By Ayesha Amin Usman
There are very few people in this world who can leave you truly inspired and make you think that it is really possible to love what you do! Sir Abbas Husain is one such person.
He, along with his wife, have been working to improve the quality and reach of education in Pakistan for years now and it was truly a pleasure to be in the presence of this brilliant, yet humble Pakistani educator.
Here is a snippet of all that we, at ChalkTalk, learnt from him for if we were to put down everything that was discussed in that one hour, it would surely turn into a book…and a bestseller at that, with the amount of wisdom Sir Abbas has!
- Since when have you been involved in the field of education? What prompted you to enter this field?
I have been director of the Teacher’s Development Centre for the last 20 years. I have trained over 47,000 teachers and observed the teaching/learning process in 1,000 classrooms.
2. What kind of training programs and courses does the Teacher’s Development Centre (TDC) offer?
TDC offers training workshops for teachers, corporations as well as online teacher training programs. The teachers training workshops include but are not limited to“ Classroom Management”, “Language Across Curriculum”, “Innovative Testing” and “Discipline Without Stress”.
3. Are these programs undertaken by individuals or do schools undertake this responsibility?
We approach schools to undertake these workshops for a far-reaching impact but when some schools are unwilling, teachers sometimes undergo the trainings themselves and out of their own pocket.
4. As an educator, what are some of the problems you see around you – in educators, students and parents?
The biggest and foremost problem in education in Pakistan is not the educators, students and/or teachers. It is that no one – not parents, not teachers and definitely not students – has a long-term interest or investment in improving the quality or standard of education. Parents, in particular can change the game of teaching, since they are in a position to pressurize schools. However, most if not all parents, are interested and invested only as long as their child is in the education system. A primary school parent will have issues with the primary level of schooling and/or teachers only as long as his/her child is in the primary level. And so on and so forth.
As a result, schools and educationists do not face any sustained, long-term pressure to improve or change the existing system. And whatever changes do take place, are for the short-term only and never across the board.
5. How different has the teaching environment become in recent years, in terms of thought processes, classroom involvement and parent involvement in your opinion?
The teaching environment has changed over the years. There is more project-based learning, a greater emphasis on concepts than on rote memorization, more emphasis on extracurriculars and much more parental involvement than in yester years. However, since examination methods have remained more or less the same, at the end of the day students do have to rely more on their memory than on their conceptual understanding.
6. In recent years we have seen a rise in a certain class of schools catering to a certain class of students. How would you rate these schools in terms of academic performance and overall child development?
Yes, there is a certain class of schools catering to a certain class of students but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. Because these students can help society in ways that perhaps, students from less privileged backgrounds don’t even have the time for. They have exposure to ideas, situations and learning opportunities that the other half cannot even dream of.
7. What is the one thing you’d like to improve/change in the current schooling scenario?
The class divide. There was a time when a student did not know if his/her fellow student was a rich man’s son or a poor man’s son, Muslim or Christian, Shia or Sunni and so on. But things are not like that anymore. Children are aware, too aware at times of these divisions.
8. What is the one thing you’d like to bring back to the schooling scenario?
My answer is the same here. Tolerance and acceptance.
9. What advice would you like to give teachers – old and new?
Don’t think “We were taught like this. Hence, I will teach like this.” These children are born in a different time and they are meant to do different things and do things differently. Do not limit their learning by trying to take them back in time.
Also, understand the difference between “Teaching” and “Teaching of”. The latter is imparting knowledge about a given subject and anybody can learn to do that. The real test is when you learn how to “teach”. Once you have mastered this art, whether you teach biology, physics, law or mathematics, your student (s) will understand the subject. I guarantee it. Develop in yourself the passion to teach before you decide which subject you want to teach.
10. Do you have a message for parents and students out there?
Do not limit technology usage. At the same time, do not abuse it. It is a requirement of this day and age and to keep it out of our lives and our academics is a folly. Learn how to use it to the best of your and your children’s advantage.
This interview first appeared on ChalkTalk in January 2018.