Pakistanis travel to ASU to learn new teaching methods
By Frank Ruggiero
From biology lectures to Grandfather Mountain to fried okra, a group of Pakistani Fulbright scholars are learning American teaching techniques with a touch of Southern hospitality.
In a project funded by the U.S. Department of State, 15 Pakistani secondary-level biology teachers have traveled to Boone for a six-week training program. The group arrived July 13, each member representing a different region of Pakistan but each sharing a common goal.
“We are trying to learn about the new methods which are used for teaching biology,” Pakistan Fulbright scholar Asim Bukhari said.
In April, Jesse Lutabingwa, associate vice chancellor for international education and development at ASU, with the help of the U.S. Educational Foundation in Pakistan, conducted an assessment to ensure the program would meet the participants’ needs.
A group of 15 Pakistani Fulbright Scholars are visiting Appalachian State University and the Boone area to learn American teaching techniques to implement in Pakistani classrooms. Back row, from left: Wagid Shah, Kamran Manzoor, Munazza Zaidi, Saadia Hadiat, Samina Haider and Zohra Iqbal; front row, from left, Arshad Bashiv and Asim Bukhari.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero
“While the government of Pakistan has made education a priority and raised education expenditures, the education sector still faces many challenges,” Lutabingwa’s report reads, noting the country’s literacy rate of 48.7 percent, broken down into 61.7 percent for males and 35.2 percent for females.
The assessment cites the Pakistan Ministry of Education, reporting there are 12,095 middle schools, 4,289 secondary schools and 603 higher secondary schools in Pakistan. “About 80 percent of these schools are located in rural areas with inadequate facilities and insufficient number of science and math teachers,” the report reads.
However, the Pakistani government has recently placed a heavy emphasis on science education at such levels, including higher education, elementary and secondary school levels. According to the U.S. Department of State, the Pakistani Fulbright Scholarship Program will become the largest in the world.
And like so, Bukhari and company are glad to take part. Bukhari said he and his colleagues are learning five different methods in teaching biology – technology-based learning, activity-based learning, inquiry-based learning, field-based learning and laboratory studies.
Although all are fluent in English, a refresher course was required to acquaint them with the American dialect.
“We didn’t have any idea that the phonetics between American and British are different, but now we’ve learned quite easily,” scholar Wagid Shah said.
In Pakistan, students are taught English in the British dialect, and scholar Saadia Hadiat said science teachers will be required to teach in English.
Foreign language professor Beverly Moser helped with the language aspect. Also by attending class, the scholars are learning methods of teaching their own classes. Bukhari explained that in Pakistan, teachers usually just present the topic and explain it through lectures.
“But here, we’ve mostly been using activity-based methods, and technology is mostly used in those teaching methods,” he said, adding that technology does not often find its way into Pakistan’s classrooms.
“What is new to us is the integration of technology,” Shah said. “Yesterday, we had the opportunity to use digital textbooks, and that was quite an amazing experience for us because these sorts of things don’t exist in our country.”
Scholar Kamran Manzoor added that multimedia and computer systems also differ between the United States and Pakistan. Such systems are typically used only for higher and upper level courses, scholar Munazza Zaidi said.
“In the general public school, it’s usually just a blackboard and chalk,” Hadiat said. “Here, the most interesting thing for me and all of us is the use of common things to make class interesting, so students can take interesting studies and can learn more effectively.”
Hadiat said she was also impressed with the open nature of teacher-student interaction, as well as the general friendliness of Boone.
“My original viewpoint was Americans were much too rude … but here things have entirely changed,” she said. “Not only on the campus, but I’ve seen in many places we’ve been that people are very happy to talk with us, as we are with them.”
And the scholars have sampled many places in the region, having visited Grandfather Mountain and the Discovery Place in Charlotte, as well as attending numerous Appalachian Summer events like the N.C. Symphony on the Lawn and the Wynonna concert and fireworks display.
They continue to experience American food, which Hadiat called “completely different from Pakistan.”
Pakistani food is fried and of a more spicy nature, and Zaidi said she’s made do with fish and potatoes. Bukhari, though, prefers the fried okra.
“And we are really impressed by Dr. Jesse (Lutabingwa), the cooperation of his staff and the entire team, who have all been so cooperative and caring,” Shah said.
The scholars’ six-week program is being conducted by Lutabingwa, biology associate professor Pradeep Dass, Moser, technology instructor John T. Spagnolo and Linda McCalister, director of the ASU Public School Partnership.
The scholars’ last two weeks in the High Country will be spent teaching in local schools, each being assigned to a different elementary school. “After those two weeks, we’ll make an action plan and we’ll present it,” Bukhari said.
“We have to observe how American teachers plan the activities at the start of academic sessions, so we could prepare an action plan with them,” Shah explained.
Manzoor said the action plan will include techniques learned at Appalachian State and methods that could be implemented in Pakistani schools. On Aug. 22, the teachers will participate in a roundtable discussion on United States and Pakistan education systems with local teachers, to be moderated by Watauga High School principal Angela Quick.
On the eve of their departure, they’ll present their action plans to Lutabingwa and their Appalachian colleagues. Their stay will conclude with a farewell dinner that evening at the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center, before leaving for Pakistan the following morning.