Award of Distinction
Dr Thomas Christie
Your Highness, Members of the Board of Trustees, Graduates, Faculty and Staff, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Each year the University Awards Committee considers nominations for the Award of Distinction. This award is presented (and here I quote form the Terms of Reference of the award) “...to recognize publicly and to honour outstanding persons who have contributed constructively and consistently to the development of the University.”
This year, the University has the honour of presenting the Award of Distinction to Dr Thomas Christie.
Dr Thomas Christie is the founding director of the Aga Khan University Examination Board. It will come as no surprise, then, that Dr Christie’s life’s work has been devoted to the promotion of educational change through the creation of public examination systems.
Prior to joining us at AKU, Dr Christie was Dean of the Faculty of Education and head of the Department of Education at the University of Manchester. There he directed numerous externally funded research and development projects and built up a team of 12 full time researchers in the Centre for Formative Assessment Studies.
During the 1980s, Dr Christie was the sole technical consultant in the design of national primary and secondary school examinations on behalf of the British Government and assisted with the creation of the Caribbean Examinations Council that became a major source of curriculum and examinations expertise for 23 Caribbean countries.
By the late 1990s, Dr Christie was assisting the Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam with the reform of its primary school assessment system. He also devised secondary school-based classroom assessment in Jamaica, primary/ secondary transition in Botswana. His work reforming economics education at the National University of Mongolia was recognized when Dr Christie was awarded the degree Doctor of Science, honoris causa, by that university.
Since joining AKU and establishing the Examination Board 10 years ago, Dr Christie has worked tirelessly to establish the first non-governmental school examination board in Pakistan, offering General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations at an affordable cost. Under his leadership, the Examination Board also effectively supported the school improvement efforts of the Aga Khan University’s Institute of Educational Development. Dr Christie designed and implemented the first e-marking facility in Asia for the processing of achievement data, establishing a transparent, merit-based marking process. In addition to designing and administering examinations in its 183 affiliated schools- where it delivers personalised feedback to teachers – the AKU Examination Board now evaluates the performance of half a million school students each year for the Punjab Education Foundation.
An especially innovative element of Dr Christie’s work at the Examination Board has been the development in recent years of the Middle School Programme. This programme exposes students to progress tests and collaborative tasks and – of course – a learning environment that promotes engaged, active learning and nurtures creative and critical thinking, problem solving and moves the student beyond rote learning while they are still at a relatively early stage of their school programme. The impact of this programme is likely to be profound and long lasting.
Dr Christie took on the leadership of the assessment strand of the USAID-funded Edlinks project. This project developed formative assessment in some 300 secondary schools in Sindh and sought to reduce the emphasis on rote learning among the member Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education of the national coordinating body, the Inter Board Committee of Chairmen. Dr Christie’s efforts on this initiative have borne fruit. Following the completion of the project, all Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education in Pakistan agreed to adopt the National Curriculum of 2006, as the basis of their assessment certification rather than relay on a provincial textbook.
Dr Christie is a much sought-after expert in the area of classroom-based assessment and in addition to numerous academic papers he has conducted workshops on a wide range of assessment-related topics in the Caribbean, Middle East, Asia, China and Africa. Tom Christie’s legacy will be the impact of his work on the quality of education – here at AKU, in Sindh province, across Pakistan and in the many areas of the world in which he has left his mark.
Your Highness, I ask that you present Dr Thomas Christie with the Aga Khan University Award of Distinction.