One of the largest education conferences the country has ever hosted, School of Tomorrow: Freedom to Learn was organised by the Beaconhouse Group in Lahore on 5th and 6th November. For the first time, the conference was opened to anyone in the private and public sectors and NGOs who had a stake in improving schools.
The vision of the School of Tomorrow was the creation of a dynamic and evolving learning environment where the student can flourish through active involvement in the learning process, said Chief Executive Kasim Kasuri. He added that the underlying theme of the conference, Freedom to Learn, with its connotations of access to any form of schooling would, in the wake of the devastating floods, have particular significance in Pakistan and a priority for everyone would be the restoration of the educational infrastructure in the flood-ravaged areas.
Affirming that education was a top priority for his government, guest speaker Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani acknowledged the contribution Beaconhouse and its franchise The Educators had made towards raising the standard of education in Pakistan, making quality education more accessible and introducing innovative early education provision. He also praised the academic success of BSS students in the A Level and Matriculation programmes.
More than a thousand participants from Pakistan and nine other countries, including scholars, educationists, classroom practitioners, policy makers and professionals, attended the conference to discuss the future of education for children in general, and Pakistan in particular.
Twenty workshops on the first day were led by leading international educationists and thinkers – including Prof Andrew Goodwyn, Norbert Pachler, Thomas White, Dr Claude Alvares, Susan Waltham, Dr Catherine Wilson, Fauzia Shamim and Dennis Taylor. The discussions, ranging from early childhood education and new ways of teaching and learning, to leadership and school improvement, and teacher education, paved the way for the focus groups on the second day to develop strategies for the way forward.
Chairperson Mrs Nasreen M Kasuri expressed the hope that the learning that took place at the conference would be translated into effective recommendations and agendas for practitioners, curriculum developers, teacher trainers and leaders alike.
The keynote speaker at the conference was Richard Gerver, who won the prestigious “School Head Teacher of the Year Award” at the British National Teaching Awards in 2005 for his work in transforming a school on the brink of closure into one of the most innovative in the world. His message was that education and learning are about the quality of the journey and, if that journey was made meaningful and enjoyable, the outcome would take care of itself.
He also believed that a key ingredient for learning was the element of risk, and not being afraid to recognise that mistakes are what you make on your way to getting something right.
The conference closed on a positive and upbeat note, with a commitment to take on the challenge on finding a new way forward for education and the schools of tomorrow.