Feb 10, 2009
PAK-US PARTNERSHIP FOR EDUCATION
Nearly 50 million Pakistanis -- half the adult population -- cannot read. Female literacy (approximately 42 percent) is much lower than male literacy (approximately 65 percent); this disparity is more pronounced in rural areas, where 31 percent of women are literate. The main factors that keep children uneducated are limited access to education, teacher absenteeism, the low quality of education, poverty, corporal punishment and a high student-to-teacher ratio.Between 2002 and 2007, USAID's Education Program invested more than $255 million in projects to reform and revitalize all levels of Pakistan's education system. Currently, USAID-funded programs benefit more than 600,000 children and 60,000 teachers.Improving Teacher Education and Student PerformanceThe quality of education in Pakistan is poor. Those who teach in the system are poorly trained. Curriculum is not designed to serve a modernizing society and economy. There is a great deal of corruption in the system of grading and examination.USAID has started implementing its new flagship program, Links to Learning (ED-LINKS), with the objective of improving the quality and sustainability of teacher education and student performance in the targeted geographical areas of Sindh, Balochistan, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), particularly at the provincial, district and agency levels. The ED-LINKS program has three basic components: 1. Teacher Education and Professional Development; 2. Student Learning and Achievement; and 3. Governance of Teaching and Learning: Institutional Context. ED-LINKS has worked with the Governments of Sindh and Balochistan to identify 22 districts and 600 schools in each province for program interventions. In ICT, 70 partner schools have been identified for interventions and provision of a model science laboratory to the Federal Government Model School for Girls. In FATA, progress includes identification of 300 partner schools in these agencies and regions. To strengthen FATA Education Management Information System, ED-LINKS has started the installation of hardware in the Directorate of Education.ED-LINKS has also provided professional development to 24 master trainers, enabling them to conduct management trainings for school managers. An additional 177 education managers were provided professional development through workshops across FATA. Fifty-six district officers have been provided professional development in preparation of Planning Commission forms.ED-LINKS has also completed needs assessments of three Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education, the National Education Assessment System and the Inter-Board Committee of Chairman, and developed programs for their support. Specifications have been developed for science and computer labs in consultation with Departments of Education.The program will contribute to better quality education in approximately 22 districts and 6,000 middle and high schools, affecting 600,000 students and 60,000 teachers. A significant increase in student achievement is expected in targeted schools, as well as higher enrollment and improved capacity of administrators, education managers and planners to provide better academic supervision and improved administration.Promoting Child-Centered TeachingRote learning and memorization traditionally have been emphasized in the Pakistani education system, leaving many students without the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that are crucial to employment in the 21st century.Focusing on early childhood and primary education, the Interactive Teaching and Learning Program brings child-centered teaching into public and private classrooms. As a result, 399 schools have begun to move away from rote learning and repetitive memorization toward interactive learning that emphasizes critical-thinking skills. The program also encourages family members to participate in the schools.Partner schools are showing improvement in both enrollment (which has increased by 26 percent in target schools) and retention (which is now at 91 percent). Since 2006, USAID has trained 3,770 teachers and supervisors in interactive teaching and learning skills. Nearly 2,408 classrooms of 327 primary, middle and high schools, as well as model colleges, have been equipped with new learning materials. More than 4,500 parents have learned basic literacy and math skills.Training Teachers, Raising StandardsPakistan's system of teacher training has long been inadequate to ensure quality education and many teachers in the country's government schools lack certification and accreditation. USAID's Strengthening Teacher Education in Pakistan (STEP) initiative transforms teacher education through the development of national standards for teacher certification and accreditation and improves networking among government teacher training institutions. USAID is enhancing professional development and teacher education across Pakistan by assisting the Ministry of Education in the formulation of a strategic framework for teacher certification and accreditation.Creating the Conditions for LearningThe FATA has few well-maintained and properly equipped schools, limiting access to education. A lack of clean water and sanitation in FATA contributes to disease and greatly discourages school enrollment, especially for girls. Under the FATA Water and Environmental Sanitation (WES) effort, USAID has provided better sanitation