12 Years Old Pakistani Girl Promotes Online Education at WEF 2013 in Davos
By Riaz Haq
Khadija Niazi is a 12-year old from Lahore taking online courses offered by a new wave of cyber-based educational platforms like Coursera and Udacity . She was recently interviewed by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman at World Economic Forum 2013 at Davos, Switzerland.
Khadija was the featured guest in a session on online education sponsored by Victor Pinchuk Foundation. She was joined on stage at WEF by Bill Gates, Larry Summer, Daphne Koller (Coursera co-founder), Rafael Reif (President of MIT), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia founder), Peter Thiel and other dignitaries.
Coursera and Udacity offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) in a variety of subjects to large numbers of students from around the world. MOOC courses are often taught by professors who have been teaching for years at elite universities in the United States.
Khadija attends a local school in Lahore. She was only 10 years old when she first took the Artificial Intelligence online course on Udacity. She managed to finish the course and, the following year, Khadijah completed Udacity’s Physics course with highest distinction. She now plans to take courses in Astrobiology.
Enabling virtual education is the high-speed broadband expansion led by PTCL which has propelled Pakistan to become the fourth fastest growing broadband market in the world and the second fastest in Asia, according to a recent industry report .
The quickest and the most cost-effective way to broaden access to education at all levels is through online schools, colleges and universities. Sitting at home in Pakistan, self-motivated learners can watch classroom lectures at the world's top universities including UC Berkeley, MIT and Stanford. More Pakistanis can pursue advanced degrees by enrolling and attending the country's Virtual University that offers instructions to thousands of enrolled students via its website, video streaming and Youtube and television channels.
The concept of virtual instruction is finding its way to K-12 education as well. Increasing number of Pakistanis are drawn to the Khan Academy channel on YouTube making Pakistanis among its top users. Virtual Education for All is a local Pakistani initiative extending the concept to primary level.
All of these technological developments and open courseware initiatives are good news for making education available and accessible to satisfy the growing needs in Pakistan and other emerging countries around the world seeking to develop knowledge-based economies of the 21st century.
Here's a video of Khadija's interview with Tom Friedman at Davos: