Artificial Intelligence Initiative at Pakistani Schools- ECOSF held an Online Meeting with Technology Experts based in Canada, US and Pakistan

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Artificial Intelligence is no longer just contained in science fiction films. It is a part of our everyday lives, realizing the dire need of Artificial Intelleigence Learning in our daily lives, an online meeting was held on January 10, 2018 to discuss the way forward to introduce Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Deep Learning at schools in Pakistan. It is worth mentioning that this meeting was facilitated by Mr. Imran Siddiqui, the Consul General of Pakistan in Toronto, Canada and Mr. Mohammad Kamran Akhtar, Director General of ACDIS/Science Diplomacy Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan. Other members of the group include Prof. M. Iqbal Chaudhary of ICCBS Karachi, Prof. Sarosh Lodhi- VC of NED Engineering University Karachi, Prof. Manzoor H. Soomro- President ECOSF and other Pakistanis in USA, Canada and Pakistan. Those who joined the online meeting were; Dr. Shamim Sheikh, Dr. Adeel Zafar, Dr. Manzoor Soomro, Ahmed Roowala, Omer J Ghani, and Hassan Syed.

Mr. Hassan Syed, Founder and CEO of Bir Ventures USA Ltd., set up an online conference call and moderated the meeting. In his welcoming remarks, Mr. Hassan briefly introduced the impact of Data Sciences in modern age and stressed upon the need for developing a curriculum for introducing in secondary level. Mr. Hassan said they have already developed a curriculum for teaching AI to the university level which will be shared with the members.

Prof. Manzoor Hussain Soomro, President ECOSF, highlighted various programmes initiated by the Foundation for promotion of Science and Technology. He also shared that ECOSF in collaboration with many international partner organisations, initiated the Inquiry Based Science Education programme in the ECO region. During the meeting, Dr. Soomro pointed out the need for training of teachers for teaching science subjects at school level and shared with them that the Foundation is running a programme for teachers training in IBSE for STEM and assured his full support to the initiative. He also emphasized on the need for system approach for sustaining the initiative and suggested engagement of school systems rather than single schools.

Prof. Shamim Sheikh joined the meeting from Toronto, Canada. Prof. Shamim is the representative of the DIL (Developments in Literacy) Trust, UK, and The Citizens Foundation (TCF) working for the school education in various parts of the country.  He pointed out that different organisations and NGOs are working in their capacity to improve the education systems especially at secondary level, but more focus is needed on Artificial Intelligence at school level.

Dr. Adeel Zafar, Head of the Executive Department of LUMS, Business School said there is a great potential in the younger society and we need to put focus on the curriculum at the school level to develop cognitive, data driven analysis and decision making approach amongst our students from secondary level. In this context, he suggested while developing the curriculum, we need to first define the scope and level of difficulty in terms of different age groups. Secondly, there should be a defined ladder for migrating from old to new curricula. For this capacity building of teachers training is also very crucial. He also focused on institutions to understand the need and importance of teaching AI to students at school level and identify more partner institutions for this project.

Other colleagues also shared their wisdom and experience and showed commitment to the cause. Following Key topics were discussed and agreed upon in principle:

  • Outreach to teacher training structures
  • Content division based on grades: Grade 1 – 5, Grade 6 – 10, Grade 11 – 12
  • New content development
    • For each target grade, teachers training, and kids curriculum
  • Existing content curation, what can be repurposed easily

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