Helping Reluctant Writers

Rashid Ishaq – July 1, 2019

What are the reasons that some children run away from a piece of paper and a pencil as if it will come to life and chase them? Later, you find this same kid creatively drawing tiny circles all over their favorite stuffed cat. In almost every home, in every school and in every classroom, there are some children/students who just hate writing and will avoid it any cost. You might hear their groaning and moaning when you say the word ‘writing’ or suddenly remember to go to the toilet the minute you hand over a pen or pencil and a paper or notebook. Somehow you have made them to sit at their desk but when they do sit down they take 500 years to write the date and draw a margin line and then poke the person next to them or get busy in some other off task behaviour.  Their kittenish behavior means to somehow stop you supporting those who will engage, rather seeking some time wasting support from them or divert the concentration of capable to writing kids who just need extension. As a mother, father or a teacher, it can take all the fun out of a writing session when reluctant writers do not let you to proceed your writing session. Next are the ‘sit and do nothing’ kids who write one or two simple sentences and then just sit there doing nothing, maybe putting their head on the desk. When you try to support them and ask some guiding questions like “what happens next?” or “What else could you write about this?” in your most encouraging voice, they come up with, “I don’t know” with an innocent expression on their face.  Or they can tell you about what they want to say but simply can’t get the words down on the page.

On the whole, these reluctant writers do not wake up thinking, “Hey, I am perfectly competent when it comes to writing, but I just don’t like it and I will do everything in my power to make my teacher’s life difficult today”.  Odds on, the thoughts prevailing in their heads is “This is too hard.” And “I am so dumb.” These children are usually reluctant simply because they find writing difficult, but why writing is difficult for them and how to support them really depends. In this article, we will discuss the importance of different aspects of writing, areas of difficulty for reluctant writers, comparison between factory-model traditional schools and 21st Century Schools as how do both teach writing, what are the best alternative methods that you as parents, teachers and school can apply; some charts and videos will also be provided in this blog that will surely help a great deal. 

Why is Automaticity so important for writing?

Before reading about the importance of automaticity, please remember that automaticity is the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice. So Automaticity is the ability to perform tasks without conscious thought. Now let’s move ahead. 

Writing is a highly complex process and in order to be successful it needs certain skills to be performed automatically. Each student or a child only possesses a certain amount of cognitive energy which is also known as mental energy or working memory. For a successful writing, children need to be able to perform a number of tasks at the same time. In most of our cases we can only think about one thing at a time and same is the case for the children as well so what we need to do is to develop some of these tasks to automaticity in order to get their full attention to the most important part, which, of course, is language and delivering a meaningful message. Next, as we review the 4 areas that children may be experiencing difficulty with, reflect on your students and ask yourself, “Does this student have these processes developed to automaticity?”

Below are the key four areas of Difficulty that we are going to discuss now. 

1- Handwriting 

Many students enter high school with poor letter formation.  When a child is spending mental energy figuring out how to form individual letters they are not able to think about spelling, sentence structure or language use.  Any student finds this as a very frustrating experience. In this modern era of 21st century skills, schools may either abandon handwriting lessons beyond the foundation year or not teach it all but the reality is, that while modern technology does involve our students typing, handwriting will remain a vital skill to learn for all ages.  For all the schools and for all the teachers, mothers or fathers, it is important to remember that handwriting needs to be taught.  Sending a handwriting book to the parents of a student as a home work or assigning ‘handwriting’ as an independent activity is not teaching handwriting.  Whenever a child writes a letter wrongly he/she is are further entrenching poor habits. A school’s phonics program may have mnemonics for letter formation. Read Write Inc.phonics  that I recommend  contains very effective rhymes for letter formation and you can contact me if you can’t find these phonics by yourself.  Further, a very worthwhile undertaking is finding time for letter formation instruction throughout the school week. Handwriting lessons can be planned properly to teach learning cursive to some students while others are learning printing.

2- Spelling 

Remember that English spelling can be a source of big frustration for a child who is learning how to read and write. Sometimes schools, teachers and parents do not pay attention but only when difficulties persist beyond the first few years of school, and a language-based specific learning difference could be the cause of the trouble. Estimates suggest 1 in ten people struggles with some form of dyslexia, which also affects reading ability. Also remember that there is a difference between a student/child having poor letter formation in their writing and having a diagnosable learning difficulty such as dysgraphia.  Dysgraphia is inability to write coherently, as a symptom of brain disease or damage. 

(Follow Edu21’s facebook page and we will write more about dysgraphia soon in another blog post). 

When students were not taught proper phonics and decoding the words, they do not know how to spell effectively, then it is not unusual for them to use less complex vocabulary or write far less than they are capable of.  Below could be the few reasons for difficulties in spelling:

1- A child does not have required phonemic processing to be able to pull the word apart orally and identify the sounds they hear which is also called segmenting

Fred fingers method in this  video can support children to ‘sound out’ words at a basic level.

2- A child does not have proper and enough knowledge of the alphabetic code to know how to write down the sounds they can hear. A student must know at least one representation of all 44 phonemes of English In order to represent words on a page. Please teach children full understanding of how words work, including a confident recall of the most common representations of English speech sounds to spell correctly.  Charts below can help you to know how many representations there are to learn. Teach these explicitly in quality word study and not just included in send-home spelling lists. You can call me wrong but in my view weekly spelling tests are not necessary at all if you teach phonics in a rigorous way with reading and spelling included as reciprocal processes, and I repeat again you will never have to have a Friday spelling test again!

A child lacks a sufficient awareness of other spelling concepts such as morphology which is the study of words, how they are formed, and their relationship to other words in the same language (including prefixes and suffixes), etymology (the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history) and other orthographic concepts (Spelling is one of the elements of orthography, and highly standardized spelling is a prescriptive element).  Now if your child’s teacher and school does not teach all of this rigorously and systematically, I’d recommend changing his school but if your child’s school teaches this  and your child still experiences significant spelling difficulties, speak with your school’s special education advisor about possible learning difficulties to support your child. (To learn more about dyslexia and other learning difficulties, follow us on facebook. You will find the page link at the bottom of this article)

3 – Memory and Regulation

And then there are children who could orally share a sentence with their teachers or mothers and then in the 10 seconds while picking up their pencil and notebook ready, completely forget what they wanted to write. That means that those children experience working memory difficulty or issues with self-regulation that is a hurdle for them to focus long enough to get ideas down on paper.  Age of the child and the severity of the difficulty can vary but here are a number of ways to provide support at home and in the classroom.

  1. Break tasks down into small, manageable chunks
  2. Remember that never use picture chart for a student for reading instead use phonics and decoding work methods but you can use picture prompts that either you provide or the student draws to scaffold ideas. Something like if you want your student to write a narrative, allow them to draw a story map or cartoons and use that to organize thoughts. In this way they do not have to hold the entire thing in their head while they write each part.
  3. Make sure that the student has a good knowledge of the subject matter before asking them to write.
  4. Oral practice of sentences is good in order to have a good chance to sharpen their memory before writing. 
  5. Use a prompt to track the words in a sentence. 

Below is another video that can help the parents and teachers 

  • Interestingly, your child or student can be allowed to create a voice recording of what he/she wants to write by listening to the same as they write. This will help them to skip back and listen as many times as they want to write the words on the page.
  • You can also utilise voice to text features or voice to text apps for the children with great difficulty. 
  • Sometimes permissions can be granted to the children to type rather than hand write for longer pieces of writing. This  will help to remove one of the things that the child will need to think about as they share their ideas.

4– Text Generation

A writing lesson of a typical primary school especially those who provide factory-model education  can be something like this: (here i am talking about some well-known and still a better primary schools or else there are worse than those).

a- Students are given an example of the text type by the teacher currently being studied

Reaction of Reluctant Writer:

“Oh no. I hate writing. How I can get out of this? Oh look, there’s a piece of paper on the carpet. Better if I roll it into a ball and throw it at someone to disrupt the proceeding. This teacher always makes us do this and I hate it .  My breathing is a bit fast.” 

b- teacher points out features by unpacking the text type

Reaction of Reluctant Writer:

Totally lost or “Blah, blah, blah. What is she on about? I hate writing.”

c- teacher models writing

Reaction of Reluctant Writer:

Cool, her back is turned. Hey Rayyan, what are you doing after school this afternoon?”

d- Engaging the whole class in a joint construction where specific children put up their hands to share ideas about what is written on the board, 

Reaction of Reluctant Writer:

I hope she will not ask me.”, “Please, don’t ask me”. Ah, my stomach feels like it’s tied in knots and I’m feeling so upset. Oh God, my smart classmates are answering. I wonder when this session will end. I hate writing. I’m going to the sick room”.

e- Students are provided writing template and instruction to go to their desks to write their own version of what has been there on the board.

Reaction of Reluctant Writer:

“If I keep staying in the sick room or laying on the mat I won’t have to go to my desk. I think i should go to the toilet or tell the teacher that my elbow got hurt”

 f- teacher provides support to less confident children or puts them in a group to walk them through the process.

Reaction of Reluctant Writer:

This is SOOOO annoying.  I don’t know what she wants from me. I’, so dumb. I can’t even do it anyway.”

Now remember, I am not totally against the above methods and for some children, this might be sufficient to be successful in the lesson. But the whole credit cannot be given to the teacher because these students are already fairly polished or intelligent in writing and are skilled in all of the areas mentioned above, plus they understand how to compose ideas.

But what about the children with difficulty of areas previously mentioned or the ones we are talking about, the reluctant ones, the above teaching methods or process will surely leave them feeling insecure, helpless and even angry.  Be with me to review the above teaching methods in terms of what a reluctant writer might be doing and thinking. 

So What’s the Alternative?

Tip 1) First of all, it will help a lot to provide meaningful context for writing.  You can teach your students through quality texts and can use picture books since those are terrific for all ages and make sure to build the field of background knowledge sufficiently prior to asking children to write anything will ensure greater engagement all round. 

Tip 2) Do not forget to add lots of sentence level work in your writing program. Sentences mean a lot and are the key to great writing, so to support students at this level, explicitly teaching sentence structure and sentence writing is inevitable.

Tip 3) Encourage and help every student to participate in every part of your lesson.  I am providing you a youtube video link and this video will show how you can maximize participation in idea generation. You can use student ideas without asking anyone to put up their hands to answer. In this video, It is a lower primary class, but the concept can also easily be used in upper primary and high school.  Giving students the opportunity to talk out their ideas with a partner is extremely valuable.

Tip 4) Time …Give sufficient time and talk to your reluctant writers before the lesson and explain them your expectations from them. Do ‘hold a sentence exercise to get them started. Here is another youtube video link for you as an example of what you could do with one or more students while your other students get started on their writing.

Tip 5) Ignore lengthy writing tasks rather break the writing task down into small chunks and group students for the level of support they need.

Check below table and video for further support:

Tip 6) Use below suggested lesson format (which is very relevant and searched from Internet and discussed thoroughly with Edu21 experts) to provide ample opportunity for students to talk about ideas before asking them to write them down. If you are not able to say it, you are not able to read it or write it.

As I mentioned before that writing is a highly complex task that requires students to perform a range of different tasks simultaneously. If you can identify the area of difficulty for your students and include instruction to address these difficulties in your teaching program you will support them amazingly.  I will not advise to help them manage without core skills, you need to provide them with explicit and intentional teaching to enable them to develop these skills and become full participants in literacy at school and in their wider lives, home etc. Chunking the text or breaking down writing lessons into small manageable chunks plus providing strong Instructional scaffolding will allow even the most reluctant writer to show what they are capable of.

The writer is director Edu21-The 21st Century School, Islamabad, Pakistan, You can reach him for feedback at:

Edu21 Facebook Page Link:

The Quality Gap in Teaching Methodologies in Pakistan

Aneela Ahmed Junaid . June 17, 2019.

The Pakistani school system is full of contrasts and disparities, starting from the medium of languages that are used, to the uneven fees structure. Often parents fall for false statements made by schools and then blindly follow claims made such as students acquiring 99 per cent results, the highest GPAs or the most number of first divisions.
Schools often mislead parents by showing such results that are mostly based on the rutta (cramming) system where students learn just by memorizing without actually understanding the concepts.
However, it has been proven that such a system does not benefit the child in the long run nor does it prepare the child for a professional life. And if a child has to be sent abroad later for studies, such out dated methods fail him.
It is high time that parents break the shackles, understand and educate themselves before their child on how schools that are using project based learning and fact finding approaches to educate are now the future and the right choice to make.

Finland is the World leader at the provision of future skills education, according to the worldwide Educating for the Future Index (WEFFI). The WEFFI report looks at teaching methodologies, policy initiatives and the socio-economic environment of 50 countries. Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Iran ,and Pakistan were found the five worst-ranked countries in this report.


Unfortunately, in terms of its education system and future skills education, our beloved country ranked among worst countries because Pakistani education system is not configured to provide the next generation with the skills they are most likely to need . We live in an era that is tremendously being defined by change. So many businesses today are the proven success stories and prime examples by using the power of technology like Amazon, most recently Uber and fintech companies.

