LAHORE: Participants in a seminar on “Coalitions for Foundational Learning: Lessons from Brazil and Pakistan” stressed the need for developing an education coalition for foundational learning and system-level reforms.

Lums School of Education and Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) organised the seminar to provide a means for education leaders from the global south to exchange evidence, practices and lessons.

The ITA has launched a new South-South Fellowship Programme to advance powerful cross-sector coalitions to promote educational reforms to improve foundational learning.

Lemann Center for Leadership and Equity in Education, Brazil, Executive Director Anna Penido discussed the education coalition from the perspective of Brazil and how the municipalities in Ceara and Sobral are the perfect cases of the workings and the foundations of education coalitions.

Pakistani fellows Dr Faisal Bari, School Education Department Additional Secretary Qaiser Rashid and ITA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Baela Raza Jamil highlighted education coalitions and the challenge of national consensus in Pakistan and what lessons can be learnt from Brazil.

The session was also structured to identify common themes of what works in educational coalition building between both countries and how such coalitions can be impactful for foundational learning and system-level reforms.

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office adviser Dr Rachel Hinton said that there were some important interventions, for which rigorous and actionable evidence is still short in supply despite the rapid growth of the evidence base. “Challenges are divided into three main categories: structural challenge, evidence challenge and measurement challenge,” she said.

She said the evidence from the earthquakes and Covid-19 showed learning losses exacerbate at the global and national level and a huge number of out-of-school children in Pakistan was a major challenge.

Anna Penido said they had an opportunity in 1998 to devise a new constitution which added to the assurance of the right to education as the responsibility of the state. “There was a collective effort in Yale University where a strong bond was created between organizations and individuals from Brazil towards education,” she said.

She said they worked in an intense way to not only convince the government to prioritize education but also to commit to education and the national curriculum standards. “Assessment via exams cannot help. We need to assess competencies like empathy and creativity,” she said.

Baela Raza said that coalition building is not easy, to begin to find where the common ground is - we need to swallow our pride.

The South-South Programme has people from all over Pakistan redesigning or planning to redesign the education journey in Pakistan.

Dr Faisal Bari said they were in a difficult position and the economic crisis may worsen and during this crucial time, the importance given to education needs to be a priority.

He said 40 per cent of children were studying in private schools and the rest were attending public schools and the numbers were higher in bigger cities.

“The focus of the education sector is to overcome the challenge of out-of-school children,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2023

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