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First ever teacher training programme from Finland in Pakistan

The first ever teacher training programme from Finland in Pakistan took place from 24th to 27th March 2017 organised by KOULU Education Group in collaboration with Train2Impact at Headstart premises in Islamabad.

It was amazing to see this programme coming into a reality, especially that the seeds had been sown a year ago, and to know that our hard work had finally bore the fruits, and to hear positive comments from the participants.

The participants from the renowned private schools in Pakistan, namely Froebel’s International School, Headstart, Lahore Grammar School and The City School came together for the 4 contact days, where they learnt e.g. about child agency, ECE learning environment and language immersion- concepts which were considered the highlights of the course.

After the first day Shaza Tehseen, Lead Trainer of Froebel’s International School said: ‘’It’s been great so far. It will be interesting to see how the ECE learning environment can be transformed for various socio-economic settings in Pakistan. Second interest is how we can transform our learning in this course into our work place. For any one working in an educational organisation, it is important to refresh and compare approaches. Highlight of the first day is that we have truly gotten to know each other and what the level of interaction and discussion is. I would highly recommend the course to anyone who is eager to learn not only the Finnish approach but also how to improve themselves.’’

Participants were indeed eager to get insights into the Finnish education system that they all had heard of. In fact, for Fareeha Khalid from Headstart this was a dream come true! During the course she noted that ‘’I’m loving this course. This is exactly what I was expecting: that we are here together learning from each other’s experiences. It’s a platform for all of us to learn how the Finnish people do in education.’’

Humarah Khalid, IB PYP of Lahore Grammar School adds that ‘’having worked with the early years teaching for most of my career, you know that teaching development never ends. When I was coming to the ECE workshop, I expected it would be vastly different from what we do here in Pakistan. To be honest, I was not disappointed; we learned and were exposed to so many skills, methodologies, tools, planning processes that will bring us to the 21st century. But having said all this, I feel that some of the practices that we have come across today do not align maybe with culture, our mindset and the mindset of some of the parents that we see, and our state requirements. Maybe having done the course, and learning everything that I have learned, there is nothing stopping us from aligning Finnish ideology into our own teaching practices because the theories are backed by science, and they work. And having studied their cause we can see evidence that they work, and videos of them working. We have seen lesson plans of how they work so maybe we should work harder and be more open minded and accept some of these ideologies.’’

In fact, the course really opened horizons of many teachers and one of them said that she came out as a changed person!

Another highlight of the course was the creation of a peer learning network. In fact, many teachers were happy to have been able to meet and share the days with the teachers from other schools, and learn from them. The supportive atmosphere was appreciated by all, in fact many of them hadn’t experienced as good learning atmosphere in other training courses!

Uzma Naureen, Manager Early Years at The City School noted that ‘’it’s an amazing opportunity to come across this course. It’s a learning opportunity obviously, we are coming to know different practices undertaken in Finland and we are trying to think about the ways to adopt or adapt such practices in our situation and our set-ups. The entire group is from different private schools, very renowned private schools of the country. The best thing is that the learning environment is quite encouraging. There are some practices that will not suit in our environment but we are able to pick and choose the ones what work in our set-ups. I would recommend the course, it functions as a networking opportunity as well’’.

Just like a couple of teachers mentioned at the end of the course, we at Train2Impact are proud and happy to be among the pioneers of Finnish education in Pakistan!

Grateful that this programme is finally a reality, and thankful for all the schools and participants for taking part, and the programme continues with online learning period where we go deeper into the pedagogies, and practice them in the class room! And we at Train2Impact think that this is just a beginning…and will keep on bringing together the Finnish educational experts to respond to the needs of Pakistani educational institutions!

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Bringing together Finnish and Pakistani educationists

The huge potential of Pakistan was the topic of discussion at the first Nordic-Pakistan Business Summit (NPBS) organised in Finland in January 2017. Just like Ambassador of Pakistan to Finland and Sweden, H.E. Tariq Zameer pointed out, Pakistan has regained its emerging market, MSCI, status, and its economic growth of around 5% is expected to further grow with China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPEC), which is exceeding all FDI since the 1970s and is expected to bring 2,5% more economic growth and 700,000 jobs between 2030-50. It is history in the making, a bridge between Pakistan and the world like Ambassador said!

Pakistan is part of Next 11, expected to surpass EU 28 by 2030, and its Standard&Poor’s, IMF, World Bank as well as Forbes rankings have recently improved like the Commercial Secretary of the Embassy of Pakistan in Sweden, Saima Sabah highlighted. Pakistan furthermore boasts the youngest population in the world with a median age of 21 years, where around 60% of the population is less than 25 years old with the 10th largest labour market in the world!

