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"Rethinking Education"

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Pakistan's First International Conference on Information Technology in Education

Nov 20 - 26, 2000

The International Conference on 'Rethinking Education', after being inaugurated by the Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf on 8th November 2000, went into a two day closed session. It was participated mostly by the 265 Beaconhouse School System Academic Coordinators, who had gathered at the Convention Centre, Islamabad, from all over Pakistan, and were part of the more than 1200 attendees present on the inaugural day including Beaconhouse students and their teachers from the Rawalpindi/Islamabad area. The inaugural day was also attended by senior members of the Government administration particularly from the departments of Education and Science & Technology besides leading Educators, IT Professionals and Education Technologists from both home and abroad.

The 3 day conference was held under the over-arching theme of 'Rethinking Education' where the first day was devoted on exploring the 'Role of Technology in Education' and days two and three on 'Leaders and Leadership in Education'. It may be recalled that Ms. Zobaida Jalal, Minister of Education addressed the first day's gathering in the morning session and spoke at length on developments the government had already taken decisions on at a recent high level-planning meeting chaired by the Chief Executive.

In the afternoon session, Mr. Atta-ur-Rahman, the Minister for Science & Technology, brought the audience up to date on the progress being made in the country to make IT and its use within reach of more and more Pakistanis. With the rates for ISP operation being brought down a hundred fold by the government within a short span of a few months, and the access to the Internet going from a few cities to more than 300 centres within this time, it will be a major fillip for enhancing the global reach of Pakistanis and their access to the information world.

The Chief Executive, in inaugurating the Conference dilated on the importance of IT development in the country and how it could be harnessed to leap frog the development process through education. He went on to emphasize that besides capacity building, we need to develop a widening spectrum of delivery systems like the Internet and Interactive fiber optics within the country. In response to Mrs. N Kasuri, CEO of the Beaconhouse School System's welcome speech, the Chief Executive took cognizance of the need for strengthening teacher training, integrating IT learning devices and incentivizing the teaching profession with tax breaks as already in process for Government employed teachers.

The two-day Beaconhouse Academic Conference (BAC) focused on the formulation of an updated vision for the new millennium by breaking out into work-groups and then regrouping for cobbling together a participatory formulated Vision by the BAC attendees. The Vision will guide the efforts of the faculty and provide direction for achieving even a higher level of academic excellence in tune with the rapidly shifting education paradigm.

The Academic Conference, held after four years, heard reports from the North, Centre and Southern Region's Academic Coordinators who detailed the achievements in areas of Teacher Training & Certification, academic performance by Beaconhouse students in local and overseas examinations with particular reference to positions achieved and medals won. The reports also highlighted the move to purpose built campuses, the change in ethos of schools, new management styles of leaders and their understanding and the imperative of espousing the new ethic of Total Quality Management. The attendees were also given a score of the extra curricular activities of sports, debating and project participation.

The implementation of IT within the school teaching systems is rapidly underway and more than a thousand computers in dedicated labs were already becoming ubiquitous to Beaconhouse education system. Cross-curricular computing was not a buzzword but an implemented reality, which would progressively embrace the whole school system with 80 branches in 21 cities accounting for over 40,000 students. The Beaconhouse School System is the largest integrated educational network, possibly in the world, providing education from pre-nursery to A and Intermediate level pre-university education. It aspires to acquire a private charter for the Beaconhouse National University with atleast six faculties located in different cities across Pakistan.