Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah; Dr. Geraldine Kenney-Wallace, President of McMaster University; Honourable Ministers; Your Excellencies; Trustees; Faculty Members; Dintinguished guests.
As the Aga Khan University matures, its body of alumni grows rapidly. I am particularly pleased to have with us today, as our Chief Guest, an alumnus of a rare sort: Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, who "graduated" after serving a distinguished term as a Trustee of this university.
This afternoon we mark an important new stage in the development of the Aga Khan University. Professor Bacchus has detailed the structure and functioning of the Institute for Educational Development, but I should like to describe to you my thoughts about why an Institute like this is so important to Pakistan and the developing world, and why it is a logical extension of the Univeristy's programme.
In its ten years the University has succeeded in establishing respected schools of nursing and medicine. The respect that they have engendered comes foremost from the quality of the education that they offer. Consistent stress has been maintained on attracting talented students and a distinguished faculty, providing them with the resources needed to do their work well, and holding them to a high standard. But two other characteristics of these schools have underwritten their quality and assured their importance. The first is the international horizon tht their vision encompasses. These schools have built partnerships with the best universities in North America and Europe, drawn faculty from five continents and engaged in professional dialogue with the finest minds in the world. These are not parochial schools. The second characteristic, though, is distinctly local. The schools of nursing and medicine have focused their teaching and research on the solving of problems, the problems of Pakistan and the problems of the developing world. These are not schools lost in theoretical abstractions. They understand that education can be an immensely useful tool for solving the practical problems of a society.
It is in the context that the IED fits so well. The quality of primary and secondary education here in Pakistan and elsewhere is a profound problem, one that cruelly fetters the development of this country and many others. And the problem of educational quality is one that has engaged the minds of intelligent people around the world, people concerned not just with classroom teaching but also with such fields as human development, organizational management and social science research. IED therefore offers the opportunity to bring international competence to bear on the solution of a complex local, but pervasive problem.
Complex problems often have many causes, and people can either be a cause or a solution. Where professional competence is required to meet a social need, severe problems can be expected if a key profession has low social status. It may seem paradoxical that an important profession could have low status. But people who do not recognize the importance of a task or the contribution of the professional to it may withhold the status that professionals deserve. Alternatively, for historical or other reasons, the profession may be bound by structures that ensure that good performance by the professional is neither developed, nor recognized, nor rewarded, nor benefited from. For example, the professional who does not have access to continuing education, dialogue with engaged peers or an important degree of control over professional work is both constrained and dispirited by these manifestations of low status.
The consequences of such low professional status are manifold. First is the difficulty in recruiting talented people into the profession. Without access to the requisite talent a profession is hard pressed to do its work adequately. Second is the attrition that results when professionals are frustrated in their attempts to do their job well. Regularly, the attrition is highest among those with the widest range of options, that is, the best and the brightest. The result is a further shrinking of the pool of skills and dedication needed for professional work. The third, and perhaps most destructive consequence of low status is lack of attention from outside the profession. The resources that are necessary for the successful practise of a profession and the social structures that would enable those resources to be funnelled efficiently to that profession are likely to be made available only when those outside the profession recognize the need and commit to meeting it -- and that recognition and commitment comes slowly to policy makers when the status of the work is low.
The Institute for Educational Development targets a very important, low status profession: teaching. AKU has long addressed, in nursing, another such profession. The strategy that IED has developed for improving teaching bears many similarities to that which the School of Nursing has used. The very creation of IED highlights the importance of teaching, and the programmes of IED are crafted to amplify that message. The technical work of the Institute is designed to raise the competence of teachers, both in their substantive areas of specialty and in their teaching skills, with the expectation that a truly excellent teacher can inspire others by example. Greater competence may not ensure higher status, but it will make it easier to achieve. Neither publicity nor good training is likely to make much difference, however, unless an environment is created in which good teachers can be more effective. IED is planning to devote much of its work to creating such an environment. By working with school heads, not just individual teachers, IED will try to build a new teaching environment. The leadership of school heads is essential to real reform.
Essential to the success of this novel enterprise is the use of research. In seeking the way through unmapped territory, one must test tentative routes and continually redirect the exploration along the most promising paths. Research on educational matters is in its infancy in Pakistan. IED is organized to bring research competence to bear on issues ranging from the very practical problems oc classroom teaching and school management to relevant questions of educational policy. Through research, the lessons learned in the relatively small group of schools with which one Professional Development Centre can work can be abstracted and generalized for application by others elsewhere. IED and the PDC that we inaugurate today, or subsequent PDC's, can therefore hope to have an impact far beyond their immediate reach.
The use of research is not the only strategy by which IED seeks to strengthen the quality of its work and extend its impact. The partnerships with Oxford University and the University of Toronto bring the faculty and students of IED into continuing dialogue with international colleagues. The Academic Advisory Council provides a forum for experts inside and outside Pakistan to consult with those at the University about current and future activities of IED. Partnerships with donor agencies -- including the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme, the Canadian International Development Agency, and the Aga Khan Foundation -- provide not only the tangible support needed for the enterprise but invaluable discussion partners in the consideration of ways best to improve the effectiveness of teaching in the developing world.
The international make-up of the cadre of Master Teachers not only extends the potential future reach of IED's programmes, but it brings complementary perspectives from different countries to the identification of teaching problems and the selection of potential solutions. Last on this list of strategies, but critical to the likelihood of impact of IED on a larger scale, is the involvement of governmental schools and policy makers within the Ministry of Education. Private schools can be exemplars of excellence, but models that show success in the private sector will have far greater impact if they can be adapted for widespread use in public schools.
Those of you who have helped IED come this far are pioneers in a new land. Much remains to be done to secure the benefits that this early exploration suggests can be achieved. Those of you who work and study at IED are called to a nobel task. Much hinges on your dedication and discoveries in the years
ahead. I thank you for your commitment to this enterprise. I congratulate you for your insight in joining in it. I encourage you to see it through to the goals to which inspired work can lead us.
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