In episode 18 of Lit’EdTech, Daastan invites Dr. Afshan Huma to lay out the structural problems in Pakistan’s education system and research quality. The discussion prods at the use of technology to fill the loopholes. Dr. Afshan suggests an innovative approach towards educating the students at the grass roots level.
Meet Dr. Afshan Huma
Dr. Afshan Huma works as an Assistant professor in educational planning at Allama Iqbal University. She is associated with various organizations for educational planning policy studies. She also has a doctorate from Michigan State University and a research diploma from UCL. In addition, Dr. Afshan has completed a course in non-fiction film making.
Education and Research in Pakistan
Dr. Huma paints a dismal picture of the quality of research being conducted in Pakistan. As of now, she holds our failing education system accountable for it. The education model in use has persisted since the 19th century, with the aim to
“produce graduates of the same nature, like products who will think alike, will work alike”.
This results in creating complacency, dependency and passiveness within the student.
Insofar, she states that the “education system has spoiled the child”, who then at a higher education level fails to conduct grounded research. With no contextualized learning, they continue to regurgitate theories learned in the classroom. Dr. Huma highlights one of the main issues within the field of research.
“We are studying so many western or foreign theories…we are trying to implement or practice these theories in institutions in Pakistan”.
Moreover, due to the passiveness within the students, they continue to focus on questions that come with the assurance of easy data access and analysis. Thus, the kind of grounded research that is needed is not happening in Pakistan.
Researcher’s Cafe: Generating Ideas
In order to address the problem at hand, Dr. Huma came up with the idea of a researcher’s cafe. They “bring together all these people” who are from the practical field, research institutions and active students– allowing them to sit together and generate some “food for thought”.
It focuses on allowing the student to interact with differing perspectives within the same field. Dr. Huma also emphasises on the need to explore, question and independently think. This takes a step away from the normative textbook culture which force feeds a singular perspective as the correct one. She uses the example of treatment of religion in Pakistan. Moreover, she talks about the inability of the education sector to perceive islam as “one of the religions” in the larger context of history.
Technology: Deconstructing the Systems
Moreover, in order to rectify the system she suggests a deviation from it. She elaborates on a manner that allows teachers to give individual attention to all their students. The catalyst for this is technology, which would allow for the “shift from a single mode of teaching to a multiple mode”. This would include multimedia methodologies and activity based learning.
Further, education continues beyond the classroom. This is seen through the influx of webinars and conferences within the academic world. Such opportunities allows for students to meet with the relevant individuals in their field and enable them to network effectively.
Message to the audience
In a message to her audience, Dr. Huma highlights the need to foresee and adapt to change. Technology is the need of the hour, especially taking into account the pandemic. She also encourages content creators to follow the same principle and learn relevant skills as she predicts that the “coming generations will be more into visual content than textual content”.