Pakistan: more teaching, learning and collaborating, June 2012

Continuing the INSPIRE project (International Strategic Partnerships in Research and Education) in Lahore, Pakistan, Janet Strivens and Ian Willis from Centre for Lifelong Learning spent a week teaching (and learning) and organising future activities. This is a British Council funded initiative to foster multi-level interactions between UK and Pakistani HEIs, in our case with the University of Health Sciences, which was recently recognised as the top medical university in Pakistan.

Projects underway include an Introduction to Teaching in Medical Education programme for new staff.  We have completed the delivery of a pilot and are waiting for portfolio submission to get a better sense of impact, but draft portfolios are looking good.  Integral to this project is the training of local staff to deliver future programmes, so that the effort is locally owned.  In reality the numbers involved mean local staff have to assume responsibility simply in order to reach the 30+ universities and colleges throughout the Punjab that are linked to UHS.  We are planning to be observers and mentors for the local staff during our next visit.

One inspiring (sorry about the pun) snippet; a student (2nd year medic) of one of our participants had been reading some of the papers that we had provided on the course and with his encouragement she had become interested in peer support and feedback during tutorials.  She followed up in the medical education literature, found a survey, administered a pre-test, delivered training to 25 1st year students in communication, presentations and feedback and is about to carry out the post-test, all this whilst maintaining high grades in her own studies!  We asked her to present her work to our group of lecturers who were suitably enthused and motivated to foster greater interaction with and between students; not a strong point across Pakistan higher education.

Meantime, we continued with the Post Graduate Certificate in Medical Education (UHS), very similar to our programme at the University of Liverpool.  The first assignments are in and show lots of good practice and initiatives.  We were fortunate to be able to involve two local professors to cover the writing of Multiple Choice Questions and the design of Objective Structured Clinical Examinations.  Again, this is part of the aim of including local staff for longer term sustainability.

Another element of the project is the development of a Moodle based virtual learning environment. In general, Pakistan has good ICT infrastructure and UHS is rapidly developing the software and people infrastructure to provide virtual support for learning.  We expect this to become operational within a couple of weeks. UHS & UoL have had a draft agreement in place for some months to send up to 10 funded PhDs pa to Liverpool.  At last we were able to get together with key staff at UHS and finalise the details and to get the agreement signed.  Now the applications of the first 10 students can be completed for their arrival, hopefully in the autumn.

Also, fitted in visits to the Health Services Academy and the Higher Education Commission, both national agencies who have an interest in collaborating with us; don’t know how that might work out but the connections are in place. As always in Pakistan, the people were extra-ordinarily friendly and hospitable and the food was excellent.  This time it was a bit hot; up to 45C by day, a pleasant 30C at night – air-conditioning is a wonderful thing!

Ian Willis & Janet Strivens