The First American School in Pakistan
By Amber Jamil
Member, Board of Directors AISS
The school building
The development of an individual and a society is judged by the standard of education. As a person matures in knowledge of the larger world, a radical change occurs in his/her ability to integrate within the extended societal structure. The same can be said for how a society interacts within the global framework. As developing countries in Asia play a greater role in the global economy, Pakistan’s ability to take part in this upcoming economic boom depends primarily on its ability to develop an educational system which allows our children’s boat to rise along with the larger Asian tide.
Currently, Pakistan’s schools are a bewildering hodgepodge of private and public systems without uniform standards. Those that maintain international standards are modeled on the limited British system. Some employ corporal punishment and rote memorization rather than fostering a sense of critical thinking and confidence required by citizens of the globe. Under-qualified teachers and under-funded systems mean that important development activities such as arts and music are ignored. While the world moves forward at a breathtaking pace in scientific and technological breakthroughs, most Muslim countries, including Pakistan, remain well behind the curve. Under these circumstances, the challenges Pakistani parents face to provide their children with the tools to thrive in today’s world are countless.
It is in this context that an exciting endeavor has been launched in Lahore which will eventually grow throughout Pakistan allowing our children to acquire excellent education that is globally competitive. The American International School System (AISS) was launched earlier this year to address the needs and concerns of parents who desire the high caliber of an American education within the Islamic and cultural norms of Pakistan. As well as serving the needs of individual children primed to take leadership roles as adults, it sets the stage for the development of Pakistan as a player in the regional economic growth already underway in neighboring countries. As seen in such countries, many immigrants forced to leave their homeland for lack of economic opportunities are now returning en mass to take leadership roles as their countries step onto the global stage.
The school building has been designed by Mr. Zeeshan of Lahore and resembles a crescent, depicting our Islamic heritage.
The mission of the AISS is to prepare Pakistani students for American universities. They will gain the language skills, self-confidence, sense of responsibility, and self-reliance that a person needs to survive in the Western educational environment.
A section of the school
The parent-child school activity
These activities help build confidence and intellectual base, vital for sustainable mental growth of children.
Upon graduation, the students receive the International Baccalaureate Degree. Graduates have preference status in admission to a number of prestigious American colleges and universities such as George Washington University in Washington DC, Kean University of New Jersey, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Parents are assured that their children receive the same education in Lahore as in America and can move to the United States at any point without any disruptions in their education.
AISS will arrange yearly summer camps in the USA and bring students from Pakistan to expose them to the American educational environment. This exchange enhances cultural sensitivity and mutual respect among the children. Parents who reside in the US will have the opportunity to see their children during summer camp.
From the third grade up, AISS holds yearly summer camps in the USA and brings students from Pakistan to expose them to the American educational environment and help them learn about scientific developments. This exchange enhances cultural sensitivity and mutual respect among the children of both countries. Parents who reside in the US have the opportunity to see their children yearly during summer camp. Similarly, those families who have not immigrated back to Pakistan for lack of proper educational facilities are now able to experience life in Pakistan while their children receive quality American education. Parents can be assured that in addition to an American curriculum, AISS students learn Urdu and Islamiat.
Communication between overseas parents and students at AISS is also aided by the information highway. Interactive worldwide video conferencing and other Internet and computer facilities are available to help students connect with students in the USA as well as with overseas parents. Parents are able to directly communicate with AISS teachers through each individual teacher’s website and monitor their child’s work. Students tell their parents what lessons they learn each day through their individual desktops. Each student’s work is posted on the web so that overseas parents can enter a ‘virtual classroom’ and see exactly what is taught everyday.
In fact, even the seating arrangements are designed to facilitate learning as an interactive process. Classrooms are set up with four students facing each other in clusters who can work with one another. The teacher to student ratio is limited to one to eighteen. The teacher does not lecture from the front of the class but rather moves around to work with each student. Rather than the old ‘Sage on the stage, the teacher is the guide on the side!’ It is a whole different perspective on education.
Members of the staff
AISS is the first American school in Pakistan, which brings qualified and certified teachers from the USA who follow American standards of education. Every need of students has been foreseen in the selection of AISS staff. Dr. Steven, the Dean of Education, has forty years of educational experience as the Chairman of the New York City Taskforce for Quality Inclusive Schooling. Principal Dr. Bonnell has administered schools in several countries including the USA. The teacher-assistants are all Pakistani teachers who receive on-job development credits through American universities. With a strong support team of a staff doctor, nurse, social worker, psychologist and counselors, students are free to grow and thrive to their utmost abilities. AISS requires that staff employed at every level pass an English language test to ensure consistency.
Dr. James Bonnell Ph.D., is Director of AISS, whose son Mark Bonnell became the first student of AISS.
Maisae Affour, Ph.D. is the lead teacher at AISS. She has worked at schools in the Middle East, USA and Caribbean.
Ms. Amna Hassan is a graduate from San Francisco State University in Psychology. She specializes in school programs involving art, music and culture.
Ms. McKibben earned her Masters in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her specialties are creative writing and language development and student leadership development.
With a US $10.2 million investment, AISS is built on an expansive eleven and a half acres of land. The AISS campus provides opportunities for extra-curricular activities such as indoor and outdoor sports, horseback riding, martial arts and music classes. The campus contains an amphitheater, swimming pool, cafeteria, a hi-tech auditorium, libraries, a main computer lab and computers in all classrooms. AISS is the first Pakistani educational institution to be handicap accessible.
Built on an expansive 11.5 acres of land, the school provides ample space for outdoor activities.
Creating an academic environment which encourages students to learn and grow in and outside of the classroom is a rare opportunity for far-thinking parents. That such a school invites our children to integrate and lead in a global context while maintaining cultural heritage is a prospect many of us welcome.
American International School System
562 Grand Ave, Englewood, NJ 07631
www.aiss.edu.pk ; www.aisspk.com
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