In a special interview, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Canada-based ‘Spirit of Math Schools Inc’ Kim Langen sat down with Daily Times education reporter Arsalan Haider to talk about the replication of the after-school math enrichment programme in Pakistan, policies governing the initiative and effectiveness of project. “In the next couple of years we will be focusing on running after-school classes in partnerships with schools that have a high standard in Lahore and Islamabad,” said the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (2014) award finalist, who has more than 30 years of experience in the education industry to her credit. How would you define your label ‘Spirit of Math’? What’s the idea behind it and which purpose does it serves? Spirit of Math is a system of after-school schools for high performing students in mathematics. It was developed to address the very critical needs of those students who are looking for an opportunity to study mathematics more deeply with others like them, and for those parents who are looking for an opportunity for their children to be challenged at a global level. Why have you specifically chosen Math and how will this concept be different from the regular Math courses taught in Pakistan’s existing educational sector? We did not “pick” this subject, nor did we just start with the sole purpose to create a business: the programme was developed over the years in a school setting and being with students and seeing what worked. This concept for the after-school programme has been developed for the high performing students. The problem solving element is very intense and students must be able to work with others to solve hundreds of problems each year. What would be the parameters for hiring instructors? Would you prefer international teachers? Teachers in Pakistan will be going through the same rigorous hiring and screening process as those in Canada plus an additional English test. The regular process includes answering math problems (problem solving), teaching a short lesson, receiving feedback and being able to integrate the feedback when they re-teach the lesson, demonstrating how they work with others, a regular interview and finally a strong reference. Keeping in view Pakistan’s educational sector where do you see ‘Spirit of Math’ in the coming years? In the next couple of years we will be focusing on running after-school classes in partnerships with schools that have a high standard in Lahore and Islamabad. Our focus for these schools will remain with high performing students. In addition, we are looking at doing a large amount of teacher training. ‘Spirit of Math’ has marked itself successfully consistent in many developed countries. What drives you to bring this concept to Pakistan? The people of Pakistan understand and value high standards. They want to be recognized for their forward thinking and will do what it takes, without making any excuses, to succeed. It is this drive and focus that attracted us to Pakistan. Pakistan is quickly changing and progressing forward: it seemed to us to be a natural fit. What will be your target market here? Which schools will you be catering in Pakistan? And why? We will be running our classes out of several schools. We have carefully selected schools in different geographic areas in the city so that there is good accessibility for people in different areas of the city. In addition, we have looked very carefully at the focus of the schools and their standards, wanting join with schools that align with our standards and those schools who are looking for additional opportunities for their students Would you like to throw a light on the teaching methods associated with your concept – how would it help pupils get to grips with Math’s? The curriculum we developed itself ensures that students receive a well-rounded understanding of mathematics. The four elements: drills, core contents, problem solving and cooperative group work all work together to develop strong concepts, and skills. Teaching methods include how to question properly, how to use language to create logical thinking and how to get students to work in groups, how to lead, consolidate and challenge students in a way that creates independent thinkers with strong skills. 10. Would you prefer a standard curriculum for students or would you stick to the customized syllabi for every region? Standardized knowledge, skills and thinking expectations, outcomes and policies are critical for any nation, particularly with the primary and intermediate levels. Nation-wide policies and standards must be present. This does not mean that the syllabus is to be the same. On the contrary, the syllabus should be developed by the teachers and schools so that it is meeting the needs of the students in their community.