“What Spirit of Math has done is incredible” – Dr. Murad Raas, Minister for Education Punjab

Lahore, Pakistan: At an event titled “Releasing the Genius in Pakistan” at a prestigious hotel in Lahore, business owners, senior government officials, heads of private renowned private schools and private school federations, journalists, representatives of foreign aid agencies and concerned citizens gathered to discuss education in Pakistan. This event was organized by Spirit of Math, Canada’s premier after school math enrichment program and Dr. Murad Raas, provincial minister of education Punjab was the chief guest. Here is a transcript of his speech delivered at the conference. Bismillah ar Rehman ar Raheem Miss Kim. Nathan. Mr. Imran Masood Mr. James and all guests Assalam o Alaikum It was very interesting what I have seen today, and I’ve talked to them in the previous meetings that I’ve had in my office, a couple of meetings when they were inviting me here and telling me exactly what Spirit of Math is. I think I would want all our children to have this facility. I’m telling you this is something so unique and it doesn’t mean that every child or every student is a genius. Or only give them the opportunity that have the capability, but I think this should be given to every kid because we don’t know which one is going to shine? Obviously, there is a system that they’re coming through and then you find out which ones are the ones that really can go and run with this. But I think opportunity should be given to each student that we have. How to do that I found out that this is not a very inexpensive program. It is an expensive program for us because when it comes to the government there’s a lot of money needed because there are lot of students and millions and we have to create those funds to do things like this. But again, I would really want you to help us out Kim and Nathan. Please see how we can really work on this and take it to the next level. I know you have 4 schools right now I would like this in 4000 schools. And I mean, we would want this too and hopefully we will create funds and we will need a little discount from you and collaboration of both things we can make this happen. As my dear friend, he said that he needed, the minister for education. He needed 90 billion that’s what you said 90 billion to do what he wanted to do at that time. And I’ll tell you when I joined this Ministry I was, I asked what will it take to fix everything? If I want to fix everything, I want to know that number. You have to know that number to fix everything. I don’t know some people just don’t think about it, but I wanted to know in the first week. How much money do we need? They said 4 billion dollars. 4. So he needed about a billion dollars at that time, so 15 years down the road. We need about 4 billion dollars to fix everything. One should at least know what your goals are. I think my number one. number one priority is quality of Education. Right now, in the government sector. I think one must be very truthful and be straight and let people know what the problems are. And our number one problem is quality. People are going to private schools because they see quality there better than what the government schools are offering. We have to bring, I still haven’t met these organisations that are, I think one gentleman. I just met was sitting right here. there he is the Private School Association. I still have to meet them. Because first I want to see what we have. In the last four, five weeks, I’ve just been getting stock of everything that I have. And I’m still waiting for good news that somebody should come and tell me this is what is working. I wish I would have been handed over things by Mister Imran Masood. And that 10-year lapse in the middle wouldn’t have come then we would have been somewhere else today. I think if he had handed us. Things the way he left them; we would have been at a different place to start. Our starting point would have been different completely. But here we are, and Quality, quality and quality. If we don’t bring quality teachers. That’s where the quality will start. It will start with the teachers. If we don’t train the teachers well. If we don’t bring the right teachers. I mean, these days, I’ll tell you I have met enough teachers in the past, In one month, there were certain teachers that came I did not know whether that is a teacher Or, a gangster. Really, it was that I was shocked. That is this, who is this gentleman. I mean If he looks scary to me imagine what the kids would be thinking at that time. So we have to see what we’re really providing our kids. Instead of me coming from one party political party. And putting all the people because I want to make my party happy, so I want all PTI people to be joining as teachers. We cannot do this. We are cheating our children. Standing today, I’ll tell you, we are cheating our children of the real education That’s supposed to be given to them. We have to start absolutely from 0 again. Because when you see what’s happening with the government schools. We can walk in the city right now, this is Lahore, the biggest city. Supposedly one of the most educated cities. Let’s walk and we will go to government schools and you’ll see what the conditions are. We have to change all this we need we need everybody’s support. We need private support. We need public & private partnerships. We need everything. We need curriculum to be changed. Because when I say curriculum has to be changed, people think that I’m talking about English medium, no I’m not. I’m talking about a curriculum. That you don’t have to cram. It has to be something if it says this is a microphone, tell the kid that it’s not just a microphone. What is it used for? What is it made from? Tell 10 different things about the microphone. It has to be critical thinking. It cannot be just saying “This is a microphone”. This is a microphone. There’s a microphone the kid sees it. This is the microphone that’s it, it doesn’t know anything about it. The quality has to be changed. The critical thinking has to be brought in. There are so many things that I really want to do, but and I want to go much faster than we’re going right now for the past 4 weeks. But this will take time. This will take time, this will take money, this will take a lot of Effort. And we all must do it together. How do we do it together because we do it for our country, for our kids. They are the future. We invest in the future of our own country by investing in education. That is the most important thing if we don’t do anything else and if we can fix education, we have done our job, we have paid our dues to our country. Because we are investing for generations to come. And I would really want for once, we would get past these party barriers and leave education alone. That if Mister Imran Masood brought some good initiatives, and good innovations, the other ones should promote them because, I remember I have seen myself. Things that he brought they’ve been finished. They’ve been abolished because he was from a different party and those things were discontinued. I will bring them back again, I’ll tell you. The good initiatives that he took I will sit down with him; I’ll bring them back. The things in education, they have to be beyond parties, beyond ourselves, beyond everything. This is for our kids. These things that we will do in the coming months, in the coming years is for the future of our country. What Spirit of Math has done is incredible. Nathan’s grand father starting this, Kim’s father. One I mean look at this, this is called innovation, this is called hard work. They’re not doing it for the money. They can do it for the money in 24 hours, I know. They can be loaded and sitting at home and not worrying about anything but no. They’re making the effort in the right direction. They are. They’re taking their time. They’re picking and choosing what they want to do. Making the right decisions, not looking for the next dollar. So I really appreciate what you’re doing, but please make it, please make it a little inexpensive for me. I cannot afford it. My kids cannot afford what Zoran has told me is the fee, and you were sitting in my office. I cannot afford it for my kids. But we’ll talk about that. One last thing anything and everything, anybody has good ideas, innovative ideas, not good ideas. I want brilliant ideas. I don’t want anything normal anymore. I don’t want average I want the best. And I want anybody who has an idea that is completely out of the park. I want that idea. I don’t want average anymore. I want the best for our kids, so anybody who has that come and see me. My office is open at all times. I’m sitting there, most of the time, other than my meetings. And we’re going to join hands with Spirit of Math also. and see what we can do. And I know will do something that’s for sure, so that’s one thing for sure. But I don’t know where we will start but we will sit down, and we will discuss. And I welcome everyone. I want to thank you Kim, thank you Nathan, thank you for inviting me here. I want to thank Mister Imran Masood for putting us all together. And hopefully, in the coming future will see, the best things come out of education in Punjab so thank you very much.