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Where the US and Pakistan are working together

The $75 million USAID Teacher Education Project alone won't patch the US and Pakistan governmental relationship. But education projects are one way to maintain people-to-people relations. 

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But Gita Steiner-Khamsi says this project is worth keeping.

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“It’s a different approach to aid work. That’s what makes it interesting,” says Ms. Steiner-Khamsi, professor of education at Teachers College at Columbia University, which is a partner of the program. Rather than deliver an aid package and having the donor dictate how to implement it, this project gives ownership to Pakistanis, and US partners act as consultants, she says. 

That furthers Pakistan’s goal to “move away from dependence and move to self-reliance,” says Butt. “It took America 50 years to transform its educational model. We’re trying to do that in five years,” he says, adding that the USAID project is helping accomplish something that should have been done years ago in Pakistan.

Today, almost 6,000 Pakistani students, policymakers, and faculty members from 75 colleges and 22 universities are expected to participate in the various project activities over the life of the project, according to administrators. They would presumably then help sustain the teacher education reform movement in Pakistan.  So far, 51 out of 75 colleges have begun offering the new associate's degree. On top of that, some colleges and universities not associated with the project are starting to model it.  Next year, when the first group graduates from the bachelor's degree program and starts teaching, officials will begin to assess how having better teacher credentials affects student success.

Hurdles

The 2015 United Nations Millennium Development Goals in education aim for Pakistan to have all children complete primary school and to reach gender parity in enrollments. But among Pakistan’s 170 million residents, some 40 percent are under the age of 14; getting these children – especially girls – to go to school is one of the biggest hurdles to educating Pakistan. Only 50 percent of girls and 60 percent of boys go to primary school.

Some participants worry about what will happen after the funding dries up in 2013. “The past few years have been good years for Pakistan’s education. If we needed something, we got it. Now money is tight,” says Maryam Rab, an administrator at Fatima Jinnah Women’s University.

Butt acknowledges this and says it’s a tough problem, but individual institutions will have to figure out ways to better manage their budgets. He’s confident the program will succeed.

It’s too soon to tell what that will look like in quantitative terms, say analysts, but the Kerry-Lugar-Bergman Act was designed to improve relations between regular Pakistanis and Americans, and these types of projects make a difference on a people-to-people level.

“The program,” says Perveen Munshi, dean of the Department of Education and professor at the University of Sindh,  “is very wonderfully impressive.” She adds that as busy as it is – keeping her here in classes and back-to-back seminars at Teachers College, Columbia University – “it is bringing understanding not only of the US, but of all world education. This is one learning place.”

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