About 4 kilometers northeast of the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad, Noorpur Shahan is a green locality which is well recognized as the final resting place of a famous saint, Bari Imam. The atmosphere of the area is festive with pilgrims singing devotional songs, giving the whole area an air of peace, love and tranquility. One can find real spiritual solitude here; however, the lack of basic educational standards in schools of the area is a major concern.
Islamabad Model School for Girls (IMSG) Noorpur Shahan, though situated in this well known locality and administered by the Federal Government, does not seem to meet the educational standard a public school is supposed to provide. It is housed among shops and faces many infrastructure related problems (the school building frequently undergoes major renovations).
Surprisingly however, the gravest problem is not the structural integrity of the building but a shortage of subject specific teachers for major courses. Over the past 6 years, the school has had no mathematics for Grades 9 and 10, one of the major reasons behind low scores achieved by IMSG-Noorpur Shahan students in board exams.
In October 2017, IMSG Noorpur Shahan was gifted a “smart classroom”, one of seventy-five school implementations under the stewardship of a large multi-national’s corporate social responsibility program. Teachers at the school received training on Blended Learning, and they have been using the system for over ten months now.
When team members of the implementing partner started visiting this school, a number of problems were reported. Heavy construction and lack of subject specific teachers were impeding quality education for the students. Interestingly, in addition to providing support to teachers, one of the organisation’s team members started teaching Math classes, and fell in love with the positive energy of students. “Students find mathematics a particularly challenging subject, to the extent that they are actually afraid of it”, she says. “I see a surprising change in girls’ attitudes towards learning after interacting with the Digital Learning Center. They had never found learning to be this exciting.”
An integral part of the Digital Learning Center, fun and engaging video tutorials that are also provided, were a useful resource for the teachers who are not subject specific but are teaching math due to lack of subject matter experts. As a result, these teachers advised students to pay close attention to the video content, so that they could clarify their concepts.
After ten months, the implementing partner conducted a Boot camp in the school, with Grades 9 and 10, in order to see if there had been any improvement in their learning outcomes. The tests found improvements of 13% and 20% respectively. In a short span of time, these students proved that if the right avenues are provided, they can stand up and be counted on to excel in class, and be a catalyst for change in Pakistan.