By: Dr Tajuddin Sharar, Assistant Professor of Education, University of Chitral
The main function of a university is shaping of individual lives and transformation of a society. The evaluation of the impact of Aga Khan University-Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) in multi-faceted transformation of its graduates and society is significantly visible. This paper is a reflection on the contribution of AKU-IED’s educational programs in making a difference in the lives of its graduates in particular and its critical role in social change in general through quality education.
As a role model educational institute in Pakistan, the role of AKU-IED has been instrumental in my personal transformation. This great alma mater provided me a unique opportunity to interact with diverse scholars and educators from around the world in a pluralistic organizational culture. The exposure made me self-critical to identify my ethnocentric worldviews and failure to recognize multiple perspectives around an issue. Subsequently, the exposure ingrained in me the value of forbearance, open mindedness and value the vantage points of others while developing my life skills of being more accommodative and adaptable.
This Alma matter also developed in me a new paradigmatic lens to see educational issues and processes from a different vantage point, subsequently transforming my conceptualization of the nature of knowledge as an inevitable reality to be swallowed by students without any appropriation into a social construction fallible to contextual appropriation and modification. AKU-IED also transformed my conceptualization of teaching as an artistic profession requiring intellectual capability and skills instead of a technical process of indoctrinating students with the transmission and reproduction of bookish knowledge and convergent thinking. This personal and professional paradigm shift led to the drastic changes in my educational practices.
Similarly, the social role of AKU-IED is also reflective from changed educational services and practices in educational processes of different public and private educational institutes in Pakistan introduced by its graduates. For instance, as a graduate of AKU-IED, I have always tried to introduce new educational approaches, new ways of pedagogies, alternative ways of assessment, learner-centered pedagogical approaches and a learning friendly classroom environment in my class with prospective teachers. I also have contributed in enrichment and revision of teacher education curricula in different universities and workplaces. I introduce best educational practices such as critical pedagogy, reflective practice and classroom action research which are prerequisite for the transformation of teacher education in Pakistan. Capitalizing on my specialization and expertise, I also strive to make teacher education programs relevant for students’ needs and responsive to the challenges and changes of the 21st century through the introduction of new and emerging courses such as Education for Sustainable Development, Global Education and Issues-based Education.
The role of AKU-IED in social change can also be evaluated in terms of its capacity to generate new knowledge and disseminate it to the consumers of knowledge. This is a pragmatic approach to minimize the dichotomous gap between theory and practice. This institute has thus earned the credit of introducing best educational research based practices and services in Pakistan by developing graduates of various programs as educational leaders, planners, managers and educational researchers. These graduates of AKU-IED serve in different educational organizations in different capacities in general and educational researchers in particular.
The role of AKU-IED in promoting educational services and practices in teacher education through educational research is also reflective from the contribution of its graduates. Like other AKU-IED graduates, I teach research methods courses and supervise research scholars at post-graduate levels in doing thesis and I conduct classroom research. In my doctoral study, I identified limitations in global education theoretical framework to foster global perspectives and world mindedness among students. I added in the body of global education literature a new seven-dimensional theoretical framework/model of global education with the additional dimensions required for fostering global perspectives and world mindedness among students of 21st century. The findings of my doctoral study have also led to the initiation of a debate among scholars to revisit theoretical framework of western version of global education in order to promote world thinking among students. The proposed seven-dimensional theoretical framework as a contribution of my doctoral study also has the potential to inform national policy actions with reference to the development/revision of teacher/global education curricula for preparing students of 21st century living in the world full of issues.
The social role of AKU-IED can also be counted with reference to its attempts to address issues of social equity by providing educational opportunities for candidates coming from disadvantaged areas to achieve elite or middle class positions. The creation of opportunities for students of disadvantaged areas directly shakes hegemonic structures of opportunities and inequalities prevalent in our society. Thus, AKU-IED has been instrumental in socio-economic transformation of its graduates by providing equal opportunity to candidates regardless to economic status which often is the basis of social stratification. It unlocks potential and helps talented students to gain advanced training regardless to their socio-economic background and develop them as a key national resource. My admission in AKU-IED was based on merit rather than my ability to pay. I received financial assistance in the form of grants covering all my educational expenses. Otherwise, it would not have been possible for me to think of university education of international standard in one of the best educational institutes of the world. Thus, AKU-IED played a critical role in my personal and professional transformation by giving me access to quality education unlocking my potentials to achieve higher status and social mobility. Because of the social equity policy of AKU-IED, I managed to reach top leadership positions as a Head of Education Department and Provost in University of Chitral which itself is an evidence of the impact of AKU-IED is making in the lives of its graduates.
The contribution of AKU-IED can also be viewed in terms of close match between preparation of its graduates and work place requirements. The institute prepares students for work, providing them employment-related knowledge, skill and competencies to increase the chances of their employability and better life chances. AKU-IED invests and innovates to ensure their courses equipping graduates with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the modern time to improve their future employment prospects.
Thousands of its graduates including me are working in public and private sector educational institutes and face no difficulty in getting a job and or changing their institution. My induction in three different private and public sector universities within a short span of three years in different provinces of Pakistan is one of the strongest evidence of the claim that the institute makes a difference in the lives of its graduates by preparing them for the world of work and increasing the chances of their employability.
The conclusion is that AKU-IED transforms lives at individual level while inculcating pluralistic values in graduates and raises their standards of lives in multiple ways. AKU-IED also transforms lives while equipping its graduates with the knowledge and skills required in the market and enhancing the chances of their employability. The great Alma matter also makes impact at society level by preparing and empowering its graduates to make a difference in the lives of thousands of others through improved educational practices and services.