“Change is the one thing that most human beings are afraid of”

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Omar Farooqui is in Pakistan these days with the mission to introduce technology education from grass root to the highest level. (Photo courtesy: Coded Minds)
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“Technology education bridge the gap between private and public schools.” (Photo courtesy: Coded Minds)
Updated 31 December 2018
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“Change is the one thing that most human beings are afraid of”

  • A Saudi national educator is asking people to fight their fears by encouraging an overhaul in Pakistan’s educational system
  • Insists that the existent teaching methods are archaic and do not prepare a child for the real world

DUBAI: Education, like charity, begins at home.
The adage couldn’t be truer for Omar Farooqui, a 42-year-old investment banker turned educator, who says he was taught a lesson at home by his 12-year-old son.
He says he turned the tables on his lucrative career and moved to education when he realized how unhappy his son was with the traditional system of schooling and the current present education system which was archaic and irrelevant for the children of today.
It was at that moment that he decided to adopt technological tools to inject some fresh blood into the educational sector. To realize his goals, Farooqui, who is based in Dubai, set up Coded Minds – an educational company that finds its roots in technology-based solutions.
As the founder and chief innovation officer of Coded Minds, he says he began his [global journey] with Pakistan to introduce new teaching methods from the grassroots to the university levels. For the purpose, he is in talks with several leading universities, school representatives, and government authorities to collaborate on several projects in Pakistan.
Speaking to Arab News, Farooqui said that the education system in Pakistan needed a total revamp. “Education in Pakistan is an extremely fragmented sector and one that needs a lot of re-organization. It is very much set in the old British colonial style which in itself is outdated. If you add to that a fragmented mix of American as well as Pakistan’s very own educational standards then you really do have a sector that needs to be re-organized from top to bottom,” Farooqui, a Saudi national said. He added that Pakistan holds a very special place in his heart because of his father who was originally from Pakistan. Azad Kashmir’s Muzaffarabad’s area and mother from Lahore.
Adding that the issue is not specific to Pakistan, but one that impacts the rest of the world too, Farooqui says the traditional education system is outdated globally. “It does not prepare the child for the real world. An over-reliance on theories and yearly examination leads to a system that gears itself only for college or university admissions and not for the actual, every day, practical life,” he said.
Farooqui believes that a technology-based system can help Pakistan attain new age education standards. “In fact, technology encourages cross schools collaborations, too,” he said.
Dr. Jawaid Laghari, former chairperson of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) concurs. Endorsing the fact that technology can play a major role in improving the quality of education and limiting the number of public school dropouts, he said: “Online free access through low-cost bandwidth and low -cost tablets would make a difference. Singapore is a model to emulate.”
Dr. Laghari added that the present public education system — both at the school and college levels — is unsatisfactory. “It is subject to bad management and corruption. We need to give at least one year to the present government if the reforms they would introduce will make a change,” he said.
According to Pakistan’s educational statistics from 2015 to 2016, 21 percent of primary schools in the country is being run by a single teacher while 14 percent have a single room. Additionally, in terms of the schools’ infrastructure, 40 percent of primary schools in the public sector operate without electricity, 28 percent do not have toilets, 25 percent are without boundary walls, while 29 percent have no access to drinking water. Seven percent of schools do not have any building and 43 percent have dilapidated buildings.
Farooqui is aware of these numbers. As he is of the fact that the low literacy rate has always remained a constant in Pakistan – a country which has barely witnessed an improvement or enhanced enrollment in the past couple of years. According to the Economic Survey of 2017-18, “last year, the literacy rate dropped by two percent from 60 to 58 percent. This year it has remained the same with no improvement”.
Farooqui believes that children opt to drop out of school either when the quality of education is unaffordable or of very poor quality. “Technology plays a heavy role in bridging the gap. In fact, it will not only help improve teaching standards but will improve individualized learning too, be it public or the private schools.
Aware of the hurdles that he might have to face along the way, Farooqui says he is all set for the battle.
“Change is the one thing that most human beings are afraid to do. We intend to partner up with local institutions and at the same time gather governmental support so we can take a top-down approach,” he said, adding that even though the education values in Pakistan are different from those of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the basics are the same.
“It is the culture and traditions that make the difference. Majority of the battle that we face is about creating awareness as well as bringing change,” he said.
He added that the one-of-its-kind private collaboration with Saudi, in Pakistan’s education sector, will go a long way. “Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have always enjoyed long cordial brotherly relations and that will never change due to the strategic nature of both countries,” said Jeddah born educator. 
“Saudi Arabia has always had private capital investment into Pakistan through partnerships and now more recently Saudi Arabia has committed to deploying capital as part of the CPEC. I am certainly hoping that through Coded Minds initiative, there will also now be a major inflow of capital into the education system of Pakistan not just through Saudi Arabia but even beyond that.”


Pakistan gets ready to woo Saudi crown prince

Updated 55 min 48 sec ago
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Pakistan gets ready to woo Saudi crown prince

  • Pakistan is collecting 3,500 pigeons and colorful balloons to release during a welcome ceremony for Saudi Crown Prince
  • Pakistan expects to sign multiple investment deals and other agreements during the two-day visit

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan was rescheduling flights, blocking-off luxury hotels, and — according to one report Friday — collecting 3,500 pigeons and colorful balloons to release during a welcome ceremony for Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Islamabad is hoping to sign a raft of investment deals and other agreements during the two-day visit, which begins Saturday and will include talks with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and the powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Banners heralding the crown prince were already lining the streets of the capital Friday, while the Express Tribune newspaper reported that authorities were trying to catch so many pigeons for a welcome ceremony that they were forced to collect birds from other cities.
Police, the armed forces, and the Saudi Royal Guards will provide security, a senior Islamabad police official told AFP.
The capital’s “red zone,” which houses Parliament House and the Presidency, was to be sealed off, while civil aviation authorities have been told to reschedule flights during the prince’s arrival and departure.
Authorities in the capital said two five-star hotels had been ordered to cancel all advance bookings as the rooms will be reserved for the prince’s entourage.
Earlier in the week local media reported that the crown prince’s personal belongings — including luxury vehicles and his own gym — were flown to Pakistan in two C130 airplanes.
The visit came as regional tensions spiked after neighboring India accused Islamabad of harboring militants behind a deadly attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.
At least 41 paramilitary troops were killed in a suicide blast Thursday, with Indian media reporting that the Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility.
Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to sign a record investment package with Pakistan, including a $10-billion refinery and oil complex for the strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.
Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman said Islamabad is seeking to sign a number of other deals, including one “combating organized crime.”
Khan has been courting its Gulf allies for months as he seeks to stave off an ongoing balance of payments crisis and reduce the size of any potential bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have together offered Islamabad some $30 billion in investment and loans.
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are also participating in talks with the US and other countries seeking to bring the Taliban to the table for peace negotiations with Kabul after more than 17 years of war.
The Taliban have claimed their representatives will visit Islamabad on Monday, after Salman leaves.