Fashion and EdTech in Pakistan: More than just trends

August 22, 2016Minahil Mehdi
 

Fast moving trends in the fashion industry are nothing new, but women in Pakistan and the greater sub-continent are redefining styles almost every day. Global clients are increasingly looking to the region not only for manufacturing, but for design.

But wait, what does this have to do with the Pakistan education crisis?

Here is the story of Khud – which means “self” in Urdu - an organization that is using self-learning techniques pioneered by TED winner Sugata Mitra to create an education technology (edtech) platform to solve Pakistan’s education crisis.

At one of Khud’s partner schools in Lahore a group of 50+ girls are polishing and upgrading their skills in “designing for the digital world”. This in addition to the basics of embroidery and stitching that they are already studying. Such a holistic approach develops a more diverse set of skills, and opens opportunities for our students that extend beyond traditional (yet still important) manufacturing jobs.

From this year’s group, 6 young women are collaborating to create Pakistan’s first fashion news aggregator – a website initially, then an iPhone App. It sounds unbelievable at first; how can untrained and barely educated students set up an entire website? But with the technique our teachers and facilitators employ it is not long before our students will meet their goals.

The Khud Initiative has built a structured program using self-learning techniques to give these budding fashionistas the skills they need to build the aggregator. There are learning activities to develop content selection, graphic design, and many other 21st century skills. After a fairly basic introduction in using computers and online search techniques, students are empowered and encouraged to explore the web for new editing tools, tutorials, and more.

This is how we combine the basics of education and the utility of it; enhance the skills of students and their creativity at the same time in order to respond to the crisis of education, poverty, and social immobility faced by the youth and their families. It is a way of achieving multiple success by the means of a single sophisticatedly planned education solution. By introducing a system of education that is both academic and practical, Khud aims to secure the students’ present and guide their future.

The team has now been with Khud for six months and when we asked them to express in one word the most exciting thing they have learnt so far in the program here is what they had to say;

“Copy-paste”
“Google translator”
“Detail”
“Khan Academy”

This shows the scope of the responsiveness and how it varies for each student in their own unique way. Diversity that is beautiful. These students have been on their own mostly in using all of these facilities; the team just gave them internet access and some tips and insights that came in handy.

The goal is simply to bring this vocational school into the 21st century - imparting modern skills for a modern world. One of the students, Bushra Amjad has shown great progress. In a very short while (2-3 weeks), she has mastered the basics of Structure Query Language (SQL) from Khan Academy Tutorials. Other have made great strides in how to edit photographs and carry out marketing of a mobile application.

This is just one project that our team has embarked upon at Khud. In Pakistan 25 million children are out of school and 1.3 million teachers are needed to fill the current deficit in schools. The problems are exacerbated by didactic teaching methods that encourage rote memorization (rather than critical thinking) and outdated textbooks/curriculum used at schools. Khud’s goal is to replace these training methods and introduce an edtech platform that delivers learning using a digital pedagogy. Our approach places the individuality of students at the heart and center of Khud’s work, and uses technology to polish the talents rather than to undermine them.

The early experiences of our students are exceptionally promising, but Khud’s work is just beginning. One of our top priorities now is to create a robust monitoring and evaluation (M&E) process to measure and learn from our ongoing work. As we explore new M&E collaborations, we will continue coming up with innovative solutions that can have the most impact in empowering students to succeed in the 21st century. That is the journey the team at Khud is on, and we are off to an exciting start.

 

Minahil Mehdi is a fresh graduate from the Lahore University of Management and Sciences, where she studied literature with a focus on politics, the social sciences, and religion. Minahil has been at the forefront of initiatives and projects in the field of education especially for underprivileged children of Pakistan. She was the brains and the effort behind Project Youhanabad, a community initiative designed to help alleviate psychological suffering of Christian children who had witnessed repeated attacks on their worship places.

Photo credit: Mustafa Mohsin

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