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Special Report

Nov 06 - 12, 2000

Ms Nasreen Kasuri is married to a politician and has three children. All three are working and like most young people bitten by the Information Technology (IT) bug. Her special areas of interest, other than education are women empowerment and to support women causes. Beaconhouse is an organization that is dominated by women. She strongly believes that women have certain advantages that they can build upon if given the opportunity. She is in search for ideas and concepts and observe changing trends in education closely.

PAGE: Can you briefly tell us about your school, its mission and objectives?

NASREEN: Beaconhouse School System (BSS) commemorates its twenty-fifth anniversary thiis month. BSS owes its origin to Les Anges Montessori Academy established in 1975 for pre-schoolers. With an enrollment of almost 40,000 students, who receive instructions through more than 80 facilities in 21 cities, helped by a staff of around 4,000. The System can be classified as the largest integrated educational system of the private sector in Asia. BSS aims to produce aware and enlightened global citizens who are prepared for the fast-changing world while continuing to uphold the values essential to humanity. Through the use of appropriate leading edge technologies in its delivery systems, we intend becoming a torchbearer of change in the education system in the country.

PAGE: What inspired you to set up the Beaconhouse School System ?

NASREEN: Both my boys were ready to go to school in 1975. At that point I realized the limited choice available and also the fact that since the time when I myself went to school, the number of schools and seats had not increased. I also realized that my children would not be fortunate enough to benefit from the quality of instructions that I had benefited from. The only way I could meet such a challenge was to set up a school which could provide quality education to my children and others.

PAGE: Being a lady and especially at a time when there were not any significant individually owned schools around, did you face any hurdles in the establishment of your school ? Did the government support you?

NASREEN: The problems that I faced were not on account of my gender or for that matter on account of the government of the day but simply because of the nationalization of 1973. There was reluctance on part of the house owners to rent out their property for a school. The government did not either support me or create hurdles. I suppose at that point nobody envisaged the private education phenomenon as we see it today.

PAGE: In your opinion, how has the private sector contributed in the educational infrastructure of the country ?

NASREEN: The last 25 years have witnessed a gradual decline of educational facilities in the public sector and a rapid improvement in the quality of education provided and the private sector institutions established in Pakistan. From that point of view the private sector has not only helped improving education quantitatively but also qualitatively. The entry of private universities has seen a vertical growth of private education. Graduates from these universities are second to none in the world. These young men and women go through the best educational exposure. When they come into the work place, we would have completed the full circle of human infrastructure that is essential to indigenous educational development and growth.

PAGE: What have been the achievements of the Beaconhouse School System?

NASREEN: Since its inception in 1975 the BSS has grown from a small nursery school to a large chain of private schools spread all over Pakistan. So far approximately 10,000 students have graduated from Beaconhouse after completing their matric, 'O' and 'A' level studies. There are now 14 custom-built schools in the major cities of Pakistan. The System boosts of 33 percent of its staff trained in-service at Beaconhouse expense, certified to an international certificate of education through the University of Bradford. With a strong in-service infrastructure the System has trained indigenous trainers to deliver the international certificate of education through the University. Classroom research and development, training infrastructure, textbook and curriculum development have been the main features of our journey.

PAGE: How is your school different from other private schools ?

NASREEN: BSS is the only private school system which has an institutionalized teacher training set up; its an ever developing learning organization; the values is past but looks at the future. It is unique because of its size and the number of graduates that pass out every year. Beaconhouse offers its students transfer facility from one city to another thus ensuring a continuation of their education in a similar educational environment.

PAGE: What are the advantages that you offer to your students?

NASREEN: We offer custom-built campuses, well-equipped libraries, a strong Cross Curricular Computing project, co-curricular activities e.g. elocution, debates and a number of other such activities that provide the students with a more well rounded educational experience.

PAGE: What are your plans for the future?

NASREEN: I am working on the Beaconhouse National University that will come under a charitable trust. I am also focusing on finding ways and means to reduce the cost of quality education so that it can become accessible to a larger and less privileged section of the society. I would like to use computers and technology to support the teaching and learning processes and bring about a hi-tech change in the teaching environment. I want the classroom to become a more 'cyber-active workplace'.