THE KNOWLEDGE SCHOOL: Bringing life ,learning and leadership together

 An exceptionally gifted emerging visionary leader Mariam Nur Murad has all the traits ideally suited for a global educationist, innovator and social entrepreneur. Mariam is the director of the The Knowledge School (TKS), founder of Women Institute of Learning and Leadership, Member Board of Trustees of Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Trust, Editor-in-Chief at TKS News, Vice Chairperson of Khurram Murad Foundation, and owner and conceptualist of Symposium Café.

a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, Mariam is engaged in overseeing the provision of value-oriented educational services to around 50,000 students from kindergarten to grade 12 through a nationwide network of more than 200 The Knowledge Schools (TKS). She also oversees policy making and organizational structure of University of Management and Technology (UMT) and 70 ILM Colleges as a dedicated member of ILM Trust. Mariam is committed to further  the cause of education in Pakistan by expanding her network of K-12 schools to all over the country, making it more accessible to the mid-income population. With a compassion for amelioration of problems facing humanity, she is firmly committed to working for universal access to education, youth development, social change and social mobility, human capacity development and women empowerment. In an exclusive interview with Academia Magazine, Mariam talked about the challenges in education sector especially in schools. She also explained how TKS became a success story. Following in the footsteps of her father late Dr Hasan Sohaib Murad leading educationist of Pakistan, Mariam has vowed to fulfil his dream of providing quality education in schools at an affordable price.

“We at TKS believe that we have to provide excellent education services. We focus on parents from the mid-income group. Many of them are of the view that their children should study only up to five grades. They think that children should start earning early to help in the running of house. “We have tried to change their thinking by directly engaging with them. We have been very successful in this regard. We have made education affordable. “We charge Rs 800 to Ps 2,500 per month in our different schools. This is an affordable amount and the rate of children leaving school has almost come to a nil. We provide value,added education by inculcating integrity and patriotism in the curriculum,’ the director TKS  Asked about how TKS assured the quality of teaching remained premium, Madam explained that the school was highly focused on teacher trainings. “We have three types of teachers’ trainings. We have divided our schools in clusters. Firstly, we have Cluster Trainings that are in fact mass training sessions for all teachers working in the area. `There are general topics for trainings like how to teach in class and how these training sessions can be made more effective.

“We send daily lesson plans to the teachers. The training sessions are kept interactive and teachers learn how to act and respond in different situations in the class,” she explained. “Then we have on demand trainings for teachers and principals of schools. They ask us about particular areas in which they believe they need to be trained. Once the needs are assessed, our team of experts visits schools to impart the demanded trainings. Thirdly, we have need-based trainings. Our teams visit schools and if they find that certain areas in schools need improvement, they propose need-based training. The team conducts one-day training session, during which we also engage parents. we educate them about basic issues faced by children on a daily basis and how these issues can be tackled,” Mariam said. She said the practice of engaging parents in training sessions had begun about a year ago and the response had been “amazing”. “The interaction provides us with first­hand knowledge of the problems they might be facing,” Mariam was of the view. On a query about what made TKS different from other franchises she said their approach towards handling the project was different. “Financial gains are never our concern. We are in the market just for the sole purpose of providing value added education to youth. “We have the best team, encompassing top-notch administrators and academicians. They make the difference,” Marium maintained. Responding to a query about curriculum, the TKS director said books were the most challenging aspect in schooling these days “TKS aims to make impact through our curriculum.

Early childhood is the most vital period of a child’s life and a good foundation at this stage is necessary. “It is the time when you engage a student and develop their curiosity and interest in learning.

We were stuck in the same rut since our inception since we were following  the curriculum that was available in the market. we then took the step of partnering with a reputed of curriculum of Pakistan. we gave it the task of designing our syllabus based on the latest educational teaching methods. Finally we have launched  our own curriculum,” she said. The director TKS revealed that they now publish their own books, which are available at affordable price, “We were able to bring down the prices of books because we were not looking for any profit,” she said, Marian) said TKS is proud to have a team that is available 24/7, “We have schools scattered across Pakistan. Our team is available on a dedicated Whatsapp group where all stakeholders can address their issue. We have parents’ support groups as well. Our teams regularly visit schools to ensure that the agreed upon procedures are followed in true letter and spirit,” the director TKS explained Early childhood is the most vital period of a child’s life and a good foundation at this stage is necessary “It is the time when you engage a student and develop their curiosity and interest in learning. If you develop that curiosity, the children are always happy and willing to go to school to learn more,  “In our pre-schools we have moved away from the old style of classroom. I was shocked to see the children’s school bags filled with so many text books. It was mind boggling for me to see a child less than 5 having such a large number of text books. TKS found a solution to the problem, we integrated mathematics, English and science subjects into one theme and made it far more interesting for children. We engage students in various activities, like celebrating color Days, World Wildlife Day, International Day Happiness and Grandparents Parents Day etc, so that children grow up as holistic individuals and not just people whose development is limited just to books: Mariam explained.

Along with focusing on the mental growth of students TKS also focuses on physical development of students. “ln most of our schools we have activities like cricket and hockey tournaments at regional level. One of our students won the bronze medal at a Karate competition and one of our students has been part of the under-16 cricket team,” she said. When asked about maintaining the quality standard in such a vast network of schools, the TKS director said evaluation teams visit schools on a regular basis to ensure that quality benchmarks were being met. “They monitor the whole process, right from when students enter the school, when they gather for the assembly and right up to the classrooms. The classes are monitored per the highest standards. Our teams also look for various infrastructural issues, including sanitation and cleanliness. Once the problems are resolved, the teams conduct follow up visits as well. Asked if TKS offered financial assistance to its students, Mariam said there were various types of financial assistance to students, including sibling discounts, financial and need-based assistances, as well as merit-based relief in fees. Mariam said TKS had performed exceptionally well in the last three years. “We are getting good results. And we know our direction now.”

“This is the first year that we have introduced our own curriculum. we  want to make life and learning morE effective in our schools,” Mariam maintained. Young and energetic, Mariam Murad is passionate about introducing innovative practices in Pakistan’s education sector. We hope she succeeds, for ambitious plans like hers are what will truly transform the educational landscape of this country.

Emanuel Sarfraz is Managing Editor of Academia Magazine. He has over two decades of experience in journalism and has worked at top slots in different national and international newspapers He can be reached at managing.editor@academiamag,com and on twitter @EmanuelSarfraz.