Interview By Maimoona Hafeez
Communication between parents, teachers and school administration is important for the holistic development of school students. Many studies have proved that better communication between school and parents can lead to improved results and increased confidence. According to a study conducted by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory in 2002, students whose parents are involved in their education are more likely to attend to school regularly, take advanced classes and excel academically.
Unfortunately, in Pakistan many parents are not involved in their children’s education. We see many a parents who have no communication with school except annual result day. Arusha Imtiaz is a young Pakistani woman who came with an innovative digital solution to this issue, with her app Edjunction. This app can help parents, school administration and teachers to communicate better and share information about school activities and school performance.
The Educationist: Why do you think it is important for parents and teachers to work together?
Arusha Imtiaz: The answer is very simple. Greater parental involvement in student education leads to better student performance and results. Both schools and parents are doing what they can to improve student outcomes. Imagine what can happen if we combine their efforts. If teachers and parents are on the same page about needs and actions to be taken to make sure improved results, we can get the desired results faster. Right now the problem is that even though parents want to be involved, they don’t have real-time academic information of their child other than the homework being assigned, hence there isn’t much they can do. Parent teacher interaction are not frequent; limited to annual or biannual parent-teacher meetings. And even worse is that some parents find out that their kid is doing poorly in a particular subject only at the end of the year when the results come out but that’s too late for them to do anything then.
The Educationist: How is Edjunction useful in bridging the gap between school and parents?
Arusha Imtiaz: Edjunction solves two problems. 1) It brings all stakeholders on a single platform. They are connected through a single platform, all the information that is created in schools on daily basis is created using Edjunction and shared with relevant stakeholders. This information includes attendance, results, homework, student behavior, direct communication between teacher and parents and much more. Parents know about their kids results in real-time and can take prompt actions. Teachers can share performance feedback with parents if needed. Teacher can share the topics discussed in class and parents can use that to continue the discussion at home.
If a child’s performance is suffering, parents and teachers can work on a personalized work plan, customized according to that students needs alone. These are a few examples of how parents and teachers can work like a team. There is another problem that Edjunction solves, which is using all the data created using Edjunction to take informed decisions. When parents are applying for leaves, they can see the summary of their kid’s attendance history and see the homework and tests due on the leave date along with any other important activity expected that day. While teachers are assigning homework, they can see what other homework and tests are schedules for students so she can assign the workload accordingly. No matter what you are doing using Edjunction, some level to data intelligence is incorporated in it. Going forward we would link all the data points to find correlations and do predictive analysis. Is students’ performance linked to student attendance, experience of the teacher, teacher attendance, involvement of the parents, homework assigned, participation in extracurricular activities, personalized assignment and much more.
The Educationist: How can schools and parents benefit from Edjunction?
Arusha Imtiaz: Benefits for schools and parents are endless. For schools the biggest advantage is visibility into day-to-day academic activities happening at the school. There isn’t just a communication gap between parents and teachers, but school administration & teachers and school administration & parents as well. Edjunction helps solve that as well. Often times parents have some concerns about the school but their concerns go unheard because there is no communication line between the schools and parents and parents end up withdrawing their children from the school without the school administration even knowing about the issue. Edjunction helps gauge parental sentiment at the right time allowing them to reduce the churn rate. For school administration, it also gives them real-time visibility. In real-time school administration knows how are students performing? And even how are teachers performing which allows them to take informed decision about how should teachers be assigned responsibilities?
It also gives them visibility into homework being assigned and other activities as well. But the important point to note here is that school administration can do all of this while having the master control. They can set the privacy settings, block comments on posts if they want, block users if needed, approve posts before they are shared with everyone else (optional feature), etc. So the entire environment can be controlled by the school admin. For parents on the other hand benefit depend on how much they get involved. If some parents just use Edjunction to get reminders on fee payments and important school events, that’s the advantage of Edjunction for them. For parents, who want to get involved more, getting real-time updates on their kid’s school life is the advantage for them. Parents spend a large chunk of their salaries on their kids’ education and yet have no visibility into what their kids do at schools. This is what Edjunction does for the parents.
The Educationist: Why have our schools not been successful in ensuring active participation of parents in school activities?
Arusha Imtiaz: I believe the need of getting more involved is relatively new. We live in a digital world. Through social media platforms we know where our friends are, whom are they with, what are they wearing and other details about their daily lives. Parents spend so much on their kids’ education and yet have no visibility of this sort. This need of visibility is new. And many schools are trying to do it, but they are struggling. Mediums of engaging parents are not centralized. Some use Facebook but that’s not private. Some schools use Whats App groups and emails to communication with parents but that’s not effective either. Some use SMS but that’s expensive. Some use web portals but everyone wants mobile access. Edjunction is platform that uses multiple mediums to share a message. Mobile, web, sums and email. This is the edge that we have.
The Educationist: Many young people develop apps and technological solutions, but not often in the education sector, why is that?
Arusha Imtiaz: To be honest, education tech is a challenging field. Maybe that’s why.
The Educationist: Does the world needs more young social reformers?
Arusha Imtiaz: Yes, we have a lot of social problems that need solving.
The Educationist: How can the use of technology help us improve the education system in Pakistan?
Arusha Imtiaz: We can help improve systems of education in many ways. Coursers is a good example. Technology can be used to educate people in villages where they don’t have good schools otherwise. Technology can be used to bring visibility and accountability in the education sector. It can be used in many ways.
The Educationist: Do you think young social entrepreneurs in Pakistan receive enough funding and mentoring?
Arusha Imtiaz: No. Both are rare.
The Educationist: What are your future plans for Edjunction?
Arusha Imtiaz: My plans for Edjunction are Making it bigger and better.