Islamabad:The first cohort of 41 IPFP Fellows graduated from the inaugural National Faculty Development Programme (NFDP), a four-week intensive training course, which was conducted online through Microsoft Teams because of the coronavirus.
The graduating scholars are fellows of the Interim Placement of Fresh PhDs (IPFP) programme funded by HEC. This programme supports universities in getting the services of fresh PhDs for a period of one year in anticipation of their recruitment to regular faculty positions.
The NFDP course was organized by the newly established National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE). It aims to provide new faculty with the practical skills and competencies they will need in order to become successful academics. These include courses in teaching effectiveness, including online teaching, research management, and professional practice. This is in keeping with the HEC’s strategy that all higher education programs should be driven by the goal of future student success.
The programme, led by a team of national and international experts, was delivered in accordance with the highest standards online readiness established by HEC in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis. The NFDP 2020 course is to be delivered between now and August 2020 in 12 cohorts of 40 participants each. This is the first cohort of the course.
In his keynote address, Chairman HEC congratulated the graduating IPFP Fellows as well as the organizers and instructors of the programme for their commitment and the success they achieved under difficult conditions, this being NAHE’s first intensive program, which had to be delivered online and during Ramazan.
Mr. Banuri emphasized that the real success of this programme will come from the work of participants in the time to come. Lamenting the deterioration in the quality of higher education in Pakistan, he said that the current focus of HEC is to re-establish the value of our degrees and certifications. “Your success is not in getting this certificate. Your success, and our success, will happen when you provide excellent education to your students, when you do first class research, and when you help solve the problems that the country is facing. That will be the time to congratulate yourselves.”
He said that while the four-week rigorous programme had introduced the participants to a number of tools and techniques, the larger purpose was to learn the habits and practices that will take them towards success. Taking a leaf from Stephen Covey’s famous bestseller, the Chairman asked them to think about seven habits of successful academics, namely reading, writing, judging (or assessing), using scientific doubt, valuing time, pursuing excellence, and building a scholarly community.
Successful academics were avid readers and prolific writers, and it required sustained effort to acquire these habits. All academics are required to express their judgment, about ideas, about papers and books, about exam answers, about journal submissions, about students, and about candidates for selection. It is their fundamental role in society. They have to learn how to do so through constant hard work and practice.
The fourth habit is scientific doubt, without which there can be no science. The role of the academic is to pursue the truth and to separate truth from myths and fairy tales. Do not take things on face value. Today, it is easy to fact-check assertions.
Fifth, we must learn to value our own time and others’ time. Make a calendar, fix a schedule, and stick to it. Respect the time that the students give to you, and make sure that they benefit from it. Respect the time of your colleagues.
The sixth trait that he highlighted was the pursuit of excellence. He underscored that excellence is not a destination but a commitment, a journey. We have to ask ourselves daily if we are doing quality work, and how we could further enhance the quality of this work. We must learn to recognize and appreciate excellence in others, and to let excellence be our reward.
Finally, scholars have to find fellow scholars, others who are interested in similar goals. All knowledge evolves in scholarly communities. Everyone has to try to find kindred spirits, stay in touch with them, exchange ideas and opinions with them, and develop collaborative programs with them.
Earlier, in her welcome speech, Rector NAHE, Dr. Shaheen Sardar Ali welcomed the session participants and gave a brief introduction of the NFDP 2020. She congratulated the IPFP fellows and appreciated them for their hard work and commitment during all the sessions. She emphasized that the programme aims to provide a virtual, immersive, and integrated world-class learning experience that will prepare the participants for their academic careers.
The resource persons of the programme, including Dr. Steve Burian, Dr. Shazia Awan, Dr. Hassaan Khan and Dr. Saima Sherazi, also shared their experiences of the four-week programme and hoped that it will go a long way for participants to enhance and develop skills needed to become a good teacher and a successful researcher.
The participants’ representatives said that modules included in the training are valuable in capacity building of teachers and cover almost every aspect of the effective teaching. They appreciated NAHE for introducing this fantastic approach to teaching and research.