Edu21 from the start was built on a slogan of teaching methodologies of 21st century education. In this regard, we hired the local as well as Foreign expert faculty to teach children using modern methodologies such as phonics to decode the words, project based learning, inquiry and place based learning, Observations methods by taking students on outside trips to running environmental, historical, engineering and technical plants such as Water Treatment Units, Museums and Farm Houses etc. Plenty of activities based methods are used at our school and those are totally students-centered activities instead of teachers-centered.

Students’ Visit to Water Treatment Plant

Plant Engineer updating students about Plant

Edu21 Students observing Water Treatment Process

Our Students’ Visit to Farmhouse

The next flood of change will have more enigmatic effects, which is why it is so necessary for our national government to set in train the right policies. To meet this challenge, it is important to teach real life skills that fall outside of age-old approaches to curriculum design and teaching. We can’t ignore Emotional intelligence and 21st century real life skills like critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and problem solving skills are core aptitudes and the need of the hour, but these cannot easily be taught in a traditional classroom environment under factory-model of education system.

The key elements of real life skills learning cannot be implemented inside the classroom only, schools need to provide real world connection to the students to be well-versed with Global Trends and to be able to think outside the box. In this regard, #Edu21 connected its students with 100s of other students by joining Penpal schools network that helps students to interact with each other worldwide, share the ideas with each other and gather the information. It is simply useless to teach real life skills when a group of students sit at desks facing the front, where a teacher stands, ready to impart facts and students try to suck information as much as they can. Next , they memorize the same information from books and write down in exams is pretty useless, I’d say. It is needed to get out of the classroom to inculcate real future skills.

Updating curriculum and the use of right teaching methodologies should always be on the top of agenda. Edu21 adopted to teach some subjects which not too many schools in the country are teaching at the moment such as Oracy. At the same time, our school also introduced subjects which not only in Pakistan but even in many developed countries are yet to be introduced, #DentOral, for example, was one that subject we recently introduced., it is totally based on oral hygiene of children and teach children the importance of Disease Prevention versus Disease Treatment.

Teaching DentOral

A Doctor’s Visit to Edu21 on the first day of Teaching DentOral Subject


Let’s move to the last topic of this article and that is about the jobs in future. We need to remind ourselves that jobs and work opportunities that are available today will be no more available after few years and will rapidly vanish from their existence. Do you remember what life was like before the internet? Before Facebook or before Mobile Phones? There is a prediction that by 2025, we will lose approximately 5 million jobs to the automation and if we do not evolve our education system, our children will be totally lost finding jobs comparing to many others in most developed countries like there in the West, Finland, Singapore or USA who studied under the education system of 21st century. That means that future jobs will look vastly different by the time our children in Pakistan graduate university. Edu21-The 21st Century School in Islamabad, Pakistan is focusing on teaching the future skills that will help the children to stand competitive in the world. Although we dont have a genius who can accurately predict what jobs will look like in the future (which won’t stop our school from trying!), but there are seven skills that are our focus to the future success of our children. (Critical thinking, Creativity, STEM, SMAC, Mental Elasticity and Complex Problem Solving, People Skills, Interdisciplinary Knowledge). In some other article, I’ll write more about these 7 skills but here I’d like to mention some worldwide projects that our school is connected to for creating an awareness and Developing an interest among our students about the Future, Future Technologies and Work Opportunities in the Future.


One of the projects, #InnovateYourDreams2019 was recently founded by our school’s PBL Expert and famous Educator, Mr Khurram Shehzad, this project is currently running in more than 50 countries, 2,000 schools and teachers along with 100,000 plus students have registered to join this project. The project stresses on not to give up on your dreams instead innovate your dreams. With this theme, students try to think of new ideas and innovate new jobs in their little minds. One of our primary students after joining some workshops of this project mentioned that in future she will open a shop and will do home delivery through drones. Another student of grade 1 said that he wants to work on a life saving device which will help and save people from drowning in the water. Similarly, there were many more cute innovative ideas that took place in the minds of our students. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #SDGs is another international project that students of Edu21 work too.

It is urgent to bring necessary changes in our education policies and educationalists should understand that we cannot create real life learners by using traditional classrooms environment and old teaching techniques. “It is incredibly important to invest in changing teaching techniques and improving what happens inside the classroom.”
We, hereby, are ready to offer our services to the Government of Pakistan being as a volunteer to implement some of our projects and strategies for no financial gain in few Govt Schools initially as a pilot project to help students and masses.

