The name Pathshala comes from the ancient education system that prevailed in South Asia. It brings to mind classes held underneath a large tree; conjuring up learning spaces without walls, in the cool shade of its leaves. The South Asian Institute of Photography not only allows students to explore the world of image making but provides them opportunities to question beyond the confines of the discipline. The conceptual absence of classroom walls enables 1st year students and 3rd year students to attend the same classes and work together on collaborative projects together with visiting faculty. This enhances and complements each student's learning experience.
The institute started in 1998 in conjunction with a three-year World Press Photo educational initiative. It was launched to coincide with the Dhaka's annual WPP exhibition. This exhibition was also replicated in other countries like Peru, Bosnia and Zimbabwe. This initiative of WPP and Drik Picture Library Ltd, was supported by The British Council, The Thomson Foundation and Panos South Asia. Since then, Pathshala has slowly grown to become a fully-fledged educational wing of Drik, a socially-conscious photo resource centre also based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The first group of six students is now among prominent photographers whose photographs have been published in some of the leading publications worldwide. From its modest beginnings Pathshala expanded attracting students from within Bangladesh as well as outside. In January 2010 Pathshala decided to be extended to other sectors of the media, namely broadcast, print and multimedia journalism. At the same time Pathshala decided to change its name to South Asian Media Academy to reflect the development. The launching of the new Media Academy took place on Monday, 22 March, 2010 by opening a new department on broadcast and multimedia journalism.
Photo: Pathshala's first teacher Reza Deghati taking classes. (c) Abir Abdullah