How innovative approach to peace earned Pakistani professor prestigious US award

How innovative approach to peace earned Pakistani professor prestigious US award
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Dr. Noor Fatima during Seminar on Current Challenges of Pakistan and Vision of Quaid-e-Azam.
How innovative approach to peace earned Pakistani professor prestigious US award
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Dr. Noor Fatima. (Photo courtesy: Dr. Noor Fatima)
Updated 08 May 2018

How innovative approach to peace earned Pakistani professor prestigious US award

How innovative approach to peace earned Pakistani professor prestigious US award
  • Dr. Noor Fatima is the first woman of South Asian descent to win the award
  • To earn the award, she went through an extensive process of interviews, testimonials and a review of her work, which spans more than 15 years

ISLAMABAD: “For me, the relation between education inequality and conflict is clear,” said Dr. Fatima Noor the first woman of South Asian descent to receive the US Department of Education’s Martin Luther King Jr. Award. “Not only does equality in education create significantly more peaceful societies, it sets a precedent for equal access to opportunity, financial assets, political power and the fair distribution of resources.”
Noor, an assistant professor at the International Islamic University Islamabad, was honored by the awards panel for her unique approach to education. She believes in recognizing and celebrating the necessity of cross-cultural, cross-faith and cross-background understanding among people, along with the undeniable effect acceptance and open-mindedness has on education, and its relationship with conflict resolution.

The US Department of Education has honored Pakistan’s Dr. Noor Fatima, who is an Assistant Professor at Islamic University in Islamabad (IIUI), with the prestigious civil Martin Luther King Award in recognition of introducing new educational ideas.

“In 2000 I was awarded a German government scholarship for my higher education (which lead to me learning) a different method of education,” she said, as she shared the story of her journey to devising “innovative education excellence for a peaceful society.” 
She added: “Since then I have always tried to put forward innovative ideas, [culminating] in a few thoughts of how we can help society by living together peacefully.”
This was the catalyst for her application for the award, and her work and unique perspective on education caught the eye of the judges. Noor is a firm believer in humanity as the platform on which to build education at all levels. Her core emphasis is on restructuring the approach to education, not only opening up the world at large to students, and the diversity and power it offers, but also having teachers reevaluate and change how they present new ideas and understanding about the differences between people — in the belief that the ability to resolve even global conflicts can start in a classroom.
“In my view it is necessary to introduce into curricula at all levels true education for citizenship, which includes an international dimension, and to strengthen the formation of values and abilities such as solidarity, creativity, civic responsibility, the ability to resolve conflicts by non-violent means, and critical thinking,” said Noor.
“Teaching and [the] classroom environment, particularly, needs attention in Pakistan, and it should concern the conditions for the construction of peace: the various forms of conflict, their cause and effects; the ethical, religious and philosophical bases of human rights and how they are translated into national and international standards; and the students [must] learn how to not to exclude and discriminate.”
Her position is based on the belief that education can hold far-reaching power on a broad scale.
“Education is continued as a reactionary instrument, a haphazard program,” she said. “If we are serious about addressing the conflict that continues to lay waste to millions of lives and resources, not only in Pakistan but around the world, then we are critically need to integrate the education system in a way that it becomes an indispensable tool in our peace-building society and prevents conflict before it starts.”
She is proud to be the first South Asian woman to receive the prestigious award.
“I was overwhelmed when it was announced, being female and Pakistani — it was great feeling and honor for Pakistan,” she said. “My ideas and efforts for education and a peaceful society have been recognized by the US Government, which meant a lot [to] me as well as my University.”
“I am happy that, despite all the odds, I became the source of this prestigious award for Pakistan.”