One of the key challenges for Pakistan, however, is education, whereby Finland has the best education system in the world according to World Economic Forum. In Pakistan the primary enrollment rate is around 70%, metric around 25%, higher secondary around 15% and higher education only 5% according to Dr Hasan Sohaib Murad, Rector of UMT, University of Management and Technology with 170 schools and 11, 000 students.

Fiona Hallworth, Administrator from The City School, which is amongst the largest private school networks in Pakistan with 500 schools and 126,000 students joined us at The Nordic Pakistan Business Summit. As the Main Guest Speaker in the NPBS Society Talks she pointed out that one of the challenges of the Pakistani education system is its division and disparity between private and public entities, with the private sector occupying around 30% of the over 260,000 educational institutions, housing all together 41 million students. Taina Kokko from Laurea University of Applied Sciences was happy about the opportunities presented at the forum, and was thankful about the opportunity to network not only with the Pakistani but also with Finnish counterparts to establish potential collaborations!

In addition to being part of the Co-ordination team for the NPBS Society Talks, Train2Impact was in charge of organising the 2-day visit of The City School to investigate education practice in Finland. The agenda included visits to a typical Finnish kindergarten and a primary school facilitated by KOULU Group. In fact, the visit to kindergarten was the highlight of the trip for Fiona, and it was just as she had imagined a Finnish school to be like! In addition, the agenda included meetings with different Finnish educational providers ranging from teacher training to an excellent variety of education technology solutions. For example Tommi Haakana from Team Action Zone was positively delighted with the meeting with The City School, and is eagerly looking forward to signing a collaboration deal in Pakistan! Satu Järvinen from KOULU Group was glad to have been able to show what Finnish schooling is really about, and is looking forward to coming to train teachers in Pakistan!

Fiona was delighted with the trip to Finland, which exceeded her expectations giving her an opportunity to meet 11 Finnish organisations delivering education services. She is excited about the potential synergies between Finland and Pakistan! And so are we at Train2Impact actively bringing together the Finnish educational experts to respond to the needs of Pakistani educational institutions.

City School visit

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Pakistan- infrastructure sector trends and opportunities

In our sixth series of blog posts, we are introducing infrastructure sector trends and opportunities, turning on to Pakistan.

Infrastructure development is one of the top priorities of the Pakistani government, especially with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project with 46 billion USD investment from China.  This project has been coined by the Chinese President Xi Jinping as a part of Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road and New Silk Route” under the 10-year plan announced in 2015, whereby China is building roads and railtracks from western China to Pakistan’s Arabian Sea and will get a free trade zone and ownership of the new Gwadar port in Baluchistan, becoming a Suez Canal for China’s trade in the Middle East.

Gwadar “is poised to become one of the most important and modern cities of the Middle East, West Asia and the South Asia” as a “gateway port for Pakistan and … a world-class maritime hub,” like NBC News article quoted a Chinese promotional handout. Railtracks from Gwadar not only to upcountry but also to Afghanistan are also in plans along with refurbishing the railroads to Iran with the improving trade ties according to a Tribune article.

According to Chairman of the National Highway Authority, Shahid Ashraf Tarrar, the agency is completing various road projects in next 3 years worth 850 billion Pakistani rupees according to a Dawn article. Association of Builders and Developers of Pakistan (ABAD) has recently signed MoUs worth $500 million for various construction projects from Lebanon, UAE and UK according to a Dawn article. The construction sector is booming, with an estimated shortage of 500,000 houses in the country according to Arif Habib Corp that owns one of the largest real estate companies in Pakistan. The real estate prices have sharply risen along with the improving security situation e.g. a plot in Naya Nazimabad project cost 6,800 PKR (around 65 USD) per acre only 4 years ago, whereby the current price is 20,000 PKR according to a Bloomberg article.

Biggest development, though, is the much talked about China Pakistan Economic Corridor, its first phase of projects including industrial and agricultural productions to be generated inside 29 industrial parks and 21 processing zones all over the country. In the second phase underdeveloped and remote will be recipients of a large amount of these zones, which can bolster economic development of the country by bringing more investment in much needed areas such as energy and infrastructure whilst boosting Pakistan’s trade especially with China.  According to an article at APD News this project also includes plans for modernisation of agriculture and cultural aspect with new universities teaching Chinese culture and language to further strengthen the close ties that the two countries have enjoyed since the 1950s. This project is expected to become a game changer for Pakistan and really bolster its development in many aspects!

