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Pakistan, albeit a low middle-income country, is a generous nation where giving is a common practice among all sections of society. Nevertheless, philanthropy is neither institutionalised nor is it generally discoursed or taught about in schools, colleges or universities.

Accordingly, philanthropy amongst the masses is a complex and misunderstood phenomenon. The selective few familiar with the term generally associate it with words such as charity, helping those who are needy and doing work for the greater good.

The Mayerson, a student of philanthropy project at Northern Kentucky University from 2009 to 2013 focused on experiential philanthropy, an innovative pedagogy that allows students to study social problems, the role of non-profit organisations, and then make decisions.

Countless studies conducted on the project which have analysed student responses and showcased how experiential philanthropy is positively associated with student learning and development outcomes, and how it impacts the desire to participate in future philanthropic activities.

These studies affirm that there are far-reaching benefits of learning about philanthropy. It improves academic performance, writing abilities as well as critical thinking leading to a higher-grade point average.

Moreover, it deepens students’ understanding of social issues and encourages them to give time and money to charity. In the article titled, ‘Philanthropy can be learned: A qualitative study of student experiences in experiential philanthropy courses’, Huafang Li, claimed that 86 percent of respondents stated that learning about philanthropy also increased their sense of personal responsibility to the community, notions of citizenship and their belief to make a difference in society.

In October 2021, Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP) to eradicate the void in philanthropy education in Pakistan, introduced a 16-week module ‘Introduction to philanthropy’ in two leading universities, SZABIST and Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU).

The topics covered ranged from history of theories of philanthropy, the economics of charitable giving to, achieving SDGs and philanthropy and public policy.

This initiative serves as a pilot for PCP and other institutions in imparting knowledge and hands-on experience within the spheres of philanthropy. NUST also has a University Social Responsibility (USR) programme that encourages the youth to volunteer and convert their time volunteering to credit hours.

Pakistan’s education sector has a few apprehensive elements, didactic in nature, biased and conservative. There have been limited initiatives to make the pedagogy and curriculum engaging and student-centered and it continues to have a mandate that ultimately encourages rote learning. Cognitive thinking, notions of citizenship, problem-solving and analytical skills are areas were learning about philanthropy can make an impact.

Thus, we can even infer that introducing philanthropy-centered courses or initiatives can be used to placate the deficiencies of the education sector. In a nutshell, through learning about philanthropy the youth will deeply understand philanthropy, learn and connect with their respective communities, enhance their skill set as well as gain motivation to give, inculcating feelings of fulfilment and self-worth.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Hareem Rasul

The writer is Programme Officer – Research Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy

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