Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 141: Pakistani Private School Observation #1

Photo Album: Pakistani Private School - Lahore, Pakistan

A tall, nondescript building: no frills architecture, plain glass windows, tan-colored walls centered in a wide expanse of dry dust. A shorter wall provides a barrier from the outside, and I have to pass a heavily guarded post to enter the building (men with AK-47s abound in Pakistan - whether the guns are loaded or not, I have no idea). A few marble steps up and we enter wide glass doors with the school symbol frosted on. A rush of cool air breezes past when we open the doors, and looking around I feel like I've entered a high-end hotel or fancy office building. Sketch portraits of Pakistan's founder and "father" Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Pakistan's beloved poet-philosopher Allama Iqbal grace the walls directly in front on either side of a flat screen TV displaying the news. This is the entrance to what is considered one of Pakistan's, and definitely Lahore's, "top" schools - it caters to the elite class, including members of the government (I hope to visit schools that cater to the majority of Pakistanis as well - the comparison should be nothing short of enlightening).

Today is my second visit to this incredible school facility. On my prior visit, I got the opportunity to tour the entire building, and was left in shock by the layout, cleanliness, maintenance, and open feeling of this Pakistani private school in Lahore. The outside of the building is deceiving: inside the cool, khakhi-colored marble floors and cream-colored walls combine with the wide hallways and open, airy windows and skylights to give a relaxed yet scholarly and sophisticated feel. The preschool classrooms are plenty: bright, colorful little worlds with adorable pictures of animals on the walls. These and the other elementary classrooms display various student artwork in the windows and on the walls, and the middle school classroom walls display motivational and instructive posters. There is an entire mini-sized kitchen in which the pre-schoolers learn to cook and bake, and for the older students there are sparkling clean biology and computer labs. Outside are basketball courts, a swimming pool, locker rooms, a cafeteria, and a gigantic jungle-gym for the little ones.

Today on my second visit, I get my visitor pass and with an OK from my khala, the Vice Principal of this private school in Lahore, I speak with the school Administrator and rush upstairs to the 1st floor to observe an A-level World History class (12th grade I believe). I plan to observe as many different classes taught by as many different teachers as possible in order to get a sense of what the teachers at the "best school in Lahore" for the "most elite" consider quality instruction. I missed the morning English class, so World History it would be for today. To give you a bit of context, the school has approximately 1,000 students from Pre-School to 13th grade (A levels), and the teacher to student ration is 10:1. The A-level grades (12th and 13th) have 17 students total, so the average size of an A- level class is 4.

Here is just a highly condensed version of my observation of this class, and I will try to refrain from any sort of opinion-based statement since it is the only class/teacher I have observed here so far. The teacher, a young male, arrived in the class at 9:45am, went to his desk, and waited for the students to enter. Four female students came in, sat down, and took out their materials (book, notebook, and a pen). The walls of the classroom are completely bare, with only a small whiteboard in the front of the classroom. The teacher began by telling students that they should know the material by now, but that he would have to go over it again with them. After a few minutes at his desk, he got up and went to the white board. For the next 1 hour and 15 min., he lectured, talking at the students pretty much straight through. At the beginning he asked the girls a few fact recall questions, would wait 3 seconds, and when they would not answer in almost every case, he would answer his own question. He wrote each point up on the white board, and the girls copied them down. By the end of the 1 hour and 15 min. class, no formal assessment had been completed to check for students' understanding, the students had not produced anything (other than a copy of the notes taken on the white board), and I would say that an informal assessment was essentially lacking. I noted that,  sometimes, when the teacher noticed the girls were not responding to his questions, he tried to reference a part of pop culture that he felt they might be more familiar with, such as James Bond --> society --> Secret Society. This kind of connection did prove helpful for the students as I heard them whisper the terms the teacher was looking for.

After class, I thanked the teacher for being accommodating enough to let me observe his class, and his first remark was an apology: he wanted to make sure I knew that the students never remember anything that he teaches them in the last class, and he doesn't give them homework because he expects them to memorize and read the material completely on their own. I asked him if today's lesson was a review for an upcoming exam (due to the lecture/note listing format) or if it was an example of his daily lesson. He replied that this lecture format is how he always teaches class. Students are tested about once a month and/or whenever he chooses. Again, I will make no opinion-based statements - yet. I have to observe more classes at this school in order to get a sense of various teachers' instructional methods and philosophies here before I will feel completely comfortable doing so.

Next week I hope to be on time for the English Literature and Sociology classes. I will also make sure to get a picture of that Pre-School kitchen. Additionally, I'm completely excited and honored that our driver is willing to show me around his own childrens' school - it will be a very interesting comparison to the private school I toured and observed today.


  1. is choueifat the private school you're talking about?!

  2. No, Choueifat is not the one described here, although I know it's also one of the top schools here in Lahore. The one I've mentioned is Learning Alliance.

  3. Salar -

    I happened to get the chance to visit Choueifat before leaving Lahore, and although I only got to see the main entrance, I can see that it is a great school in certain ways. The teachers all seemed so friendly!