Digital Innovation and Early Childhood Education Development Hand in Hand
A Feature on AKU Programme Mentor: Dr. Almina Pardhan
Aga Khan University is committed to global efforts of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of quality pre-primary education by 2030. Early learning opportunities are fundamental to shaping a child’s future. Yet, millions of children globally are not enrolled in pre-school. This has been further exacerbated by COVID-19. Organizations like AKU are working on innovative initiatives, including through digital platforms, to support quality early learning opportunities for children.
The Aga Khan University’s Virtual Internship Programme (AKU-VIP) Interns working under the mentorship of Dr. Almina Pardhan, Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED) specialist at AKU’s Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED), are contributing to such initiatives in Pakistan’s diverse and complex geographical landscape.
Under Pardhan’s mentorship, Parisa Kabir and Fitia Ranaivo-Harisoa, students at University of British Columbia, and Eliza Hicks, a student at Brown University, are using mediums such as Zoom, Google Docs, and video sharing techniques, as an alternative to the original on-site placement, to learn about the context of early childhood education and development in Pakistan and to work on contextually relevant project deliverables.
With Covid-19’s disruption to the education system, AKU-VIP Interns are helping to adapt materials and activities linked to early childhood education curriculum learning outcomes for dissemination through digital platforms such as cable TV and mobile phone text messages. These innovative ways are helping to reach families with young children who may otherwise face challenges with internet connectivity, electricity outage, and remoteness.
Pardhan says ‘The interns are enthusiastic and actively engaged in rising up to the challenge of helping to implement contextually relevant solutions to ensure young children continue to learn in enjoyable ways while staying safe and healthy through empowered families.’
Interns are also working closely with Pardhan and her colleagues at AKU-IED Pakistan to help in the design and implementation of creative and contextually relevant ECED teacher education and parent education programmes through a range of digital platforms.
Mentors like Pardhan have been instrumental in helping AKU-VIP interns achieve as close to a lived experience of an on-site internship as possible and to successfully achieve their project goals and sub-goals in an enjoyable way.