Like many developing countries striving to foster nationwide socio-economic growth, Pakistan has a mandate to improve the quality, and even more importantly, access to education. While the challenges are many, the government is receiving a helping hand from both international aid agencies and from Pakistan’s own private sector.
According to the UK High Commissioner to Pakistan, Philip Barton, by the end of 2015, aid from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) “will have benefited at least 4 million primary school children in Pakistan. We have a particular focus on girls, which is important for empowerment, and important for social development.”
By said year, DFID’s education programmes aim to build more than 20,000 classrooms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and recruit and train 45,000 teachers in Punjab.
Happily, the fund’s ongoing projects are building on recent successes. In Punjab province alone, DFID support has already contributed to the training of more than 107,000 teachers and has helped increase student enrolment by more than 1.25 million since 2011, whilst also raising attendance from 83 per cent to 92 per cent (equivalent to 770,000 more students in class each day). In Sindh province, the UK has helped get 61,000 of the poorest children in school since 2012.
Mr Barton adds that the British Council is also very active in Pakistan, organising examinations that give “Pakistani young people internationally recognised secondary school level qualifications from UK examining bodies.” Moreover, the British Council is also helping build up the university sector.
“We form linkages between British and Pakistani universities and we try to build up institutional capacity within the university sector. So we are working at all levels of education, because we have a very straightforward view: how the children, the young people, and the students of Pakistan are educated will determine the future of this country,” says the High Commissioner.
Home-grown efforts at improving higher education are also plentiful – numerous Pakistani institutions are working passionately to produce graduates who are truly interested in giving back to society. The Karachi School for Business & Leadership (KSBL), an initiative envisioned by a group of private business and corporate leaders, is a leading graduate management school that equips youth with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the current and upcoming competitive era. In other words, KSBL is growing a community of successful future leaders and entrepreneurs.
It is the school’s belief that only premier education can strengthen the private sector and produce innovative front-runners capable of transforming the country. And KSBL’s graduates will be especially well-equipped for the global market, thanks to a unique strategic collaboration agreement it signed with the University of Cambridge Judge Business School in 2009. Together, the two institutions designed an international curriculum tailored for the Pakistani business environment, in accordance with global standards of excellence.
Another world-class academic institution working in Pakistan since 1986 to foster new generations of business leaders is the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Once considered an elitist institution, LUMS’ directors realised the importance of bringing in a wider catchment of students, no matter their economic standing. In 2001, it started the National Outreach Programme (NOP), a scholarship that covers the tuition fees, travel fares, book expenses, etc. of the candidates who successfully pass the tests.
“We have reached out to what we call real diamonds, students who are capable. They are sons of gardeners, security guards, railway clerks – so they have no chance [of paying],” explains Abdul Razak Dawood, Rector of LUMS and Chairman of Descon Engineering.
Initially, NOP was restricted by budget limitations – it could only provide so many grants. Last year, however, the scheme received an enormous boost from the DFID. Thanks to the PKR 1 billion (£5.7 million) LUMS-DFID programme, more deserving Pakistani students are able to study at one of Southern Asia’s top universities.
“We are extremely grateful to the British government and taxpayers,” underscores Mr Dawood.