The writer is an educator and Principal of Edu21-The 21st Century School in Islamabad, Pakistan.

PBL Summer Planning

Aneela Ahmed Junaid | June 2, 2019
It’s summer! A time for #Edu21 students to have a summer holiday to take care of themselves. But in case, if you do have some energy to reflect on a project-based learning (PBL) or to do some planning, here are some manageable ideas Edu21 offers you to consider for revising what you’ve done in the past without creating too much new work.


Keep, Adjust, or Trash:
Looking over the projects you as students worked on at #Edu21 such as Protecting the Planet, United Nations’ SDGs, World Explorer, Robotics, Helping Animals, Water Conservation, Innovate Your Dreams, Solar System, Human Machine, Forces and Motions, Sound Cloud, Volcanoes, Farm House and many more, make the important and yet time-saving decision about whether to keep the project as is, make some small adjustments, or cut it from your schedule.


Sometimes a project our students design is a hit—students love it and create buzz for future students. but also sometimes, a project is pretty good and just needs some adjustments. However, it is completely OK throw a project away, maybe because it was a complete flop or just seemed to lose its luster due to certain reasons like time and changing student interests.

During these summer holidays, make decisions about what to keep, modify, or drop first in your planning so you know where to begin and what to do.


Map out the projects:
After curating projects that you need to work on and after you’ve identified needed revisions, map them out to see where they fell in the previous school year and then consider what tweaks to that project are needed.


Sometimes a project is so engaging that it might best be used at a time in the school year when engagement is low and the other activities are limited. . If you have the flexibility, move projects around to keep momentum. you can also decide for breaks from PBL—times when projects don’t fit or when students might benefit from another way to learn important content and skills.

Since, Edu21 offers students-centered education, it is you students to decide when and what project to begin.


Identify Opportunities for New Projects:

After students have created your year map for existing projects, look for gaps in the schedule or opportunities for a new project. Depending on your available time and energy, you might try to plan two new projects, but even one new project is powerful and worth the effort to plan.


Since Edu21 believes in students’ voice and choice so In this summer holidays, Edu21 advises our students to think of new ideas to present a new project when you rejoin the school, be the best, be the founder of the project and its a promise that if your proposed project is really on merit, all the credits will be given to the founder of the project.


Set later planning time:

I suggest setting aside time for each project individually, instead of trying to do them all in one sitting. You might set aside 30 minutes for a project revision, or maybe two hours with colleagues to start designing a new project when you return to school. At the moment you don’t have to do the planning itself—just set a clear goal and intention to revise and plan later.


Spend Some Time Online:
Instead of starting from scratch, spend some time perusing project libraries online or look for a post about a PBL on our Facebook page here or search for projects on any other platform.

Sleep on it:
Now it’s time to shuck off. You’ve done great work on the projects already and have put in some thinking—it’s best to leave your ideas for later, when the school year is about to start. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and with fresh eyes ready to plan some great PBL experiences again.

Finally, I’d also advise the parents to read this blog carefully and encourage and appreciate your children  to do the needful as written above in this article. I am so delighted that some of the parents have already started sending me their children videos while they’re working on the projects either done already in previous school year or new projects.

The writer is an educator and Principal of Edu21-The 21st Century School in Islamabad, Pakistan. 

International Day Event

Rashid Ishaq |Updated 16,2019

Are you a world citizen? Have you always wanted to explore the world and all its different cultures?
You are in for a treat!
April 13 was a great day at Edu21. The school turned into a mini global village with our enthusiastic students representing different aspects of a number of countries such as China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates and Africa through Culture, Music, Dance, Paintings and Handicrafts etc.
Students and staff were encouraged to come to school dressed in traditional clothing from their home country. From Saudi Thobes to Chinese Pinyin or Changpao, Italian Orbace to African wild dress, flags painted on cheeks and flowers worn in the hair, everyone was proud to represent their individual culture.
During the event, classrooms throughout the School were turned into “villages” which represented different countries. In each village, groups run by students, teacher and staff holding different activities relating to that country.

