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Hafsa Ahsan talks to the pioneers of the Educational Research Institute to understand the concept of an integrated curriculum, teachers’ development programs and much more
Educational Research Institute (ERI) was formed by a group of indiviDuals in 1995. Since its inception it has been striving to bring about an effective change in the educational system through its various services. ERI’s efforts are now slowly trickling into our bi-polar educational system in Pakistan through an integrated curriculum, teacher training programs and consultancy services for schools. To get a first hand view of this organization, I approached several of its members.
Mrs. Safoora Naeem, Principal Usman Public School System and Deputy Director of ERI
How far do you think there is a need for an institute like ERI in the educational system of Pakistan?
There is a tremendous need for developing our own curriculum and books. All the books, which come from abroad, are based on statistics and data collected in a totally different environment. We don’t have any data or statistics available catering exclusively to the Pakistani market. So there is a dire need for this kind of research work. Realizing all these aspects of education, ERI was founded, and ever since we started we have been quite successful in all these areas.
What has been the people’s response to this institute generally?
The people’s response is quite good; especially those who are more inclined towards Islam and realize the need of Islamic teachings in the curriculum and teachers’ development. These people are quite impressed by our services. But apart from them, even other people visit us, so the response has been, overall, tremendous.
What problems did you encounter, if any, in the initial stages of running ERI?
When any institute like this starts, the initial problems are usually manpower and funding. We still face these two major problems because most of the people can understand lots of other works, which are beneficial for the society, but they do not understand the need and benefits of educational work. And it is not easy to explain to them either.
What ambitions do you have for ERI in the future?
At ERI, we are quite ambitious and are looking forward to opening our own teachers’ training college, where we will provide a proper degree or certificate to the teachers. The government does provide this service in the form of the B.Ed and C.T. degrees and various kinds of training too. In reality trained teachers usually complain that when they join the schools, they do not get the opportunity or tools to practice what they are taught. On the other hand, some teachers just assume that whatever they are studying is just going to remain as knowledge and not going to be put into practice. So we lose all the effect of that kind of training. At ERI we are aiming at opening a college where we will offer B.Ed with a difference; where we can promote the skills in the teacher to an extent where she goes into the classroom and then makes a difference.
Mrs. Razia Shamsuddin, Principal of Saba High School and Deputy Director of ERI
What exactly do you try to communicate through the books of your institute?
We feel that we don’t need another English textbook; there are plenty in the market, which deal with appropriate tasks and skills. But what we find is that they do not carry the concepts we want to teach our children. So the ERI books are teaching concepts plus all the other necessary skills.
Is your scope of operation confined to Pakistan or have you marketed your products abroad as well?
As far as I know, there is a school in Jeddah, which is using these books. Last year, when we went over to the ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) conference, we gave a short presentation to them. They were quite impressed with the kind of work going on in Pakistan. They requested that our Islamiat books should be translated into English. We are currently working on it to come up with a consistent piece of translation.
ERI has a consultancy service for new schools. Can you elaborate on the features of that consultancy service?
Consultancy includes setting up of the whole school, i.e. classrooms and soft board material. Consultancy continues for six months. It includes selection of teachers and a principal; all the documentation that a school is supposed to have is provided; selection of students; plus teacher training program. Also, there is a training program for principals. Teachers and principals can visit our schools as well.
How can rest of the brothers and sisters support you in your mission?
We need a lot of helping hands in the form of experienced teachers with an Islamic background who want to serve children through their experience. We would like them to come over and do whatever small work they can, either editing or writing or translating the Islamiat books, either at ERI or from home. Since we are an NGO, and ERI does not sell books, all the expenditure has to be met through donations. We would be very grateful to people who can donate either their money or time.
I put the same question to Mrs. Safoora Naeem and she added that, “We would really appreciate it if the people who are well-versed in computers volunteer so we can take some help from them.”
Dr. Nasreen Ahsan, Deputy Director for Curriculum at ERI.
You introduced the concept of integrated curriculum. Can you elaborate on that?
It basically means to integrate science, social studies, social sciences, religious teachings, mathematics and languages into one subject so that students don’t have to go through separate things. They go through one whole curriculum only. And this is best elaborated in all the pre-primary level schools where you have this kind of curriculum. But when we talk of integrated curriculum we mean that we take all the six disciplines according to our own ideological basis. Our concept of integrated curriculum is that you integrate all of your religious teachings into all the six disciplines.
The concept of integrated curriculum obviously led to the need for having your own personalized curriculum. How did you go about it? How did you decide the priority of subjects?
When we wanted our personalized curriculum we had to do everything from scratch: research, proofread and compile. We didn’t have any material, so we had to create our own. We started by writing books for the Montessori level. Then we compiled them and tested them out in the classrooms practically. And as it was put into practice in the classroom, many problems came into our notice so we revised the curriculum accordingly.
It’s about 10 years since this curriculum was put in the classroom and taking this as a basis, we started to work on the pre-primary books. We have completed that and now we are working on the primary and secondary books. We have only done English and Islamiat. We still have a lot of work to do in Social Studies and Science.
ERI is currently in the process of launching its own website. Once that happens, you can volunteer for this organization from your home using the online form to register as members or volunteers. Right now, for additional information or to volunteer, you can request their brochures from:
ERI Head Office
Address: B-223 Block I North Nazimabad Karachi 74700
Fax Number: (021)-6626236
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
ERI Society Branch
Address: 196-D, Block 2, P.E.C.H.S. Karachi