In Conversation With Sadia Azam - Regional Manager “American Lycetuff DNK”
We should play our part in creating a positive and healthy work environment to improve teacher retention.
Q: Provide background information about your career in education and how you became a school principal?
I started my career way back in 1999 as a teacher. It was a coincidence when I was called in to substitute for a month only and since that day, my journey in the education field never stopped. I have been working for about 24 years now. I have worked in almost all fields of an educational organization, starting from teacher to HR, from coordinator to administrator and lastly from a principal to Regional Manager. My hard work and honesty paid off with a great reward Alhamdulillah.
Q: What is your educational philosophy and how does it guide your leadership as a principal?
There is no specific formula or one-size-fits to all philosophy in the education system. I believe it’s a mixture of many thoughts and ideas that combine together to bring a positive change. For example, we should priorities the needs, interests and well-being of students. We as educationists should believe that every student has the potential to succeed.
We must ensure that all students have access to opportunities, resources and support regardless of their background or circumstances. Life-long learning should be provided to both teachers and students and we must value collaboration among teachers, students, parents and the community.
I believe education goes beyond academics and educators should also focus on social, emotional and physical development of students. We should also understand that challenges and set backs are a part of an educational process and cultivate resilience in staff and students.
Q: What initiatives/ programs have you implemented during your tenure as principal to improve the overall educational experience for students?
It’s been a year with ALS now and in this time span I have worked on various aspects starting from an English speaking culture to an updated curriculum and teaching techniques.
We focused on student-centered classrooms rather than teacher centered.
English speaking culture was introduced as I believe it’s imperative to learn English to be able to compete the world outside.
STEM was integrated in the curriculum. There is no emphasis on rote learning, and instead more importance is placed on conceptual understanding.
The testing system has been improved. Formative and summative assessments are taken to grade students on their understanding of the concept taught.
We have introduced co-curricular activities, debate competitions and contests to improve students’ confidence.
Our students are also competing at national level now.
As far as teachers are concerned, regular pedagogical training sessions are being given. Sessions are taken on mindfulness and mental well-being and teachers trips are arranged to promote positive and healthy work environment.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges facing education today and how is your school addressing them?
I think one of the biggest challenges that we face as a nation is low enrollment and high rate of drop outs from schools. This is happening because of the economic crises risen in Pakistan. Even the schools that are being considered the giants of the education industry are shutting down campuses. We, at American Lycetuff DNK, offer an affordable fee package for students and provide quality education. We believe education is for all, whether rich or less privileged.
Another crucial challenge is gender disparities. In a country like Pakistan, we have a very low percentage of school going girls as compared to boys. We need to educate our society about the need of education for girls. Although we are living in an advanced city and here, girls do go to school but if we look at the larger picture, yes, our country is lacking behind when compared to the outer world.
Many of our schools lack proper infrastructure, well-trained teachers and updated curriculum which could meet the requirements of the 21st century education. At American Lycetuff DNK, we have many purpose built campuses which have large playgrounds, well-equipped Science and IT Labs and proper cafeterias for students to enjoy their meals during the day. We have a highly skilled Academic Training Department that trains teachers not only in Lahore but in all the major cities where ALS DNK is operating.
Not only the training department, the Regional Managers and principals also take in-house training sessions to update their teachers according to the 21st century skills.
It’s a sad and bitter reality that very less percentage of our students have access to digital devices which now have become an imperative part of an educational system. The elite class enjoys the maximum number of facilities including digital technology and this was clearly seen during COVID 19 pandemic. When the entire world shifted to online system, many of our schools could not do so as most of their students did not have the facility of internet or digital devices. I believe here the government needs to step in and provide facilities to less privileged people. Unfortunately very less amount of budget is being spent on education in Pakistan and that’s why we are lacking behind and not even close in the international race towards success.
Q: How does your school measure and promote student success and achievement?
Measuring students’ success and achievements is a complex task. An effective approach to measure student success should be holistic, taking into account various aspects of students’ development and learning. For example,
Regular formative and summative assessments are being taken to help gauge a student’s understanding of subject matter.
Providing academic grades and transcripts on regular basis is another progressive measurement.
At American Lycetuff DNK, teamwork, communication, problem solving and social emotional skills are an imperative aspect of a student’s success. We do not only focus on academics, but train our students to become a responsible and sensible citizens of the society.
We promote project-based learning and encourage students to actively take part in extracurricular activities.
Q: How do you foster a strong partnership between the school, parents and local community?
ALS DNK strongly believes in creating a strong bond with its parent body. Parents are provided regular updates on school activities and achievements through text messages and social media handles. We invite parents for meetings, discuss the challenges faced by the community and try to come up with a solution to play our part. I strongly believe that school and parents should work together for the community needs such as health issues, after school programs, planting trees campaign etc. We have an open door policy for our parents and regular feedback is being taken to improve our standard.
Q: In what ways has technology been integrated into the learning environment at your school and how has it impacted student learning?
All our campuses are well equipped with smart boards, LCDs, projectors, IT and Science labs. These digital devices are used on daily basis and are a part of our curriculum and planners. Students watch educational videos, solve worksheets on smart boards and learn computer knowledge which is the most common and imperative demand of the 21st century. Access to this system and devices has helped students gain confidence and knowledge. Visual aids have always helped students learn in a positive way and with hands on experience of latest digital devices and technology, students get a better understanding of the concept taught.
Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer to aspire educators or fellow principals based on your experience?
The most important thing an educator should remember is that we need to learn to be leaders and not bosses. We should play our part in creating a positive and healthy work environment to improve teacher retention. New and improved pedagogical techniques should be introduced and implemented to uplift the education system of Pakistan. We all should start looking at the bigger picture and understand that we are born for a reason, we are being given an aim to achieve. Our world should not just revolve around us, we should work for the betterment of the society as a whole.