From Preschoolers to Primary and Lower Secondary Level, students were divided into different groups and they teamed up to represent below countries:

The little Italian girls were graceful in their white robes while the boys were fierce gladiators. Who goes to Italy and doesn’t sample the traditional Italian food such as pizza and pasta? That was a hit among our guests. Venice provided the perfect backdrop for the true Italian culture

Saudi Arabia
The Kaaba was the main representation of Saudi Arabia while the green dome of Masjid Nabvi shone from afar. Boys wore traditional Saudi thobes whereas girls were wearing Abayas and they explained to the guests the importance of these landmarks to Muslims. Traditional food such at Saudi pavilion Kabsa turned out extremely delicious for the visitors and Saudi dates were also sampled.

Iranian pavilion exhibited the culture of Persia, the religious holy shrines’ models were places there. Since the Iranians were pioneer carpet weavers of the ancient world, the carpets were hanging on the walls of this stall. Delicious Iranian kababs and Iranian sweets was ready there for the guests to taste.


Where is the world’s tallest building? Everyone knows it’s the Burj Khalifa in the UAE. The model was fit with tiny lights and was made painstakingly accurate. It represented the UAE aptly. Falafel is a traditionally Arab food and was a true representation of the culture. These fried vegetarian fritters were served along with hummus and tahini sauce to the guests out there.
Burj khalifa, however, remained the center of attraction not just for children but the adult visitors were also surprised with the skillful work. Just like at Saudi Arabian stall, in UAE section were wearing thobes and girls the relevant Arabic dresses.407CE713-2A38-4906-A4B1-8D3F8461B52D

The little Chinese were decked up in traditional wear fanning themselves delicately with traditionally fans. The walls showed colorful Chinese paintings. The kids demonstrated delicate dance steps on the soothing Chinese music while taste buds came alive with spring rolls and Chinese Chicken Spaghetti

Pakistani stall looked more like a folk festival and it brought cultures and civilizations of all regions of the country at the same venue, this folk festival or Lok Mela aimed at promoting, perpetuating and preserving arts, crafts, culture, folk music and traditional skills of Pakistan. It was represented by kids in colorful shalwar kameez, dancing to traditional music on the beats of the dhol (drums). Guests sampled tasty biryani, saag (greeny leafy vegetable food) and ‘makai wali roti. (flat, unleavened Punjabi bread made from corn meal) along with a sweet yogurt drink traditionally called {Meethi Lassi)209DACB9-F878-40CD-A1D1-DD41D5DEB8BE

The Africans were the center of attraction beating drums and singing and dancing to the African tunes wildly. Saleh was the guy who earlier told his teacher that he won’t work in African group but later turned out to the most active boy representing Africa as you can see this guy in glasses in photos below. Jungle theme was perfect at this stall and looked like teacher and students had done some awesome job there.

Celebrating this cultural diversity brought number of learning outcomes for Edu21 students such as:

***Making Tahini or Hummus is not an easy task for any child but at the event, our preschoolers to primary and lower secondary level students learnt the ingredients and also helped the teachers prepare the delicious recipe. Not only that, they also explained to the guests where the food originated from and how it was made. Such hands on learning is rarely seen among Pakistani students.
***The event taught the kids about the culture, tradition and foods of different countries of the world.
***This event was perfect for exploring the world’s culture for students in less than 4 hours. However, they worked for a week to prepare models of monuments, helped teachers preparing food of different countries, found new ingredients etc

***Embracing togetherness

***Organizing this event helped students and teachers to polish their art and craft skills

***This event also brushed up their history knowledge

The writer is director Edu21-The 21st Century School, Islamabad, Pakistan

DentOral – A new subject introduced by Edu21-The 21st Century School

Rashid Ishaq  Updated March 14, 2019

Worldwide, according to the #WorldHealthOrganization (WHO), 60 to 90 per cent of school children and nearly 100 per cent of adults have dental #cavities.The most common oral and dental diseases include dental cavities, periodontal disease, tooth loss and oral cancer. #Edu21 has developed a comprehensive dental health education programme and introduced this as a subject called #DentOral for Primary school children on how to look after their teeth through proper brushing, having a healthy food and regular visits to the dentist,” While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary such as children to learn correct way to brush teeth, how many minutes to brush and not to keep tap open while brushing to save water. etc.
In the beginning, Edu21 has begun to teach children using #Miswak for its wonderful benefits and one of them is that the bristles of miswak are soft and they gently clean the teeth of #children without damaging the gums. In the later stage of teaching this subject, it will focus more on main initiatives: developing awareness in dental and oral health, developing oral health prevention and screening programmes and developing and launching the dental protocol. (Few snaps of Edu21 students learning how to use miswak)

