British Council In Pakistan

Helping Pakistan Step Up Its Education Game

Over the years, British Council in Pakistan has worked tirelessly to promote and develop the education sector in the country. It has been behind some key educational projects that have helped thousands across Pakistan gain access to education. Still, not many people know about its projects. In an exclusive interview with British Council education director, Emanuel Sarfraz probes what the council is on about and its contributions in the education sector of Pakistan.

ishat Riaz has more than 20 years of experience in managing development programmes. She has supervised large scale programmes in health, gender, skills, culture, and education sectors and is one of the founding members of Karakoram International University. Her impressive resume also includes her ongoing stint with the Aga Khan Development Network as its director since 1999.  Nishat has an engineering degree in Electronics and Communications – the first female engineer from Gilgit-Baltistan. She was the Premier Chevening Scholar from Pakistan in 2003 and has twice received President’s Award of Excellence for academic performance. She is a registered British Alumnus with an MA in International Development from the University of Manchester. In an exclusive talk with Academia Magazine, she talks about implementation of multi-million-dollar education programmes covering schools, skills, higher education, as well as British Council Services for International Education Marketing. 

British council has always played an important role in boosting education sector through its programmes. Can you enlighten us about the current programmes?

The British Council is UK’s international organization for culture relations and educational opportunities. The British Council works in the fields of education, arts and society. Our education portfolio includes school education, higher education and skills throughout Pakistan. We connect the UK and Pakistani school sectors to enrich education, promote global citizenship and build international trust and understanding. We foster dialogue and international partnerships between higher education institutions and organisations and help students who want to study abroad. We work in vocational education to make education and training systems better able to respond to labour market demands and learner needs. Our current programmes include; 

  • Connecting Classroom Teacher Training programme 
  • Internationalizing Higher Education 
  • Skills for employability 
  • Punjab Education and English Language Initiative (PEELI) 
  • Take a child to School – student enrolment programme 
The British council is cooperating with the public sector in training school teachers in English language (PEELI). Would you like to share the results of this programme?

The British Council in Pakistan works in collaboration with individuals and government institutions. The Punjab Education and English Language Initiative (PEELI) is part of the chief minister’s roadmap for educational reform in Punjab. By enhancing the quality of classroom teaching at the primary level, its aim is to contribute to improved student learning outcomes. Between June 2017 and June 2020, PEELI will have helped an estimated 250,000 Primary School Teachers (teachers of grades 1-5, all subjects), teacher trainers and head teachers to develop their knowledge and skills to significantly enrich the educational experience and attainment of primary school children across Punjab. PEELI is a co-founded project delivered through a partnership between Quaid-e-Azam Academy for Educational Development (QAED) and the British Council, under the direction of the Schools Education Department. The second year of PEELI has built on the successes from the previous year and has made significant progress towards achieving its purpose. We have an excellent platform for continued success in the coming year. 

The objective of PEELI is to enhance the quality of classroom teaching at the primary level, with an aim to contribute towards improving student learning outcomes. Between June 2017 and June 2020, PEELI will have helped an estimated 250,000 Primary School Teachers.

Through PEELI, we have provided high quality training and support for approximately 95,000 primary school teachers, 1,000 Expert Trainers, 60 Expert English Trainers and 60 Training Consultants. Apart from delivering 15,000 teaching kits to primary school teachers across Punjab, we have produced a training video to exemplify the use of the teaching kits by primary school teachers. To recognise the efforts made by teachers, in December 2018, we launched the first edition of the Teacher Educator Award for excellence in supporting the professional development of primary school teachers in Punjab. From 100 video-based entries we selected one outright winner who we supported to attend IATEFL 2019 and four runners-up received a laptop.

We organized a very successful three-day conference for 120 Training Consultants and Expert Trainers to exchange ideas and practice around some of the latest global research topics. Does British Council facilitate research and development in higher education institutions? Does it commission research projects?  Our Research Evaluation Monitoring Unit (REMU) frequently publishes research papers, think pieces in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders. Some of our recent research reports include: 

Would you like to share some of British Council’s services for international education marketing?

The British Council’s International Education Services (IES) provides a comprehensive set of solutions, tailored to cater to UK educational institutions’ diverse international marketing needs.  We operate in more than 50 countries, providing services for international student recruitment, market intelligence, and enabling the development of working relationships with institutions in countries. In Pakistan, the British Council provides a range of services that includes University Exhibitions, Study UK Weeks, Study UK Connect, Agent Training, Counsellors Symposiums and more.

