USAID, training for a better Pakistan

LAHORE: The USAID Training for Pakistan Project is a four year doctoral program that has considerably raised the bar of teaching practices in Pakistan. The scholarships have equipped prospective teacher educators with the skills to improve learning process in schools. The USAID doctoral degree in partnership with leading US universities provides advanced research skills in the areas of teacher education, education policy, curriculum development and other related areas through PhD degrees. This project is part of a long term USAID investment in revamping and improving the education standard in Pakistan.
Afshan Huma was one of the few lucky ones to have been chosen for this merit-based scholarship. 
Dr Afshan Huma grew up in a household that had high ambitions for her education, but she has now exceeded even her family’s expectations. Ten years ago she began to pursue a PhD in Education from the United Kingdom but discontinued because of a financial crunch. Still, her dream remained alive. Today, she holds the first PhD in her family, thanks to a full scholarship from USAID. “I believe I have been lucky to have such a superb opportunity for which I am ever so grateful to USAID.” 
According to the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, the country has produced over 8,000 PhDs in various fields although education experts claim this number falls short of its demand. As in the field of higher education alone, universities require over 7,000 PhDs.
Dr Huma’s PhD program, 2009 – 2013, at the Michigan State University, funded by the USAID Training for Pakistan Project, focused on Curriculum Instruction and Teacher Education. Dr. Huma has returned to her position as a lecturer at a premier distance learning university of Pakistan, where she is considered to be among the most qualified faculty member. She teaches MPhil and PhD level students, most of whom are teachers and school heads. She plans to help improve the current research practices, classroom culture and curriculum review process in the education sector by offering rigorous courses that introduce innovations in teaching and learning trends, education policy, curriculum planning, independent and critical thinking and assessment plans.
Dr Huma has learned a great deal from the multiculturalism she found on campus in the US. She feels that this exposure and her overall experience allowed her to develop a grounded belief system and create improvements in her confidence and skills. Her increased technical knowledge has also helped her develop out-of-the-box thinking. She says, “I now apply more cutting-edge methodologies to my teaching. I do not limit my students to only follow a positivist approach to educational research any more, and instead inculcate a more qualitative aspect to research practices. I am in touch with my friends and professors from the US and use them as sounding boards when I need advice on how to improve my courses here,” she said.
The USAID Training for Pakistan Project, 2013 – 2017, has funded 35 PhD scholars for study in the US, including 18 women. So far, four of them, two men and two women, have returned to Pakistan after completion of their program. Like Dr Huma, these participants are all making contributions to their universities and advancing their respective fields in Pakistan.

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