Edu21 believes that #DiseasePrevention is lot important as opposed to disease treatment because of complications occur during treatment of children and also the cost of treatment parents bear. Also because #disease outbreaks in early childhood education and schools are more common due to groups of children playing closely together. Globally conducted research suggests dental issues are common reasons for school absence and a lack of concentration in class due to sleep deprivation because of same dental issue. So as we know, a stitch in time saves nine, our new subject will greatly help our students and their parents for disease prevention. This subject will also warn parents through our digital diary that poor oral health can put kids at a disadvantage in school as is can be connected to lower grades/performance as well as overall health and happiness.
Edu21 strongly recommend the government as well to start this subject at Govt schools so that preventive healthcare can provide its benefits to the general public and not just hospitals but schools can also play their role. Imagine, in year 2017, the top 65 health care CEOs in USA made $1.7 billion in compensation. $1.7 billion.Pakistan as a developing country should learn from this that our rupees should go toward disease prevention, doctors, nurses, dentists and rural clinics—not toward making insurance companies and their CEOs super rich as the example of 2017 states in US.
Here are few simple tips for parents to ensure children maintain their oral health.
***Brushing teeth regularly – Begin to teach your child proper brushing techniques by using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on a soft-bristled toothbrush. A miswak can be a good addition. But if using toothpaste, choose with fluoride – Fluoridated toothpaste helps to make teeth more resistant to tooth decay.
*** Eat at prescribed meal times – children can take 3 main meals and 2 snacks per day instead of snacking anytime, all day long helps maintain the pH level in the mouth.
*** Reduce the sugar – Too many sugary snacks can lead to a mouth full of cavities as it brings about an acidity that causes decay-producing bacteria. Limiting your child’s candy intake to once a week helps reduce tooth decay.
*** Sometimes parents think juice is a healthy daylong choice for a drink, but it can lead to tooth decay. Limit your child to drink any fizzy juices Similarly, candy, soda, toffee, caramel,chocolates, lollipops,milkshakes, jellybeans, crisps and chips also cause tooth decay.
*** Avoid late milk feeds- a study suggests that caries can occur when babies are put to sleep with
a bottle of formula, milk, fruit juices, sodas or other sweetened drinks.
*** Your child should see a dentist around the time of his/her first birthday and then regularly every 6 months. This plays an important in establishing a relationship of trust between your child and their dentist.
*** Become role models – Children tend to learn from the parents by observing and mimicking their habits. Lead by example and demonstrate how important teeth are to overall health.

The writer is Director, Edu21-The 21st Century School, Islamabad, Pakistan.



what is flipped learning


Flipped learning is a new world of learning and teaching. It is a pedagogical approach in which the conventional notion of classroom-based learning is inverted, so that students are introduced to the learning material before class, with classroom time then being used to deepen understanding through discussion with peers and problem-solving activities facilitated by teachers.


If we compare it to a traditional learning , knowledge being transferred to the students in a classroom context and later students have to do synthesis, practice in the form of a homework, in the flipped classroom, students acquire knowledge before the class and use classroom time to practice and apply concepts and ideas through interaction with peers and teachers. After the class ,students reflect upon the feedback they have received and use this to further their learning.

There are many potential benefits of flipped learning, such as, by providing students with the basic knowledge and understanding before class, classroom time can be used for further research and inquiry on the topic as students previous knowledge has already been built up through flipped learning resources like videos, text, book related to the topic or apps etc. The main objective of flipped learning is to move students away from passive learning and towards active learning where students engage in collaborative activity, peer learning and problem-based learning. And in this way , the role of the teacher transferrred from traditional teacher towards facilitator, coach and mentor. Flipped learning is a very beneficial way to empowering 21st century learners to take control of their own learning.

The use of technology further enriches the flipped learning process and promotes skills that are essential for 21st century learning. While technology is not a prerequisite, flipped text based content is just as valuable as video content.

At present, flipped learning is being used at some universities and schools in the US and UK, and it is currently being used at Edu21. The 21st century school, which is working to transform traditional schools into 21st century schools for the very first time in Pakistan. Some case studies at Edu21 shown improvements not only in teachers and students motivation , but in parents too as the parents are directly involved in flipped learning. It increased attendance in classroom, students interest level is higher than before, and better results too. we are working to make this approach more accessible, productive and interesting.