In October, the largest cohort of UK Universities toured Pakistan as part of the British Council’s annual Study UK exhibitions. The exhibitions, held in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, is a great platform for prospecting students to have a face to face discussion with UK University representatives. This helps them to learn more about programmes, scholarship opportunities and living and studying in the UK.

How does British Council help Pakistan’s educational institutions in building linkages with institutions in the UK?

Each of our programme whether in schools or higher education or skills, focuses on fostering partnerships between educational institutes from Pakistan and the UK. The schools working under our connecting classroom programme have formed over 2,000 partnerships with the UK schools and from around the world. Similarly, over 150 partnerships exist between the Pakistani universities and that of the UK.  Over 500 of all Pakistani vice-chancellors, rectors and senior management staff from the educational sector have received leadership training in the UK since 2010, which has allowed them to form relationships with the UK.

The public sector has opened universities in remote areas of Balochistan, KP and Sindh. Are you in contact with them? Are the students of these universities invited to participate in the British Council’s programmes?

The British Council engages with all universities of Pakistan whether they are from public sector or private. We work closely with federal and provincial higher education commissions to promote public-private partnerships as well.  The British Council presently has partnerships with universities across Pakistan. Some of the examples include BUITEMS, University of Balochistan, LUAWMS, University of Peshawar, Hazara University, Haripur University, UET Peshawar, GIK, Sheringal University, IMS, IBA, University of Karachi, DOW, NED, SMIU, Mehran Univeristy and UoS, just to name a few. They have been part numerous programmes such as INSPIRE, IHLFS, DELPHI, KE Partnerships, TELS etc. 

Each of British Council’s programmes, whether in schools or higher education or skills, focuses on fostering partnerships between educational institutes from Pakistan and the UK.

The British Council recently launched, the Pak-UK Education Gateway which is a joint programme with the Higher Education Commission. Launched in 2018, it will allow the British Council to improve higher education links between Pakistan and the UK in specific areas like; innovative and collaborative research, higher education leadership, quality assurance and standard setting, distance learning, international mobility and transnational education.

Does British Council offer any scholarships to bright and deserving students?

We provide a number of scholarship schemes such as: Scottish Pakistan Scholarship Schemes for young women and girls’ funds graduate and masters studies for Pakistani women in any HEC recognized university across Pakistan. The scholarship covers a four-year bachelor’s degree, and two-year master’s degrees, for the following subjects:

  • Education
  • Sustainable Energy
  • Food Security and Agriculture
  • Health Sciences
  • STEM (Masters level study)

We also offer Pakistan Scottish Scholarship Scheme for School Children.  The Charles Wallace visiting Fellowship Programme provides assistance to mid-career professionals who wish to undertake short visits to the UK to broaden their professional knowledge, skills and contacts and want to pursue their Study and Research in the UK. 

You have spent two decades working with the British Council. What have been your greatest achievements? 

In the last twenty years I have led programmes in the education and social development sector. My achievements have been to be part of projects which have impacted communities and society from across the country, especially in remote areas. These projects have brought changes in the lives of people and ultimately transformed the lives of their families.  I have a passion of working in partnerships, and the British Council provides that gateway of connecting people, creating trust and opportunities at all levels. I am a strong advocate of working in synergy. our PAK-UK Education Gateway and national skills programme contribute towards national development through programmes that are scalable and sustainable, rather than launching our own little projects. 

I believe we are taking small steps in the right direction as a country. I am an optimist and truly believe that if we are taking even small steps in the right direction, it is good progress.

I have done my best in making sure that all opportunities which exist out there, especially from the UK, reach those who deserve them the most.  I believe we are taking small steps in the right direction as a country. I am an optimist and truly believe that if we are moving in the right direction, even though they may be small steps, this is good progress. 

As British Council’s Director Education would you like to share information about some projects in pipeline?

Our current teacher training programme Connecting Classroom has been given extension until 2021 and as I mentioned above, we recently launched Pak UK Education gateway which will help the HEC to achieve its mission 2025.  Skills will be our priority area of work and the British Council currently has a strategic partnership with NAVTTC. We are aiming for deeper impact by working closely with public and private sector of Pakistan. 

Nishat is an avid social media activist and can be reached at @nishatriaz on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.