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Mexico- infrastructure sector trends and opportunities

In our sixth series of blog posts, we are introducing infrastructure sector trends and opportunities, continuing with Mexico.

Infrastructure is one of the main elements of the so-called Commitments (Compromisos), which were policies announced by the current President Peña Nieto during his presidential campaign in 2012. From the total of approximately 255 commitments, 140 are related with infrastructure. In the so-called Pact for Mexico (Pacto por México) 10 out of 95 specific agreements are related to infrastructure according to PwC Mexico. In terms of global ranking, according to World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index of 2015-2016 Mexico ranks 59th  out of 140 economies in terms of infrastructure.

The National Infrastructure Plan (PNI) 2014-2018 with a planned investment of 7,7 billion Mexican pesos  covers 743 projects with 223 of them directed to improving transportation connections mainly roads according to the Presidents’ office.  Other transportation projects include airports, ports as well as railroads. According to Journal of Commerce, the volume of cargo passing through Mexican ports is expected to increase 80% from 2014 levels by the end of 2018.

This infrastructure plan also covers agricultural development, energy, health and tourism in order to attract more investment and generate more employment and improve the livelihoods of the citizens through improved infrastructure.  Therefore, the plan includes renewable energy projects to provide improved energy access as well as ICT to provide improved internet access, with a focus on some of the poorest regions of the South and Southeast Mexico. In addition, Fund for Support of Social Infrastructure (FAIS) has budgeted c. 324 million Mexican pesos for education, health, housing and development of agricultural and community infrastructure directed for the most vulnerable.

Though it still remains to be seen how these plans are implemented, Mexico does offer many opportunities in infrastructure investment which can also benefit the rural communities.

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Indonesia- infrastructure sector trends and opportunities

In our sixth series of blog posts, we are introducing infrastructure sector trends and opportunities, starting with Indonesia.

Government has placed the development of basic infrastructure as one of its top priorities, as the lack of adequate infrastructure has been a bottleneck in economic development with high logistics costs decreasing the competitiveness of the country.  According to Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry logistic costs represent circa 17 % of the company’s total spending in Indonesia, whereby regional comparison is below 10 %.  In terms of global ranking, according to World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index of 2015-2016 Indonesia ranks 62nd out of 140 economies in terms of infrastructure.

The current administration has increased the infrastructure development budget and introduced new programmes. There are 30 projects that are priority for 2016-2019 requiring investment of circa 415 billion USD of which Indonesian government together with state-owned companies and regional governments cover 26% according to Indonesia Investments. The rest requires private sector participation representing investment opportunities for foreign investors for example through Public Private Partnerships.

World Bank has recently, in July 2016, approved a financing of 216,5 million USD for a new governmental project that will enhance the infrastructure in Indonesian slums benefiting approximately 9,7 million urban poor in 154 cities.  Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is also co-financing this project, making it the first joint co-financing project between World Bank and AIIB. Programme will focus on improved water sources, sanitation, roads, drainage and regular solid waste collection as well as resolving land issues, as circa 29 million people in Indonesia inhabit in slums with inadequate basic services: 11 million lacking access to sanitation and 9 million lacking access to safe water according to World Bank.

Though there are many positive developments in the sector offering many investment opportunities, it remains to be seen how these new programmes will be implemented.

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Pakistan – education sector trends and opportunities

In our fifth series of blog posts, we are introducing education sector trends and opportunities, moving to Pakistan.

Education is in the current government’s development agenda. However, the education spending of GDP still remains low, ie 2,2% in 2012 as per World Bank and hasn’t increased since according to Dawn report.  The overall literacy rate stood at around 55% in 2012 according to Unicef.

The provincial governments have placed education reform in their development agenda and Punjab embarked on reform path in 2003 with the help of World Bank, KP in 2013.  The budgets have been more than doubled in most provinces since 2010 with Balochistan and KP tripling their budgets Sindh  increasing it 8 fold. However, the net primary enrolment rates have only increased in KP according to the abovementioned report at Dawn.  The reforms are focusing e.g. on merit-based hiring of the teachers, and making schools habitable and having finances to buy educational materials. Punjab has tackled its so-called ghost teacher issue and is turning to face the issue of poor learning.  According to Haris Gazdar, senior researcher at the Collective for Social Science Research in Karachi:“the learning that our schooling imparts in five years can probably be had in about six months”.

Therefore, higher spending doesn’t equal quality education and reforms need to focus on improving student learning achievement, whereby hiring of teachers on merit is expected to bring results.

