Pakistan: The Invisible Sophistication

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Pakistan: The Invisible Sophistication
The following column written by Spirit of Math Schools (SoM) CEO and Co-Founder Kim Langen was published in the March 12, 2017 edition of The Nation newspaper in Pakistan. With more than 40 campuses across Canada and the United States, Spirit of Math is getting ready to open its first international campus in Lahore, Pakistan in September, 2017. 
 
Out of the midst of the busy crowded room a small child placed herself directly in front of me, and with outmost confidence and determination she said “Miss I would like to show you what I can do with a SMART Board. Could you please come and see my display?” She then led me through the multitude of people to the back of the very large conference room where an interactive SMART Board resided.

Once there, she stood up straight and proudly explained what a person could do with the pictures on the board. This girl was no more than 5 or 6 years old, yet she spoke with a confidence, and a belief in herself, and in what she was doing, that is rarely found in adults, yet representative of the people of Pakistan wherever I travelled.

This was my second visit to Pakistan. I had arrived in Lahore the night before and I was immersed in a science and technology showcase in the Schools of Tomorrow conference organised by Beaconhouse. The show was an example of the innovation in education, and that spirit of innovation was replicated in every school system I visited.

This drive to do the best and to be at the forefront of educational ideas, whether or not it included technology, was central to the thinking throughout all the systems.

People are open to ideas, prepared to justify theirs and ready to change if needed. In fact, I would venture to state that these schools are ahead of the western schools in many of their ideas. Regardless of the socioeconomic status, or the job of a person, what came across was a very proud nation of people who are willing to work hard, aggressively striving to be the best in the world and to do what it takes.

As a foreigner from Canada, what struck me right away when landing was the intense dichotomy between a pioneering educated world and an innovative traditional world. The intense security, the helpful people, the incredible restaurants, food and fashion, the diversity of transportation from the use of donkeys and motorcycles, to the most recent luxury cars, the massive number of small retail businesses, the outdoor vendors, the contrast of extremely large homes to small hovels all illustrate this dichotomy.

To the newcomer, there is an appearance of chaos. However, once you integrate within the culture, talk to people, start to do business and take some time to watch how the world works, it is clear that there is an invisible sophistication that is weaving all this together. The complexity of the educated to the non-educated, the various robust cultures, the economic diversities, and the strong family dynamics are all working together in a very open manner.

In North America, where it is considered to be an advanced, sophisticated world, we have massive socioeconomic, educational and cultural diversities. Our sophistication is visible; our unsophistication is invisible. Every nation has a cluster of sophistication: enabling it to be visible helps people understand it and therefore strengthen it.

There is an intensive and massive growth happening at this time in Pakistan. There is a sophistication that can be maintained and there are also concerns including the lack of proper education for all people.

From my point of view, what Pakistan focuses on right now will have a profound effect on where it will end up. It is at a turning point.

Ensuring the entire population is well educated, having the ability to research, question and understand more will form the foundation for a nation of strong skills and values. The confidence and belief found in Pakistanis, as illustrated by the little girl in the conference, will lead the way to illuminate Pakistan’s rich sophisticated skills and culture.
 
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