha" GeoTV series to improve education in Pakistan:

Last month, well-known Pakistani pop star, Shehzad Roy made an appearance at Harvard to talk about music, activism and his new documentary series, Chal Parha (Urdu for: Come, Teach), which highlights the extensive issues plaguing Pakistan’s education system.

Having visited over 200 schools across the country, in an interview with DAWN, Roy stated: “In each episode we highlight an issue from public schools, for example, corporal punishment, medium of instruction, population, textbooks, curriculum, teachers.”

He added, “I want to share the lessons that we have learnt; both good and ugly. We want people to know the obstacles standing in the way of improving the structure of education in government schools while also highlighting the remarkable individuals committed to the teaching profession. These people prove the power of individual efforts.”

Broadcast on a local television channel, GEO TV, the show has gained immense popularity, fast making an impact in a country where, according to the non-profit Alif Ailaan, the government spends just 2.4 percent of its national GDP on education and where just over half of children enroll in primary school.

Mariam Chughtai, the founder of Harvard’s Pakistan Student Group told The Diplomat that the singer was invited primarily because the student group “is committed to changing the discourse on Pakistan at Harvard from one of terrorism and challenges, to that of resilience, art and social change.”

“[Roy] embodied for us an activist who is using music to make an impact on the ground, which is why his discussants, Professor Ali Asani and I were able to have a conversation with him in light of how artists have historically played a key role in keeping governments and rulers accountable,” Chughtai said.

“Roy himself spoke of the main learnings he has had in his journey of Chal Parha, including clippings from his show which illustrated these learnings. They represented both strengths and weaknesses of society in being ready for change on education.”

Alongside his music career, which, over the past couple of years, has veered sharply into the direction of socio-political commentary, Roy has managed to rather successfully integrate both his music and humanitarian work
Roy told Dawn, “We have installed thumb-printing attendance machines in the five provinces to bring transparency to the issue of teacher absenteeism. We are now collecting this data and are happy to report that teacher attendance has increased considerably in these schools. Similarly, in the episode on corporal punishment, we are proposing a law banning physical abuse in schools and we plan to diligently pursue this issue in the media.”

Riaz Haq said...

“Management of Google/YouTube has shown its willingness to localise YouTube in Pakistan provided they will not be held responsible if blasphemous content is placed and uploaded on its website,” the minister said.

“The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is finalising a draft ordinance which will be processed by the ministry for enactment as law,” said the minister.

Breaking the news to members of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunications, Anusha Rehman explained that once YouTube was localised, blocking objectionable content would be easier.

“Instead of installing costly filtration mechanisms, Google will easily be able to block blasphemous content on the request of the Pakistan government.

“Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have also reached a similar arrangement with Google,” Anusha Rehman said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News report about access to Ivy League school courses in Pakistan:

Any student sitting in Pakistan within the comfort of his bedroom or the ease of his armchair having a smartphone or a personal computer and an internet connection will now be able to access courses taught in the classrooms of Harvard, Yale, Stanford and MIT universities.

The Latif Ebrahim Jamal National Science Information Centre of the Karachi University (KU) launched a website, which will connect students in Pakistan to video lectures of professors at Ivy League universities of the world.

The web portal called the LEJ Knowledge Hub will hold thousands of full courses (0.5 lecture hours), skill development modules, research-based lectures and online mentoring lessons for school and university levels. All of this will be for free.

“Pakistan is among the first few countries of the world to launch such an initiative. History is being written right now,” said Dr Iqbal Chaudhry, the director of KU’s International Centre of Chemical and Biological Sciences, at a ceremony hosted at the Governor House on Thursday. President Mamnoon Hussain was the chief guest.

Students who log onto the website can choose if they want to be accredited for these courses or not. “I ask all educationists in the public and private sector universities to use this facility and include these internationally recognised courses in their curriculum,” Chaudhry said.

Schools can also access the portal as video tutorials from the Khan Academy have also been accommodated in the website.

Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, a former chairman of Higher Education Commission (HEC), said the website would bring about a new paradigm for Pakistan. “Universities are not about beautiful buildings, they are about beautiful minds,” he said. “Education is the only means of survival and our country has 40 percent children out of school.”

He shared a presentation titled “Higher Education: an Imperative for Social Development”, in which he highlighted what was lacking in Pakistani universities. At MIT, he claimed, graduates have started 4,000 new companies which employ 1.1 billion people. In Korea, only 5 percent of youth had university degrees till the 1960, but by 2010, 95 percent of its youth had attained higher education. Their imports increased over 350 times.

He was also hopeful that the status of the HEC would be restored, as in all countries higher education was a federal subject.

Philanthropist Aziz Latif Jamal, whose father established the LEJ centre, said: “We are one of the first countries to launch a website like the LEJ Knowledge Hub, but Pakistan has a lot of challenges ahead. Our literacy rate is a sorry 56 percent, we have untrained teachers and professors and a single digit education budget. If we are not ready to address these challenges then we are merely paying lip service to the cause of education at a time when our youth bulge is drifting towards militancy and crime.”

