Idara E Taleem o Aagahi

When emergencies become a social movement: COVID-19 and learning revolution in Pakistan II – Baela Raza Jamil – Daily Times

I have been calling the COVID-19 ‘apocalyptic’ since the day one; it feels that way! Today it is in 210 countries with ‘lockdown’ as the only preventive measure to ensure ‘social distancing’. COVID-19 has generated a space, where the negative terms have become positive, proactive and lifesaving; a time in history that is unprecedented shirking physical spaces for spiritual rejuvenation, where nature seeks absolutely undiluted pure isolation for reconnecting for Greater Good and Purpose. There are no shortcuts at the macro and micro level in nature’s brutal dialectic in today’s flipped Earth; the unimaginable has become real at scale! I am referring to the onset of a Learning Revolution for human kind! At a time when national and global SDGs 2030 appear to be toppling, with 2 billion learners out of their education facilities, will the Learning Revolution become a leveler too? Only time will tell.

These days we are a part of milestone making in human history when sudden events change everything; from society to politics, to economics to norms of education and learning. As Engler writes ‘it is a trigger event’; perhaps 9/11 was one in recent history as were world wars I and II’!

‘COVID-19 pandemic, is by far the biggest trigger event of our generation. It is a combination of natural disaster and economic collapse happening at the same time'(Ibid), with enormous physical, emotional and mental health costs. But such events also present equally powerful opportunities for people, creating solutions that are truly non-rivalrous public goods. It is precisely such events that become a litmus test for both state and societal responses in terms capabilities, capacity and coherence to work optimally through partnerships at scale; they build on innovations achieved and/or in the making, engaging new regenerative solutions through collaborative platforms.

COVID 19 in Pakistan has led to many large scale responses spearheaded by leaders political and social, supported by the nationwide administrative machinery both central and local. The solutions are flowing generously and innovatively as public goods in Pakistan. These are many and at scale. The fastest cash transfers are happening at a record phase across the country under the ‘EHSAS Emergency Cash Program’- with transparent tracking GoPakistan, to three million families. Another measure is the research, testing and creating shelters for the infected across the country using both unused public and private spaces (schools, train bogies, expo centres, hotels and new facilities at scale etc.); to bold but cautious economic recovery instruments and services and many more!

For education, given the learning poverty challenge, the fastest response to millions of learners, both in school and out of school along with their caregivers and teachers, two incredible learning platforms have been established in record time by the provincial and federal governments (Punjab and federal). These platforms are from preschool to grade XII that were designed concurrently as the COVID-19 was spreading, as an incredible Emergency response.

‘Taleem Ghar’ was the first platform launched for TV, crafted by the School Education Department, PMIU and Punjab Information Technology Board. Taleem Ghar has been on air since April 1 with support from local cable providers and is also on YouTube, Android, Website.

The second platform is TeleSchool – Taleem Ghar Ghar which is being run on the Pakistan Television learning platform “Tele School-Taleem-Ghar-Ghar (Education in every home)” by the Federal Ministry of Education & Professional Training. This too is accessible through You Tube, Android, Website through online and off line solutions.

“COVID 19 in Pakistan has led to many large scale responses spearheaded by leaders political and social, supported by the nationwide administrative machinery both central and local”

These two landmark learning platforms have been achieved through a huge rigorous and unprecedented team work for a fast track govt. led strategy over two to four weeks respectively for both channels. The ongoing effort is the result of engaging departments (education, technology, information and PEMRA), federal directorate of education, virtual universities, and non-state partners including ILM Association -MUSE, Sabaq Foundation, Knowledge Platform and Taleemabad. They have come together to create, collate and curate content/animations-instructor led sessions mapped to curriculum SLOs, concept sequencing, communication and innovations that can be absorbed in the systems of education in Pakistan. Keeping equity in mind a hybrid approach is being used to access all learners those with full access to ICTs/technology and those with partial or no access. The intent is to reach millions through complementary modes of dissemination including community activists/facilitators in safe gear where digital /tech based solutions are not possible. Some evidence on household access to ICTs/digital facilities has been made available by ITA, a civil society organization.

ITA leads the largest national flagship assessment program the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Pakistan conducted across all rural, and selected urban areas of Pakistan, assessing children (age 5-16) in three basic competencies i.e. Language (Urdu/Pashto/Sindhi), English, Arithmetic) since 2010. ASER also collects household (HH) and school-based data to cover core characteristics of education, HH wealth and facilities. The latter includes information on availability of TV, cell phones and use of SMS, Whatsapp etc. HH data in ASER Pakistan 2019 covered 105,000 rural and urban households in 155 districts and 20 centres renders the following trends of ICTs/Cell access and usage in households across Pakistan.

Availability of Information & Communication Technology at Households

Source : ASER 2019 Rural Urban-Households

Source : ASER 2019 Rural Urban-Household Information.

The information thus gathered reveals the following trends for Pakistani households (HHs):

* 60% of HHs (rural) and 88% of HHs (urban) have a TV set.

* 66 % HHs (rural) and 85% HHs (urban) have a mobile phone.

* 38 % HHs (rural) and 73% HHs (urban) have a smart phone, and

* of those who have mobiles 90% of HHs (rural) and 93% HHs (urban) use Whatsapp.

This data clearly reveals a half glass full and not half empty for Pakistan in the times of COVID-19 that can be used for:

* Effective planning to incorporate information and communication technology (ICT)/digital distance learning for children, communities, schools and education systems

* Implementing digital/distance learning through multi-media for teachers, students and caregivers

* Introducing approaches leading to higher ordered thinking and executive function skills,

* Providing creative and individualized options for students to expression and understanding

* Enabling better preparation of students to be progressively equipped with ongoing technological/digital revolution in schools, homes and the workplace etc.

What more can be done? How do we reach the HHs without TV and cellphones? Can there be a community based strategy of teachers/activists like the barefoot doctors? These activists can work with communities ensuring safe kits, equipped with androids/tablets and learning packs to reach such bottom of the pyramid HHs. To make this emerging wave of Learning Revolution successful, it needs the combination of effective communication and creative outreach. Remember, this is a trigger in history to help us leapfrog learning as a social movement through collaboration and cooperation led by the government, non-state actors and development partners to fight the global COVID-19 pandemic through innovative actions measure evidence of scale and impact.

The author is CEO ITA, founder of Children’s Literature Festival and the Commissioner Education Commission

Source: Daily Times