A Universal Language: Art in Education for Pakistani and U.S. Educators

July 15th, 2011 by Adam

A strumming guitar and hand-clapping dance partners aren’t usually what you see and hear in a classroom, but that’s what was happening at Plymouth State University during the Pakistani Educational Leadership Project’s summer institute. With the U.S.-Pakistan project funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, this is the eighth year PSU has hosted the institute, which allows Pakistani educators to learn about American innovations in education for adaptation in Pakistan.

PELI student Asifa Naz of Lehore, Pakistan learns how to use art in the classroom.
PELI student Asifa Naz of Lehore, Pakistan learns how to use art in the classroom

The intensive four-week program creates an atmosphere in which Pakistani educators immerse themselves in an inspiring and creative learning environment.

During the institute, Pakistani educators explore best practices in educational leadership that contribute to positive change as part of Pakistan’s education reform initiatives. One activity consists of discovering how to incorporate music and dance into curriculum. Maria Minickiello of Holderness, an adjunct Art professor at PSU, organized the integrated arts education class for U.S. and Pakistani educators through the Arts in Education Summer Institute.

“Any kind of kinesthetic movement with music helps different learning styles; a student who doesn’t necessarily connect with a subject in traditional ways like reading can often be helped with music or visual art and this class helps educators integrate that into their regular curriculum,” Minickiello said.

Riffat Ayesha, the project’s in-country coordinator, said music and dance are universal and learning how to incorporate them into educational plans is a great idea.

“We can blend these things very easily into our classrooms,” said Ayesha. “Music brings joy and happiness, so that’s the same wherever you are. There are different programs where we include music, where you can teach dramatic songs that speak to events in our country’s history.”

Laura Ascolese, a Seattle, Washington teacher working toward her master’s degree at PSU, participated in the class with the Pakistanis and noted the methods used to teach in the United States can be used all over the world.

“The main focus is how to integrate art into other subjects; it’s possible to use music to teach other kinds of art, or even history,” Ascolese said.

Project Director Blakeman Allen said the program cultivates “soft diplomacy” in improving relations between the U.S and Pakistan.

“One of the most important aspects of the project is people coming together. They come together as educators and get shaken out of their individual lives to learn more about each other’s cultures and to celebrate them,” said Allen.

Pakistan has one of the world’s lowest literacy rates, and spending on education is less than two percent of the country’s gross national product. Since its inception in 2004, the project has expanded from a summer institute to a full-fledged program with both U.S. and Pakistan components. It focuses on sharing best practices and exemplary models with Pakistani educators that support Pakistan’s reform goals in education. Recognized for their leadership capabilities, the educators represent secondary level public and public/private sectors and teacher training institutions. This unique collaboration crosses boundaries and connects learning communities in New Hampshire and Pakistan.

Since its inception in 2004, the project has worked with 160 educators from Pakistan in eight summer institutes. According to statistics compiled by Pakistan sub-award organization Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), alumni of the program acting as master trainers in Pakistan have trained more than 120,000 educators. As project director, Allen works closely with the State Department, PSU’s College of Graduate Studies, Pakistani alumni and stakeholders, and ITA, to ensure that the project and institute curriculum reflect U.S.-Pakistan education cooperation goals.

For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or blyndes@plymouth.edu