With the second biggest out of school-population in the world with 25 million children out of school, the reforms have a long way to go, and therefore opportunities exist in solutions that can improve student learning, curriculum development and teacher training, including mobile education games and interactive classroom solutions with the increasing mobile internet connection. Though an array of NGOs and development agencies as well as the provincial governments are working to improve education, there is still room for international educational institutes or companies to make a positive impact in Pakistan’s education system which can have long-term benefits for the country as a whole.

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Mexico – education sector trends and opportunities

In our fifth series of blog posts, we are introducing education sector trends and opportunities, continuing with Mexico.

Education is one of 11 reforms in the so-called Pact for Mexico, announced in December 2012, which aims at making Mexico more competitive. Education spending has increased in recent years from 3,66% in 1999 to reach 5,15% of GDP according to the latest statistics from 2011 as found in World Bank and UNESCO sites. It has a literacy rate of over 98% in 2012 as per UNICEF.

Mexico ranked 53rd out of 65 countries in PISA in 2012, second best in Latin America after Chile, and has been top 10 improvers in Maths from 2000 to 2012 according to World Bank. But despite this improvement, less than fifth of the Mexican students performed adequately in Maths in the above quoted PISA study. Private schools do better but also here there is a need to improve, as the richest children in Mexico do worse than the poorest in Canada according to Economist report from 2015.

In order to modernise the education system, the President Peña Nieto announced this previously mentioned, controversial education reform in 2013, which aimed at improving the quality of education by implementing tests for the teachers and centralise payment of salaries at federal level, as previously you could inherit teacherhood and still teacher graduates are promised jobs for life in spite of their performance. Since the announcement, the teachers unions (such as the national union SNTE) have organised an array of protests across the country and the local teachers’ union in southern state of Oaxaca, CNTE, has used aggressive measures to counter the reform, only recently culminating to death of 9 people in a clash in June this year in Oaxaca according to Reuters. The teachers especially in the rural areas are opposed to the reform, as they claim that the tests aren’t well designed and not taking into account teaching methods or the most pressing needs such as electricity in rural areas.

Mexico needs to focus on improving student learning achievement and teacher training, and with the increasing mobile internet connection, opportunities exists in mobile education games and interactive classroom solutions. However, it still remains to be seen how the implementation of the educational reform proceeds due to the strong resistance from the teacher unions.

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Indonesia – education sector trends and opportunities

In our fifth series of blog posts, we are introducing education sector trends and opportunities, starting with Indonesia.

Indonesia has fourth largest education system in the world with around 55 million students, 3 million teachers and more than 236,000 schools in 500 districts according to Economist report from 2014 and it has a  literacy rate of over 95% in 2015 as per UNESCO.   Education is administered together with two ministries: 84% of schools being under the Ministry of National Education (MoNE) whilst 16 % are under the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA), private schools playing an important role in the system role according to World Bank.

Education is one of the central themes in the Indonesian government’s development agenda, and education spending has tremendously increased after the economic crisis doubling from 2000 to 2006 to reach 3,4% of GDP in 2014 as per World Bank.

Despite the investment, Indonesian education system has been ranked one of the worst in the world.  Indonesia ranked second last in the PISA results in 2012, down from PISA 2009 when it ranked 57th according to an article in Jakarta Post in December 2013. In 2006 PISA it ranked 50th out of 57 countries according to World Bank.

According to Economist report, for every 100 students who enter school, only ¼ meets the minimum international standards of literacy and numeracy.  Average Indonesian 15-year-old is approximately 4 years behind his/her peer in Singapore in reading, math and science.  In addition, out of over 400 teacher training institutes in Indonesia, approximately a tenth aren’t up to standard according to Economist.  In order to improve the situation, a law on teacher certification was introduced in 2005, but according to a World Bank report of 2014 this certification hasn’t made a big difference on learning results.

The government has responded to critics by setting out plans for developing vocational-training institutes, especially agriculture and fisheries according to Economist in order to support the rural development, where locals are dependent on farming and fishing.

According to World Bank, Indonesia need to focus on improving student learning achievement, junior secondary school enrolment and allocate more budgetary resources on education.

With the increasing mobile internet connection, opportunities exist in mobile education games and interactive classroom solutions. Teacher training and curriculum development represent other good opportunities for international educational institutes or companies to make a positive impact in Indonesia’s education system.

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Pakistan- telecom sector trends and opportunities

In our fourth series of blog posts, we are introducing telecom sector trends and opportunities, turning to Pakistan.

