Pakistani education system has a long way to go, says educationist

Pakistani education system has a long way to go, says educationist

Founder of Beaconhouse private school network Nasreen Kasuri says retiring from work would mean disintegration of her being.


Asma Ali Zain

Published: Thu 20 Mar 2014, 11:32 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 8:38 PM

Beaconhouse, one of the largest private school networks in the world, had its beginnings in a small nursery set up by Nasreen Kasuri in 1975 in Lahore, Pakistan. The school now has a presence in nine countries including the UAE. It has a combined student strength exceeding 220,000 and a staff of over 18,900. Currently 62 per cent of its employees are women with a very high percentage in upper management.

Nasreen Kasuri

Nasreen is actively involved in a number of non-profit and charity organisations. She received the ‘Sitara-e-Eisaar’, a recognition from the Government of Pakistan, in 2006 for her philanthropic and humanitarian contributions. She is currently the chairperson of Pakistan’s first liberal arts university, the non-profit Beaconhouse National University.

In September 2012, she received the Woman Power 100 award in London. Pakistan Power 100 is an event that honours the achievements and contributions of influential men and women from within the international Pakistani community, and recognises the positive impact they have had on a local, national and international level.

Khaleej Times caught up with the ambitious woman on a recent visit to Dubai. She tells Asma Ali Zain that retiring from work would mean disintegration of her being.

How did the idea of establishing the first school come about?

This is a question that I am asked very often and I wish I had an interesting answer to this. I had studied in the Montessori system and found it to be very good. Though there were a number of Montessoris in Karachi, there was none in Lahore. So that is how the idea came about and I set up the first small nursery in 1975 in Lahore. The first two students were my two boys.

It’s been uphill since then. What have been the main challenges that you have faced along the way and still remain?

There were many challenges and they still exist, but I believe that some can be addressed while others you have to learn to live with. Issues with private schools remain big in Pakistan … there are issues with finding the right type of faculty, teacher training and teachers with good language skills among others. The Pakistan government has failed miserably on the education front and in lack of management. We still meet unfavourable legislations that we may not overcome but will have to learn to live with.

You have also played a pivotal role in empowering Pakistani women. What is the philosophy behind this?

You have women in education the world over … you have women in classrooms. Mothers invariably have more friendly attitude towards kids and are less threatening than men. This is a woman dominated profession … I have only empowered the women by training them.

With the schooling system established in Dubai, what are your future plans of expansion in the UAE?

We have a small prevalence in the UAE and we would like to expand in the MENA region including Muscat in Oman. We have a goodwill beyond the MENA region since we established the first overseas school in Malaysia. We started it off with no leverage and now it has established a goodwill there.

With reference to the UAE, I feel that authorities are demanding and it is a good thing. I look upon that as a mature system as it makes it easier for companies to operate but it becomes difficult if governments become authoritative which I hope does not happen here.

How do you manage the school system that is spread over nine countries?

Every country has a manager who reports to the head office in Pakistan. I don’t handle operations anymore as I have handed it over to my son. I can also give the credit to my good team of 38 years.

How does it feel to meet children who have been educated under your care and are now successful young men and women?

It is a wonderful feeling since these children can be found the world over. Many of them are back and are working for us … It is a very warm feeling.

How do you perceive the education scene in Pakistan, and what do you think still needs to be changed?

There is a lot that can be said but I do not want to be too critical. I can only say that is that we still have a long way to go.

What are your plans for the future? Retirement, further expansion?

I do not want to retire. I want to keep working because if I stop, I will disintegrate. We have already moved from establishing school systems to colleges. We have already set up a Beaconhouse Trust and by the end of the year we hope to establish our first college.

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