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Speech by the Principal, Founder's Day Academics

FOUNDER’S DAY 13TH NOVEMBER 2010

YOUR EXCELLENCY GOVERNOR SALMAAN TASEER

MIR ZAFARULLAH KHAN JAMALI

DISTINGUISHED GUESTS AND PROUD PARENTS

OUR HONOURED FRIENDS FROM YADAVINDRA PUBLIC SCHOOL, (PATIALA), MODERN SCHOOL (BARAKHAMBA ROAD, NEW DELHI), LAWRENCE COLLEGE, GHORA GALI, CADET COLLEGE, HASSAN ABDAL, & SADIQ PUBLIC SCHOOL, BAHAWALPUR

AND AITCHISONIANS OF EVERY VINTAGE

This month has been an un-seasonally fertile period for us here at Aitchison. In addition to our normally hectic collegiate schedule, our boys have hosted during this past fortnight the National Debating Championship, a Musical night showcasing the talent we have at our Junior, Prep and Senior schools, an AC mini UN spread over three days in which over thirty teams from Pakistan and two from India participated, a Bait-bazi in Urdu, and last night, in honour of our national poet Allama Iqbal, a performance by two of our Senior School boys of excerpts from his immortal Shikwa & Jawab-e-Shikwa.

I have singled this particular fortnight out of the whole year’s calendar for two reasons. The first is to spread before you a sample of the range of academic and co-curricular activities we offer here on this campus. The second is that all these events were initiated and organised by the boys themselves. The effort being theirs, the acknowledgement therefore should appropriately be also theirs.

Since we met here last year, much as happened at our College. 

If I look at our enrolment, last November we had 2,184 pupils. Today, we have 2,440 boys enrolled at our three schools.

903 are at Junior School, from the ages of 5-10;

627 are at Prep School, from the ages of 11-13;

910 are at Senior School, from the ages of 14-18.

As you know, we increased the intake this year by about 250 boys. This was possible because of the construction of new facilities at Junior and at Senior Schools.

This enhanced intake was of boys who applied from a range of schools and pre-schools across the country. They all sat for a competitive exam that tested less their knowledge than their aptitude to learn. They competed fairly and openly against each other. What distinguished them and qualified them for admission was merit.

While we have been able to accommodate a high number of boys this year in K 2 and in K3 – for example, this year’s admissions represented 40% of the total number of applicants – our admissions next year will necessarily be lower. It will be restricted as before primarily to K 2.

What we will not lower though are our standards – either in the students we admit, or the class-size (we aim at 22 children per section), or of our teaching standards, because these are the very standards that distinguish Aitchison College.

We will continue to offer the Cambridge International Board syllabus that leads to the external exams at ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. Internally, we test the boys ourselves, and our increasing list of High Achievers is a testament to their improvement over the years.

This year for example, I hosted a tea-party for 489 of our High Achievers. That was 116 more than the number of my young guests last year.

Our ‘O’ levels results for the Academic Year 2009-10 were impressive. Of the 171 boys who sat for the exams obtained 669 As.

Similarly our ‘A’ level results were creditable. Of the 107 boys who sat for their exams and obtained 158 As.  Those who deserve special mention are Irtiza Sohail Butt who got 13 As in one sitting in his ‘O’ level exams and Ayezan Malik (our former Head Boy) and Muhammad Assad who got 5 As at the A levels. 

Aitchison, despite its deceptive initial, does not stand only for As. We would be a lesser institution if we relied simply on our academic results. We endeavour to prepare our students in the short-term for higher studies. Their preferred choices are universities (both local and foreign), medical colleges, trades or professions.

This year, our outgoing batch received 72 offers from US universities, 64 from UK ones, 46 from Canada, 5 from Germany, and locally 20 from LUMS and 15 from LSE.  

To improve chances of admission, we are considering A/S at the end of the first year of ‘A’ levels and also FSc for those students who wish to apply to our local medical colleges.

At Aitchison, we are all too aware that although we may be preparing our students for higher studies, we are also responsible to you for preparing them for an after-life, a life after university – in fact for the University of Life.

For this reason I have instituted a wide-ranging internship programme. This summer, 122 of our boys interned at 55 different organisations – from hospitals to law firms, from non-profit-making NGOs to the most profitable commercial banks. Interestingly, the most active response came from 15 and 16 year olds.  Another feature of our internship programme is that we arrange for boys to intern in their home cities like Quetta, D.G. Khan, Rawalpindi or Sialkot.

This internship is carefully calibrated according to the age, aptitude and career inclinations of the boy. It helps him focus well before time on the career options available to him. It also encourages him to build-up his CV gradually over his period at Senior School, rather than simply crowding it during his final ‘A’ level years.

Part of this preparation for the university of life is an exposure to foreign languages. At present, we have 830 boys studying French and 93 studying German at both Prep and Senior Schools, and another younger batch of 570 who are being familiarised with Mandarin Chinese at Junior School. If our students are to compete with foreign students, they must be able to speak their languages.

It is a truism that teachers can teach only what they already know. But it is equally true that ‘Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.’ Therefore, the continuous training of teachers is a vital ingredient in our academic service delivery. This year, on the first day of term our Senior School and Prep School teachers made Power-point presentations before each class – from E 1 up to H 2.  