The growing telecom market in Pakistan offers many opportunities for international investors.  In fact Pakistani telecom market was ranked the third fastest growing market in the world in 2008, following the opening of the telecom market to private operators in 2003.  The mobile sector has 5 main players:  Mobilink has 29,2% of the mobile subscribers, Telenor 27,5%, Zong 19,3%, Ufone 15,5% and Warid 8,6% covering 92% of the land area according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) Annual Report 2014-2015.

The broad brand penetration has increased from 2,07% in FY 2013-2014 to 8,97% in FY 2014-2015 with subscribers increasing 345% to 16,89% at the end of FY 2015. Here Telenor leads with 24,7%, Mobilink comes second with 21,7%, CMPak third with 17,8% and PTCL fourth with 15,8% with 80% of users using 3G and 4G LTE services to access internet indicating the dominance of mobile broad band according to PTA’s annual report.

There were 114,7 million mobile subscribers in Pakistan as of mid-2015 with a penetration rate of 60,7%, which decreased with the biometric re-verification of SIMs as a part of government’s  ‘National Action Plan’ to counter terrorism. Total of 215,4 million SIMs were verified making this re-verification a landmark in the telecom history of the country, potentially even globally, as every SIM is now verifiable through biometric signature and this has the potential to be utilised e.g. for mobile banking applications and E-commerce.

The government is keen to improve Pakistan’s broad band access. After the induction of Next Generation Mobile Services ie 3 G and 4 G LTE services in April 2014, 3G services now covering over 200 cities, PTA is now expanding the access to cover e.g. AJK and Gilgit Baltistan regions. Other improvements include deregulation of incoming calls, which has increased the incoming traffic nearly three times within 2015 according to PTA’s annual report. Another interesting development is the launch of ‘Smart Pakistan’- portal containing a variety of mobile applications covering agriculture, education, health and transport among others.

Telecom is one of the most dynamic sectors in Pakistan, with 908 million USD flowing into the country in FY 2014-2015, which is c. 58% of the total FDI into Pakistan facilitated by the liberal investment policies in the telecom sector allowing for 100% foreign ownership with 100% repatriation of profit.

Pakistan has received a couple of awards for the improvements in the telecom and ICT sector, e.g. PTA received the ‘Spectrum for Mobile Broadband Award’ at the Mobile World Congress in 2015 recognising the government that has the most transparent and stable long-term spectrum policy roadmap.

Mobile applications and E-Commerce offer many opportunities and this development is expected to boost growth in banking, education, health, media and retailing with e-education and e-health applications bringing benefits  to the rural and remote areas of the country.


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Mexico – telecom sector trends and opportunities

In our fourth series of blog posts, we are introducing telecom sector trends and opportunities, moving onto Mexico.

The opening telecom market in Mexico offers many opportunities for international investors.

The telecom market is dominated by a couple of big players. Carlos Slim’s América Móvil (Telcel) controls over 70% of the telecommunications sector, with 11,5% to Nextel, 11,3% Telefonica Movistar, 5,6% Iusacell/AT&T as of 2014 according to PwC Mexico. As for broadband, Telmex controlled around 60% of the market as of 2014, though its share has decreased to 50% in 2015 according to Investopedia.

There were 102 million mobile subscribers in Mexico as of 2014, out of which 85% are pre-paid, with smart phones as 1/3 of mobiles sold. There were 13,8 million broadband internet users as of 2014, with 12,6% penetration rate as of 2014 according to PwC Mexico.

President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a telecom reform in mid-2013, though secondary laws were published in the following year. With the reform, government wants to broaden the usage of digital technology and offer internet for all. For the policy of “universal digital inclusion”, government is building a broadband network expected to be complete in 2018 according to PwC Mexico.

Thanks to the reform, the mobile broadband subscription has doubled from 23 to 57 subscribers per every 100 inhabitants and thus more and more Mexicans can access this service.  The reform has generated annual savings of 20 billion MXN with the elimination of long distance tariffs within Mexico and a decrease of over 40% in the prices of long distance international calls according to the Minister for Communications and Transport, Gerardo Ruíz Esparza, at a news article at el Financiero in May 2016.

As the foreign ownership is now permitted up to 100% in the sector, the FDI in the sector has increased 200% in the last 2 years with an investment of 6,5 billion USD, which is 12% of the total FDI in Mexico.  The sector retains its place as one of the most dynamic sectors in the country: the GDP of the sector grew nearly 21% in the third trimester of 2015 compared to the same trimester in the previous year according to the Minister for Communications and Transport.

This reform has been internationally recognised by OECD as less restrictive than implemented in many countries in average.  Furthermore, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recognised the so-called Connected Mexico-programme as one of the best in the world in the category of Information Infrastructure and Communication.

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