Businesses in Pakistan invest in early grade reading

By Jillian Slutzker

January 13, 2016

Private sector companies in Pakistan, including technology firm Intel Pakistan, are supporting early grade reading through new partnerships with the Pakistan Reading Project—a national program to improve the quality of literacy education in more than 23,000 public schools and foster a national culture of reading.

Through these partnerships, schools across Pakistan will receive early grade books, mobile libraries and bookshelves—as well as technologies to enhance reading instruction.

“The government of Pakistan acknowledges that not all children in Pakistan have access to basic education, while those who enroll in schools may receive poor quality of education, particularly in reading capability,” says Salman Ahmed Khan, Public-Private Partnerships Specialist for the Pakistan Reading Project. The government “has started to encourage the private sector to fill in this gap,”

The new private sector partnerships include Intel Pakistan, Hub Power Company Limited, Rotary International Pakistan, Paramount Books and Ferozsons Limited.

Improving literacy education is a priority for the government of Pakistan where, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, around 27 percent of primary school age children are out of school and about 25 percent of youth ages 15 to 24 are illiterate.

The project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by the International Rescue Committee, Creative Associates International and other partners.

Alliances to improve public education

DSC_1405 Public-private partnership for education is a longstanding practice in Pakistan, but the majority of this financing is funneled into the private education system, according to a report by the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences in Islamabad.

This has resulted in varying levels of education quality and resources among public and private schools, the report finds.

By channeling private support to government-operated schools, the project and its partners aim to improve the quality of education within the public school system, especially in remote areas such as Gilgit Baltistan, or with lower education indicators, like Balochistan.

Paramount Books, for example, has committed to donating 3,000 books to 25 schools in Gilgit Baltistan during the next five years, says Managing Director Iqbal Saleh Muhammad.

“The collaborative efforts of public and private sectors in the education system are the need of hour in Pakistan to bridge the widening gap between the education institutes of the two sectors,” he says.

Muhammad says private sector companies like his can amass their many diverse resources to support education in ways that are not always possible for the public sector.

“As publishers and importers of books, we are eager to play our role in this venture by providing our professional expertise, knowledge and services to uplift the education system in the public sector in collaboration with USAID and Government of Gilgit Baltistan,” he says.

During the next three years, the Pakistan Reading Project will establish five additional public-private partnerships for education.

By building the government’s capacity for such partnerships, says Khan, the project seeks to promote a culture of support for continued improvement and new ideas to boost national reading outcomes.

Technology to expand learning possibilities

In many public schools in Pakistan’s remote areas, instruction is often hindered by intermittent power supply or outdated infrastructure.

To remedy this, Hub Power Company has joined forces with the Pakistan Reading Project and the Department of Education of Balochistan to provide solar panels and generators to 25 schools in the province’s Lasbela district.

With backup reserves of power, teachers will be able to better incorporate technology into their lessons. Hub Power Company will also supply the 25 schools with tablets and handheld projectors for technology-support literacy instruction.

To ensure that educators have the know-how to effectively utilize technology in the classroom, Intel Pakistan has committed to training at least 100 master trainers in how, when, and where to use tech tools to assess student learning and improve literacy instruction. These master trainers will go on to train thousands more teachers in technology-support literacy instruction across primary schools participating the in the project.

“This is another massive step toward Intel’s mission to proliferate technology in the classroom,” said Naveed Siraj, Country Manager for Intel Pakistan Corporation, which has already trained more than 340,000 teachers throughout the country since 2002 through its Intel Education Initiative.

As the new private partners of the Pakistan Reading Project begin to roll out their support, optimism about the future of literacy education in Pakistan is growing.

“We feel highly enthusiastic and confident about the outcome of this partnership,” says Iqbal Saleh Muhammad of Paramount Books. “It is really heartening and encouraging to work together with a team of true professionals with a brilliant vision and goal.”

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