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reforming schools in Lodhran
Lodhran Schools Reform Initiative (LSRI) in Southern Punjab

The reform efforts in the past, for obvious reasons, have been premised upon provision of large funds, without sufficient attention being paid to structural anomalies, poor decision-making process and a politically-expedient management work style.

In the absence of political vision and professional commitment at the state level, it is important to develop prototypes of good government schools. The SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School (Karachi), as a modern government school, achieved just that. The model is now being successfully replicated on a bigger scale in 85 government schools in rural Lodhran (southern Punjab).

 
 

Jahangir Khan Tareen, President of the Tareen Education Foundation (TEF), visited the SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School in Karachi in early 2010. There, much to his pleasant surprise, he saw a modern government school. He requested the Bookgroup (BG) if this could be replicated in government schools in Lodhran. First an MOU between the Punjab Government and the TEF was signed in October 2010, handing over the management of 85 government schools to the TEF. The same month an MOU was signed between the TEF and the BG to partner the project. Called the Lodhran Schools Reform Initiative (LSRI), work on the Lodhran schools started immediately. The C.A.S. School (a leading private school in Karachi) became a component of this partnership for providing the blueprint of a modern school and training the teachers of Lodhran schools.

Initially, Ahsan Rana, Member, Managing Committee of TEF, co-ordinated all programmes in Lodhran on behalf of the TEF. Akbar Khan, Senior Manager, Bookgroup, and Project Manager of this initiative, oversees the implementation of the entire project on behalf of BG and TEF.

The Lodhran project is being funded entirely by the TEF.

     

 

 

the approach

In the schools in Lodhran the work started by 'Doing Simple Things'. The 'doing simple things' approach is premised on the argument that while resources are essential, often small and simple policy changes can change the learning culture of a school substantially, and impact on the lives of children dramatically.

In October 2010, several civil works were initiated and administrative and policy changes were made. A number of academic changes and a sustained programme for the training of teachers were introduced.

The incremental approach envisages a two-pronged strategy: One, to bring about academic and administrative changes in all the 85 schools at the same time. This includes providing to all schools alternative textbooks, training of teachers, introducing sports, art and other activities, hiring new teachers and building additional classrooms where needed, providing drinking water and improving toilets, establishing a code of conduct (eg, punctuality, no corporal punishment, taking care of personal hygiene), establishing Student Governments and starting horticultural societies. All these changes have already been implemented in the 85 schools.

Two, in phase 1, two schools have been identified as core schools: The Faiz Ahmed Faiz School, which has already been constructed and started funtioning in January 2012, and the Amna Girls School, which is under construction and will be operative by April 2013. These two schools serve as prototypes for the rest of the schools. These core state-of-the-art schools are comparable with some of the best in the private sector. Each year a large state-of-the-art school will be added to the Lodhran Schools Reform Initiative.

  the new programme of studies

In redefining the objectives of school education in Lodhran, the number of subjects taught in the younger classes have been reduced, and focus has been placed on developing analytical skills of children. For a few subjects, sub-standard government-prescribed textbooks have been replaced by modern, more attractive and child-friendly textbooks. A number of new programmes have been introduced, both at the level of the curriculum and teaching method, as well as in administrative procedures.

The new curriculum

Bookgroup books have been introduced from KG to Class 8 in most of the 85 schools for teaching of Urdu. Heinemann Maths for teaching of mathematics has been introduced in classes 1 to 2. Each year a new class is added for teaching of Heinemann maths, so that teachers are trained in teaching a modern maths programme. Books from Oxford University Press have been introduced for teaching of English. All books have been supplied free of cost to students by the TEF.

Six books have been translated from Urdu into the local Seraiki language by the Bookgroup. When these Seraiki books were distributed to the children, the teachers, students and their parents were taken by quite a storm. For the first time, a very small beginning had been made to provide children delightful books written in their native language. The Bookgroup will continue to translate more books into Seraiki for children each year.


In addition to introducing new and modern books, a new programme for teaching of art has been introduced and teachers are being trained in the new approach. Art supplies are provided free of cost to students.