facilities and clean, safe drinking water to 176 girls' primary schools and 89 villages. The project worked with community members, PTAs and Teachers to improve hygiene, sanitation and school management. Local religious scholars (ulema), elected representatives and community members received training in sanitation benefiting 60,000 households or 420,000 people. Under the FATA School Rehabilitation and Construction Program, USAID is supporting the rehabilitation and furnishing of 60 public schools and two Government Colleges of Elementary Teachers in FATA. Currently, 50 schools in FATA have been completed. The remaining 10 will be completed by June 2008.It is expected that FATA's school enrollment rate will increase by 30 percent and approximately 18,000 students will benefit from the program.Providing Opportunities, Brightening FuturesAlthough Pakistan has a number of excellent universities, the social and economic costs of higher education put them beyond the reach of many students, especially women. This lack of opportunity threatens to block the professional development of a whole generation of future leaders.USAID is investing $70 million in higher education, helping to develop a cadre of experts and leaders in the areas of civil service, education, civil society and business.Since 2004, USAID's Merit- and Needs-Based Scholarship Program has awarded 906 needs-based scholarships, out of which 159 are females (533 for agriculture studies and 373 for business administration), including 32 special scholarships for students from earthquake-affected areas. Scholarships for Master's and Bachelor's programs in agriculture and business at 11 Pakistani universities have been awarded to students from the low-income bracket -- often children of clerks, drivers, tea shop workers and laborers.Since 1950, more than 1,700 Pakistanis have studied in the United States through the USAID-Fulbright Scholarship Program. Today, Pakistan has the world's largest bilateral Fulbright program. USAID is providing $19.5 million annually over five years to support 500 USAID-Fulbright scholarships for two-year Master's degrees in the United States. In December 2005, USAID expanded the program to include 250 scholarships for Ph.D. degree programs. Already, 554 Pakistanis have begun their Master's and Ph.D. work.Improving Facilities, Increasing EnrollmentLacking appropriate, up-to-date textbooks and modern research facilities, students in many Pakistani colleges face limitations on their ability to learn, particularly in the continually evolving fields of science and information technology.Under the College Improvement Program, USAID is helping Forman Christian College (FCC) in Lahore develop a four-year Bachelor's degree program and strengthen its programs in basic science and information technology. USAID has awarded 591 merit- and needs-based scholarships for students to undertake studies at FCC through the 2006-2007 college session. For the college year 2007-2008, FCC has 1,725 students enrolled in the four-year baccalaureate program, of which 344 are women. USAID also assists FCC faculty by bringing foreign faculty members to Pakistan to help with the development of science text books and curricula and to provide faculty with professional development opportunities through USAID-funded M. Phil. and Ph.D. scholarships, workshops and mentoring.USAID funds have improved the college library and computer laboratories for students. The college has purchased more than 3,000 foreign academic books with USAID funds, and the library has implemented a networked catalogue system. USAID support is also providing funds for the purchase of new scientific equipment. With joint funding from the Government of the Punjab, USAID is a major contributor to a new five-storey science building complex that is currently under construction.Promoting Collaboration, Building TiesAdvances in science and technology have the potential to accelerate development in a range of fields important to Pakistan, including agriculture, water, health and environmental sciences. However, working alone, Pakistani scientists cannot benefit from global progress in these fields.The Pakistan-U.S. Science and Technology Cooperative Program, implemented by the National Academy of Sciences, provides grants that support collaboration between Pakistani and U.S. scientists, engineers and health care specialists. This program is implemented through joint funding with the Pakistan Government Ministry of Science and Technology and Higher Education Commission. The ongoing project manages the annual U.S. peer review of research grant proposals, awards grants to U.S. organizations involved in funded projects and monitors and assists with panel evaluations of progress on funded projects.The joint Science and Technology program operates through an open, merit-based, peer-reviewed process, emphasizing quality, relevance and potential for impact. An additional benefit beyond development and capacity building is the generation of closer ties between leaders in important scientific, technical and applied fields. Since 2006, nearly 51 higher education partnerships have been established and more than 300 scientists have received training and support. Annual U.S. funding for this program exceeds $2 million, and, to date, 38 projects have been funded. Five of these have Pakistani women as the principal investigators. In 2006, an extra $600,000 was allocated to three projects in the earthquake-affected areas.