The 21st Century Education- Opportunities and Challenges

We are living in a constantly changing globalized society where we are faced with myriad opportunities and challenges alike. The question arises, to what extent is our education system preparing the young to fulfill their potential in a rapidly changing world?
There are many skills that students will need to learn in order to succeed in the 21st century. Here are the few of the most important 21st century skills:
Ability to collaborate, work in teams
Critical thinking
Oral presentation skills
Written communication skills
Digital skills

Unfortunately, in the present education system, there is a complete lack of creative and active learning environment in the classrooms and students remain passive most of the time. Teachers usually provide pupils with information through prescribed text books which is the most common way of disseminating information. Students attempt to memorize this information more than they are capable of which leads to extreme negative impacts and a total waste on their young creative minds. Thus, badly failing to foster above mentioned skills of 21st century education.
In the 21st century classroom, students must actively participate in learning activities which will boost their interest in learning and enable them to enthusiastically attend school daily. Students not just with their own school but also from different schools and countries need to collaborate with each other to achieve the given tasks. Teachers must work with them as mentors, guide them and enable to them to think critically instead of spoon feeding. Under the supervision of their mentor, students gather information from different platforms by using technological and creative skills , community sources, interviews, and use more than just a book to teach them a task.
Moreover, the 21st century education system needs to design a curriculum where classrooms are required to incorporate various skills and intelligence levels, and utilise technology and multimedia. The lessons are not based on textbooks, instead they are project and activity based which enhance the children’s’ creative and critical skills. Skills and content are learned through their research and projects and textbooks are provided as one of many possible resources.
New schools in the 21st century are required to be bigger and better than before and allow pupils to avail room for their group projects and spacious libraries full of books and digital equipment. Students must have complete access to technology and possibly every student will be provided a personal tab or laptop. Each classroom should be equipped with smart boards and LEDs so that students can see the visual productions of their own school as well as other schools’ presentations to better compare and differentiate. The ability to foster a love of learning is truly the role of education in the 21st century.
Education should be delivered in a vastly different manner than what we are seeing today in most of the Pakistani schools. We should understand that the 21st century learning and teaching techniques must involve more than information literacy alone in order to keep up and compete on the global level.
Schools can take the relevant information but must stop the use of prescribed text books only to store and retrieve information .
Rather, assessments should be based on the projects completed by students, effectiveness in team work and creativity.
Teachers must stop being dispensers of data and information and become mentors, imparting skills that help students to become not just content experts, but expert learners.
They have to provide students flexible, open ended, project -based and real world learning situations to become life-long learners.
Work on concept of classroom without walls.
Create digital libraries for students.
Involve the community which comprises of home, business and governments into the learning process.
The school premises need to be more roam free and every corner should be accessible to students to learn. A Preschooler, for instance, might like to be seated in a particular corner of classroom for various reasons than the one teacher chooses for him/her. Students must be allowed to take decisions for themselves instead of forcing decisions on them which will allow them to learn the consequences of their decisions and give them confidence early on in life.
“we should seriously consider the claim that we are now undergoing one of the most significant technological revolutions for education since the progression from oral to print and book based teaching” (Dr Douglas Keller)


By Anila Ahmed Junaid

The writer is Principal of Edu21 – The 21st Century School, an Educationist, writer and PBL expert working to transform traditional education into the 21st century education based in Islamabad, Pakistan

Our School’s Cambridge Primary Curriculum

There is a Cambridge Primary curriculum framework for each subject – English, English as a second language, mathematics and science – providing a clear teaching structure. Many schools use the integrated assessments to monitor learners’ progress.


Cambridge Primary English enables learners to communicate confidently and effectively and to develop the critical skills to respond to a range of information, media and texts with understanding and enjoyment. Learners who follow this curriculum framework will develop a first language competency in English based on a curriculum designed to be successful in any culture and to promote cross-cultural understanding.

English as a second language

This curriculum develops learners’ speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in English. It has been developed in conjunction with Cambridge Assessment English and is based on the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), used across the world to map learners’ progress in English.


The mathematics curriculum framework explores five content areas: number, geometry, measure, handling data and problem solving. This curriculum focuses on principles, patterns, systems, functions and relationships so that learners can apply their mathematical knowledge and develop a holistic understanding of the subject.


This curriculum framework covers four content areas: scientific inquiry, biology, chemistry and physics. Scientific inquiry is about considering ideas, evaluating evidence, planning, investigating, recording and analyzing data. Environmental awareness and some history of science are also part of the curriculum.