In the midst of the pandemic in June last year, we were delighted to announce a partnership to bring CENTURY to thousands of children in Pakistan. Since launching with 108 schools in The City School group from September, our technology has helped over 28,000 students to continue to learn throughout disruption, becoming a core part of the group’s approach to learning.
In just six months, students at TCS’ schools have answered over 10 million questions and completed over 1 million nuggets (micro-lessons) on CENTURY.
We spoke to Omer Faheem, Head of Education Technology, and Attiya Rashid, School Improvement Partner, to learn more about how TCS’ teachers and students are benefiting from using artificial intelligence.
How did you roll out a learning platform to hundreds of schools across the country during a pandemic?
Omer: Launching any product in a large organisation is always very challenging and daunting. To achieve our ambitions plans, we followed a cascaded training model.
CENTURY’s team initially conducted the hands on session for the Education Technology Department and for the subject experts at our top tier. This team then delivered the same training to the regional academic heads and subject experts. After practicing with CENTURY, this team then implemented the same training for the school heads and the subject experts who went on to use the platform at school.
Those teachers were offered three days time to do necessary practice on the platform. They then delivered a hands-on session for their parents, the students in school and through video snippets sessions that we shared with the parents. It took us just over a month to train our family of thousands of teachers, parents and students across Pakistan.
How has CENTURY helped your schools so far and what impact have you noticed?
Omer: CENTURY’s platform has provided a great opportunity for students and teachers to practice independent learning in its true sense. The platform empowers students to take ownership of their own learning.
They can learn at any time because of the help of technology and they can access the content in whichever format they prefer. Teachers have found an easy way to prepare themselves better for classes, to explain concepts with evidence and to assign homework. Above all, the ability to monitor students’ performance in each strand of any given topic is absolutely invaluable and promotes differentiated learning.
That is why our schools have seen a huge impact when it comes to the learning levels of our students since we've incorporated CENTURY.
How does The City School define an outstanding education?
Attiya: It is said that a nation is only as good as its schools, and schools are only as good as its teachers. At The City School, we hope to remain an outstanding school due to our outstanding teachers. Our goal for our learners is to instil core values such as character building and a sense of responsibility towards their civic duties.
The City School firmly believes in encouraging the minds of children to appreciate the richness of Pakistan's culture, which is inherent in our language and literature. We also believe it is imperative to foster a 21st century identity from a young age that will allow our students to stand out with pride in the global fraternity as leaders. Our vision for learning is to impart a well-rounded education to our learners that will enable them to excel.
What role does artificial intelligence play in education?
Omer: The idea of incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) in education is significantly important, especially with the entire education landscape being changed drastically. Learning in its true sense requires a lot of feedback, either through reflection or through traditional testing that we do at schools.
Artificial intelligence can be leveraged to provide a student with the instant feedback about the concept that they learn at school and the concept that they teach online and in school. Another aspect of education is being data driven, which is where AI can be used to provide detailed feedback on the performance of a child, class or even a region.
We need to understand that AI can focus on what needs to be addressed so that a teacher would know where the problem lies, and then they can take necessary steps to ensure that the problem can be addressed.
How did you involve parents in the roll-out of CENTURY?
Attiya: It's been about eight odd months since we've started using CENTURY. Part of our move towards rolling it out in The City School network across Pakistan was to make parents aware of the value of the platform. I think we did a very, very good job of this, because we have parents appreciating it, giving feedback to our school leadership on how useful the tool has been.
We would continue to reinforce what we have already been telling parents that it is a wonderful opportunity for students, one that they must encourage their children to make use of as much as possible. We would tell them that they should make best use of this opportunity.
What advice do you give to teachers about using CENTURY?
Attiya: I don't think there are very many teachers at The City School who have not used the platform as of yet. But should there be such a teacher, I would tell him or her that they are doing a great disservice to their students in their classrooms.
The learning opportunities afforded by CENTURY, the reinforcement that it enables for children and the pathways it creates, which allow every student to excel and improve themselves at their pace, are unparalleled. Therefore, I would tell them that they should not deprive their students of such an opportunity, and that they should move towards it without any delay.
How has your approach to education technology changed in the last year?
Attiya: While many schools and educational institutions were forced at the onset of the pandemic to move towards technology-based solutions for education, this was something that we had already embarked upon.
Technology has always been a huge part of our vision for education. We firmly believe that in order to make 21st century global citizens out of our students, we have to give them the best of what the world has to offer. This is in terms of education opportunities, in terms of academic best practices, in terms of learning content. We have to deliver this to our students, no matter where it is in the world. The best way, or the best vehicle, to deliver this, is technology.
Long before the pandemic hit us, The City School had been moving towards investing in and delivering this vision to our students. Technology was part of our vision, regardless of the necessity brought upon everyone about a year ago.
Omer: The pandemic has been perhaps the greatest challenge of the 21st century. But in the field of education, it has been revolutionary because it has made people realise the importance of use of technology in education.
Prior to the pandemic, the technology in education was seen as a threat by the teachers because they thought it would actually replace them. The pandemic has actually fortified that idea that technology is not a tool itself, but a necessary part of teaching and learning philosophy now. With schools being forced to shift to online learning models, teachers and stakeholders had no choice but to adapt. The adoption of technology has been fast tracked in all stages of education and is now seen as a necessity.
Where do you see your use of technology going in the coming months and years?
Attiya: This is just the beginning – there's a lot coming up. There's a lot on the horizon for this wonderful partnership between The City School and CENTURY. We are looking to expand numbers in the coming years and we are also looking to move up and down levels. We are also looking to map CENTURY to the recently launched Single National Curriculum that is now mandatory for all schools across Pakistan, to ensure that CENTURY captures this slightly different content.
We hope to launch a product that will make CENTURY available for use by local and government schools, so that they're also able to benefit from this wonderful tool.