Each boy was told what he would be taught each term, by whom, which books he would require, and the exam dates and marking schemes. That exercise focussed the minds of our teachers on what they planned to teach this year, as much as it prepared our pupils to anticipate what to expect.

Each week two of our boys in each class are required to make a presentation before his class on some aspect of what he has learnt that week. This stimulates the boys to research and to develop their speaking skills.

Recognising that reading is the bedrock of learning, another innovation introduced at our Junior School is a test assessment of child’s reading age compared with his natural age. This at enables teachers to determine which child needs extra attention.

Similarly at Prep School, a new reading programme has been introduced that encourages boys to evaluate and to assess books they read each week.

At Senior School, a new satellite library has been opened at L-J House, i.e. within walking distance of Barry Block. It was inaugurated this week by our poet Mr Amjad Islam Amjad.

This year, at Senior School, we have segregated the ‘A’ level class and broadened its curriculum, offering a more interesting range of subjects – such as Thinking Skills, Law and Psychology.  

Many of you who interacted with our teachers at the recent Parent-Teacher meetings remarked to me about the spirit of invigoration they noticed in our Faculty.  I am happy to say that while we have augmented our Faculty strength in certain subjects, the improvements they have wrought have been because of a change in the teacher, rather than a change of the teacher. Our Faculty is better paid, works in a more congenial working environment, and coordinates regularly with their counterparts.

This spirit of common purpose and cooperation is equally visible in the area of Sports.  Our unparalleled games facilities demand the fullest use, and this year we have increased the number and the frequency of games in each school. Our boys compete with other schools, particularly at the Divisional level.

The introduction of league matches last year revealed – as we hoped it would – latent talent. What more can I say than that three members of our College Cricket Team are still in Prep School? Or that many of our medal winners in the Punjab Olympics are still only in H1?   

We have probably the best stables in Lahore. It is our endeavour to optimise the use of our horses, especially by Prep and Senior School boys who for some strange reason lose interest in horses once they discover more diverting interests. 

Our coaches have done wonders to train our boys, as has the Gardening staff that maintains our playing fields and our extensive Campus in such pristine condition.

Having such a sprawling campus inevitably increases our vulnerability, and we are perpetually conscious of the need to provide your children with a safe and secure environment.

Two of the contingents that you saw in our March Past have come from Modern School in New Delhi and Yadavindra Public School in Patiala. The other three are from Lawrence College Ghora Gali, Cadet College Hassan Abdal, and from Sadiq Public School, Bahawalpur.  Their presence here today is more than a formality; it is a reflection of the fraternal ties we wish to enhance with our counterpart schools, at home and abroad.  I would like to welcome formally Mr Stanley Kumar, Principal Yadavindra Public School and his wife Mrs Helen Kumar to our College. I acknowledge also the teachers accompanying all the delegations.   

In the march-past, I included two teams from our own Campus Boys and Girls High Schools. We are as proud of their achievements as we are of your sons.

No boy can ever remain the same age. No school can afford to remain static. We are no exception.  With the support of the Board, we undertook two challenging projects. The first was the expansion of the Senior School Barry Block and the second a new building for the K4 and K5 classes in Junior School. Both were completed within time and within budget, enabling us to supplement our facilities with much needed classrooms, chemistry laboratories, a gymnasium and auditoria. The auditoria – fully equipped with multimedia facilities – are so popular that we wonder now how we survived without them.

A parent asked me the other day why he was being asked to finance the College’s expansion. I replied that had earlier parents not done so, your sons would have been reading, writing and doing arithmetic under the shade of a tree.

As our College enters its historic 125th year, it is vital that Old and present Aitchisonians give back to the College a part of what the College has given and that is now a permanent part of you.

We ask you to contribute to our Scholarship Fund established to provide scholarships for deserving students. We are already financing 28 scholarships from our own resources.

Similarly, if you want to commemorate a classroom, a laboratory or an auditorium, we have a Building Fund.  The two projects I mentioned at Senior School and Junior School were financed out of our own funds. Your contributions will help accelerate our progress.

The details of both of these are given on our website. Access to our website is easy; it is www.aitchison.edu.pk. What you need to tell me is your bank account number.

Before concluding, I would like to express a generic word of thanks to everyone at Aitchison. They are too numerous to mention by name and I owe them too much to fob them off with a transient acknowledgement. So let the three Heads be the symbols of our three schools -  – Mr Ashaq Hussain (Headmaster, Junior School), Mr Muhammad Tahir (Headmaster, Prep School), and Mr Muhammad Asif (Deputy Headmaster Senior School). I invite you to express your appreciation Let me conclude my overview of our College’s performance with the words of Nelson Mandela. He said: ‘With education, we can change the world.’

Ladies and gentlemen, without it, we will be hardly be in a position to change ourselves, let alone our country.

I will shortly be completing two years as your Principal. It has been at times exasperating, occasionally exhausting, but always exhilarating.

On a personal note, I would like to thank my wife Shahnaz. She has had to share me with 2440 boys. She has done so with exemplary patience, fortitude and understanding.  

We both look forward to celebrating the 125th year of the College’s existence with optimism and a renewed commitment to the 2440 boys you have entrusted to our care, and to the 224 Faculty members who share that responsibility with us.  

F.S. AIJAZUDDIN
Updated On:         March 15, 2011, 7:44 AM
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