Uzma Shujjat, Development and Regional Manager for Pakistan, Iran and the Nordic Region at the International Baccalaureate (IB) discusses how education is changing in Pakistan, which has led to the growth of IB programmes.
If this year has proven anything, it’s that the world is unpredictable. If we are to ensure that today’s students and our future generation of leaders are to thrive, they must be prepared to enter a dynamic and global economy that requires rich, adaptable skills. If our students are to compete, then they must be equipped to reinvent, reimagine and redefine not just the nature of work but entire industries.
In this uncertain future, education is our greatest source of hope. By developing and empowering our youth, we can equip them to become the thinkers and creators of tomorrow, ready to solve society’s most pressing challenges and build a better and more sustainable world for everyone.
Over the years in Pakistan, there has been a significant shift from traditional occupations such as doctor, engineer or lawyer and I believe that this is because employment has become more skills-based. Parents, who historically prioritised academic knowledge and examination results, are now more interested in how their children will develop key skills such as creative thinking, collaboration, teamwork and conceptual understanding, to thrive in the new world of work.
Due to this workplace shift in attitudes and motivations, parents are more interested in a broader education for their children and this has led to the considerable growth of the IB in Pakistan. First taught back in 1996, the International Baccalaureate (IB), a non-profit foundation is currently offered at 31 IB World Schools across the country. In the last six years alone, the number of IB programmes offered by schools has quadrupled from 10 in 2014 to 55 in the present day. We are excited to forecast that there will be 60 authorized programmes by 2021; making an IB education accessible to more students across Pakistan, not just in the big cities but also in rural areas. As part of a focused effort to reduce financial barriers for students and schools to participate in its unique programmes, the IB eliminated the candidate registration fee back in 2019 and continues to provide discounts for schools that offer three or more IB programmes.
All the programmes (the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP), Diploma Programme (DP) and Career-related Programme (CP)) offer a vast range of subjects that are relevant to a student’s context and culture. For example, students in Pakistan will benefit from the addition of Urdu to the MYP eAssessment which will be recognized by the Inter Board Committee of Chairmen (IBCC) and Ministry of Education, acknowledging the need for students living in Pakistan to learn the language. The IB programmes are renowned for their focus on international-mindedness, where students master a second language and develop nuanced cultural awareness that helps them become more open-minded as well as giving them the opportunity to go on to live and work in different countries. The world is one global village; IB students understand that and make the most of their internationally-minded advantage.
Through studying the IB, parents can see a clear difference in their child’s development versus their non-IB peers, which extends far beyond assessment results. They see that their child has developed an inquiring mind, a love for learning and an interest in a broad range of topics that continues long after they apply to university. At the age of 15, students are far too young to decide what they want to become so it makes sense for them to keep their options open, study a wide range of subjects and follow all of their passions up to the age of 18.
In recent years, the PYP has become more popular with Trust and Foundation schools across Pakistan and is currently offered by 20 schools including the Sanjan Nagar Public Education Trust, which has been an IB school since 2014. By starting with the PYP and following the full IB continuum, students forge this love for learning from an early age which continues to grow. IB students are taught to be critical thinkers and researchers from day one and develop the skills not only to thrive in school but also throughout life.
With this solid foundation, the IB produces students with transferable, future-ready skills. It uncovers and develops the best in every child and prepares them to be citizens of tomorrow who are ready to step up as leaders and contribute to their world.
Uzma Shujjat is the Development and Regional Manager for Pakistan, Iran and the Nordic Region based in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Global Center in The Hague, Netherlands. She has 25 years of experience teaching and mentoring students from 30 different nationalities in independent schools located in Syria, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Pakistan, United States and China. She is a certified IB examiner and teacher of business and management, team member and course outline reader. She used to be a Lifelong Learning Officer in the Birmingham City Council, England where she managed 43 education projects. You can connect with her here.