The president advised educational institutions to increase their pace of development so that it quenches the thirst for knowledge present in the youth of Karachi. “There was a time when business families of the city tried to outdo each other in their service to education. That is why we had the Ayesha Bawani Academy, Adamjee College and Dawood Engineering and Technology College. I pray those times return to Karachi.”

The government, he added, would resolve the pending status of the HEC and “salvage it from being ruined”.

Riaz Haq said...

MasterYourMath dot com is ready for students' use

This is the first year KG through 12 grade students in 46 states that have adopted the ‘Common Core’ will be tested on the Common Core material.
What is Common Core? In a nutshell education material that is part of the Common Core course is what the authorities believe students of a specific grade should be taught. The students are supposed to show their proficiency in the Common Core course material by taking standardized tests at the end of the school year.
Do we know what the Common Core tests will look like? May be. Somewhat. We know a little bit about the upcoming tests because the two assessment agencies, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced), have, on their web sites, presented a few sample questions. But knowing a bit about the test questions is one thing and taking the actual test something different.
Realizing the need to develop a place on the Internet where students can take a test very much like the real ‘Common Core’ test, a few concerned parents got together to design a testing web site to meet the needs of the students. That web site, MasterYourMath dot com (, is now functional. MasterYourMath dot com is not only for the founders’ children, it is for all the children, everybody…for free. Currently, at MasterYourMath dot com web site [] students can take Common Core look-alike mathematics tests for Grades 3, 4, and 5. Plan is to add tests for other grades too. MasterYourMath dot com founders hope to see students all over the US and beyond take advantage of this easy-to-use web site to test themselves and identify their areas of strength and weakness in the Common Core material.

Riaz Haq said...

The new trend of online educational assistance to students would soon become a viable alternative to academies which can be found in every nook and corner with a general perception to achieve good grades in examinations.

The idea of attending academies became popular a decade ago and even parents are also of the view that there was no concept of after-school tuition in their student life.

But now, a general perception has developed that a student, without attending academies, cannot get good marks.

Probably, this has been the reason for parents to blindly spend on their children's academies whether tutors are clearing the concepts or not that is usually not the concern but parents simply get satisfied from the fact that their child is getting "extra assistance for studies."

The other fact is that owing to mushrooming of academies, standards of teaching at schools have dropped with no efforts to fix them.

"All this has given rise to academy mafia which has plagued our society. We see tuition centres opening in every other street," Muhammad Iqbal, father of a student, said on Sunday.

He said such centres exploit both parents and students in the name of `quality education' while in reality, all this is a result of lack of `quality education' in schools and colleges.

Rahim Khan, guardian of a 9th class student, informed that the fast growing academy industry is a living proof that teachers are unable to deliver their concepts effectively.

What is even more painful is that many a time teachers deliberately do not clear concepts of their students so that they are left with no choice but to join their academies in the evening.

He termed this situation "very sad" and supported the trend of online education, which, he said, would be a viable alternative to throwing money to support a broken system.

"Our education sector is already bickering in pain. There is a dire need for institutes to come up with solutions to stop this exploitation," he opined.

The first alternative is Sabaq Foundation's website which is an online video tutorial website with free video lectures for Pakistani students. The website provides tutorials for four main science subjects -- Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology for SSC, FSc and O Level students. The best thing about this website is that all tutorials have been prepared and sequenced following the exact syllabus of respective boards Cambridge, Federal, Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan.

Another example is that of which is quite similar to Sabaq and provides lecture videos for four science subjects for FSc students.

So clearly, there are people who recognize the deficiencies of the current state of affairs and are working to resolve them.

When contacted, an education expert was of the view that non-profit initiatives

like these can be a game changer in society and once enough awareness is created about such free educational resources, students can

surely get rid of hassle and cost of after-school academies.

Riaz Haq said...

#Google ponders purified #Pakistani #YouTube #Pakistan … via @theregister

Pakistan's Standing Committee on Information Technology and Communications has recommended that the nation end its ban on YouTube.

Pakistan was unhappy with YouTube for years, on grounds that it made it possible to view content considered blasphemous. Once the controversial film “Innocence of Muslims” made it to Google's streaming site in 2012, the nation blocked YouTube and plenty of other sites too.

That ban has stood since 2012, largely thanks to the requirement that the nation's Supreme Court waive the decision. Pakistani citizens protested the ban with a widely-signed petition that, after being ignored for a couple of years, appeared on the agenda of a Tuesday meeting of the Standing Committee.

Pakistani media reports suggest the outcome of that meeting was a recommendation that Pakistan lift the ban, as discussions between the nation and Google have reached the point at which search and advertising giant is willing to create a blasphemy-free version of YouTube just for Pakistani viewers.

One report, from Daily Pakistan, says the ban stood for so long because Google asked Pakistan to pay for a blasphemous material filtering service.

All reports agree that Google and Pakistan are talking with a view to getting YouTube switched back on on the nation. If that happens it will be another sign, if any are needed, of Google's enthusiasm for a strong presence in developing nations. Last week the company dropped the floor price for apps in India to just US$0.15, down from $0.75. Google's also pursuing Project Loon to bathe developing nations in broadband-from-balloons in order to hasten internet adoption in countries where even mobile networks aren't widespread. ®