A Department of Physical Education has been established, and a set of sports activities as part of the Programme of Studies have been introduced. Cricket, football, netball teams are being trained for inter-house and inter-school competitions. A teachers training team, headed by Mr Azmat Pasha of the C.A.S. School, conducts training of teachers in Lodhran regularly.

In line with the C.A.S. School, no examinations are held up to Class 6. Students are evaluated through tests and assignments given on a regular basis. The school timetable has been reorganized, and new programmes have been introduced. Well-equipped libraries, computer labs and science labs have been constructed in the core schools, and in a few out of the 85 other schools. Each year libraries, science and computer labs will be added in other schools as well. We hope that in the coming years students attending the 85 schools will have all facilities being provided this year in the core schools.

 

Professional development of teachers

The LSRI intervention has a two-pronged training programme for the teachers: One, teachers from the C.A.S. School go to Lodhran to train the teachers in small groups in their own environment. Two, groups of in-service teachers from the Lodhran schools come to Karachi for training. A hostel for women teachers has been established in Karachi with a full-time caretaker. Azmat Pasha coordinates their visit. The training sessions are held at the C.A.S. School. On an average, two groups of 6-7 teachers come every month. In these training sessions, teachers are taught classroom organisation, classroom management, modern teaching methods, phonics, language and numerical development.

During their stay in Karachi, under-training teachers from Lodhran also visit the Neemtree School of Music where they observe how music, starting with very small children, is taught as an integral component of education. These teachers also visit the Moin Khan Academy (DHA) where they are exposed to various sports taught by professional instructors.

In the process of being trained in the new methodology of teaching and in sharing the new, stimulating and child-friendly school culture, it is being demonstrated that a large majority of government school teachers, given the right environment and the right training, understand the dynamics of modern pedagogy and are willing to improve their professional skills.


Hara Patta

The student newspaper, Hara Patta, is printed twice a year and distributed to students and teachers (of all the 85 schools) and government officials. It reports on the various initiatives that have been undertaken to improve the schools in Lodhran, reporting on various developments taking place in the school, printing interviews of students and teachers, printing art work and stories by students, and celebrating their achievements in sports, Learning Modules and other school activities.

Student Government

A Student Government has been established in order to develop confidence in students and to allow them to participate in their affairs and develop leadership initiatives. In August 2012, as a first step, a 12-member Student Government was nominated. From the next academic year, elections will be held for the Student Government in which students from Class 10 will contest for these elections, and 12 candidates, based on majority vote, will be inducted into the Student Government of the high schools.

 

  Horticulture Society

Environment is a very important component of education. Students in Lodhran schools have already planted saplings, and are taking care of the old plants and trees. Small indoor and outdoor plants have been placed in various sections of the school buildings. All this is managed by the Horticulture Society of each school, which consists of teachers and students. The involvement of teachers and students in this important activity has brought a new culture to the school, where conservation and an interest in improving the environment has begun to take root.


Improving the physical infrastructure of the schools

Much of the initiatives that have been taken in the Lodhran schools by way of academic and administrative changes, are being consolidated and built upon by the provision of modern infra-structure. While a substantial part of the Rs 60 million budget per year is being spent on books, art and sports material, on hiring of additional teachers and their training, for new programmes, a large part of the budget is also being spent on constructing the core schools and in providing additional classrooms, clean drinking water, toilet facilities, fans, light and new furniture in the rest of the 85 schools.

Of the core schools, the new building of the Faiz Ahmad Faiz Boys School (17-18 MPR) was completed in December 2011 and the following January classes resumed in this state-of-the-art building with a modern progamme of studies. Construction work on the 44,000 sq. ft. Amna Girls School (21 MPR) started in October 2011. This large facility is expected to house 800 students when completed in April 2013. Both these core schools have the following facilities:

  • A modern and well-equipped library
  • Art studio
  • Science labs
  • A well-equipped computer lab
  • Audio Visual Room
  • Administrative office
  • Air-conditioned training-cum-conference room
  • Faculty study
  • Faculty lounge
  • Principal’s office
  • Health room
  • Day care
  • Faculty cafeteria
  • Ground for sports facilities