Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sesame Street Goes to Pakistan

SimSim Humara ("Ours"), the new Pakistani edition of the original American TV classic Sesame Street, is expected to be launched this year for Pakistan's pre-school children, according to the Guardian newspaper.



Launched in 1969 as a program designed to enhance school readiness in low-income and minority children, Sesame Street was the first television series to attempt to teach an educational curriculum to children as young as two years of age. Sesame Street is not entirely new to Pakistani audiences - the original American version ran on local TV during the 1990s.



Sesame Street International already co-produces 18 localized versions in Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kosovo, Mexico, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Russia, South Africa , and reaches millions of children in 120 nations around the world. The Indian adaptation called "Galli Galli Sim Sim" and Bangladeshi adaptation "Sisimpur" were both launched in late 2006 with USAID funding. Pakistan's SimSim Humara represents the 19th local adaptation of the 42 year old original American Classic.



Sim Sim Hamara will be set around a dhaba, Urdu name for a roadside tea shop, and it will show residents hanging out on their verandas. It will feature Rani, a cute six-year-old Muppet, the child of a peasant farmer, with pigtails, flowers in her hair and a smart blue-and-white school uniform. Other characters include an energetic woman, Baaji, who enjoys family time and tradition, and Baily, a hard-working donkey who longs to be a pop star. They'll speak entirely in local languages - Urdu and four regional languages of Balochi, Punjabi, Pashto, and Sindhi . The only monster from the original American version being retained is Elmo, the cheerful toddler, but he will be recast with new local personality touches. Each show will pick one word and one number to highlight.

Faizaan Peerzada, the head of a Pakistani theater group that is collaborating with Sesame Street's American creators, told McClatchy Newspapers: "The idea is to prepare and inspire a child to go on the path of learning. And inspire the parents of the child to think that the child must be educated". Peerzada added that "this is a very serious business, the education of the children of Pakistan at a critical time."

Funded by a $20 million grant by US AID (United States Agency For International Development), the show will be carried by the state-owned PTV channel which reaches every nook and corner of Pakistan. It will reach 3 million pre-school kids via television screens in their homes. In addition to 78 TV episodes in Urdu and 56 in regional languages, there will also be a radio show and several mobile TV vans to show the program in remote areas and a traveling Muppet road show to front public service messages, on issues such as health, to reach 95 million people.



It's an opportune moment for TV shows like SimSim Humara to ride the wave of the current media revolution sweeping the nation. It began ten years ago when Pakistan had just one television channel, according to the UK's Prospect Magazine. Today it has over 100. Together they have begun to open up a country long shrouded by political, moral and religious censorship—taking on the government, breaking social taboos and, most recently, pushing a new national consensus against the Taliban. The birth of privately owned commercial media has been enabled by the Musharraf-era deregulation, and funded by the tremendous growth in revenue from advertising targeted at the burgeoning urban middle class consumers. Analysts at Standard Charter Bank estimated in 2007 that Pakistan had 30 million people with incomes exceeding $10,000 a year. With television presence in over 16 million households accounting for 68% of the population in 2009, the electronic media have also helped inform and empower many rural Pakistanis, including women.

Larry Dolan, the director of the education office at USAID for Pakistan, told McClatchy that the expenditure on SimSim Humara is a valuable addition to the "series of different pots" of educational assistance the U.S. provides. "Teaching kids early on makes them much more successful when they get to school. And this program will have the capacity to encourage tolerance, which is so key to what we're trying to do here," he said.

Thirty years of research by Georgetown University Early Learning Project has shown that Sesame Street has made a huge positive impact on increasingly diverse American society.

Here is a summary of some of the key findings reported by Georgetown:

1. School-Readiness : In studies completed after Sesame Street's first two televised years, viewers experienced positive outcomes in the areas of alphabet and number knowledge, body part naming, form recognition, relational term understanding, and sorting and classification abilities.

2. Long-term Benefits : In a longitudinal study examining the long-term impact of preschool-aged viewing of Sesame Street, it was found that exposure to the program in the preschool years was significantly associated with secondary school achievement.

3. Social Impact : Sesame Street has also been evaluated with regard to its ability to teach prosocial behavior to young children. Some studies have shown that children were able to generalize demonstrated behaviors in free play situations (Zielinska & Chambers, 1995), while others have found that children were only able to imitate the behaviors in situations similar to those appearing on the program (Paulson, 1974). Sesame Street has also been successful in contributing to children's understandings of complex issues such as death, love, marriage, pregnancy, and race relations. (Fisch, Truglio, & Cole, 1999)

4. Sesame Street has proven to enhance academic skills and social behavior. Children's television based upon collaborative efforts to develop appropriate curricula for young viewers is now more prevalent than ever.

In addition to teaching basic reading and math skills, Pakistan desperately needs to instill in its people greater tolerance and acceptance of diversity to ensure a more pluralistic and peaceful society for genuine democracy to take root. It is my earnest hope that SimSim Humara and other shows like it will be carefully scripted and presented to lay the foundation to move Pakistan closer to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's vision of a peaceful, pluralistic and democratic Pakistan.



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Sim Sim Hamara

Sim Sim Hamara Youtube Channel

Pakistan's Media and Telecom Revolution

Impact of Cable TV on Indian Women

Early Childhood Education in Pakistan

Newsweek Joins Pakistan's Media Revolution

UNESCO Report on Pre-School Education in Pakistan

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

Billion Dollar UK Aid For Pakistani Schools

Pakistan Must Fix Primary Education

Teach For Pakistan

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Student Performance By Country and Race

India Shining and Bharat Drowning

South Asian IQs

Low Literacy Rates Threaten Pakistan's Future

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness

Mobile Phones For Mass Literacy in Pakistan

Poor Quality of Higher Education in South Asia

Teaching Facts vs Reasoning

Labels: , , ,

15 Comments:

Blogger Riaz Haq said...

The quality of primary and secondary education is clearly important in preparing students for higher education, and there has lately been a lot of hand wringing on about declining test scores in the US, particularly with respect to minority kids in schools.

Here are some of my thoughts on it:

1. I think the idea of pre-school education a la Sesame Street that reaches millions of kids in Pakistan is a very good one. And if it helps promote tolerance at a tender age, then that's even better. But it's not a substitute for good primary education.

2. With a PISA reading score of 500, US kids outperformed those in Germany( 497), France (496) and UK (494).

3. Based on PISA reading scores as analyzed by Steve Sailer, US Asians (score 541) are just below Shanghai students (556), US whites (525) outperform all of their peers in Europe except the Finns, and US Hispanics (466) and US Blacks (441) significantly outperform kids in dozens of countries spread across Asia, Latin America and Middle East.

For example, US Hispanics did better than Turks, Russians, Serbians, and all of Latin America.

In fact US Hispanics outperformed all BRIC nations with the exception of China.

And US Blacks did better than Bulgaria, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Jordan, Indonesia, Argentina, etc.

http://www.vdare.com/sailer/101219_pisa.htm

4. The only data available for India is 2003 TIMMS on which they ranked 46 on a list of 51 countries. Their score was 392 versus avg of 467. They performed very poorly. It was contained in a report titled "India Shining and Bharat Drowning".

I think Pakistani kids would probably also perform poorly on PISA and TIMMS if these tests administered there.

http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~tzajonc/india_shining_jan27_flat.pdf

April 10, 2011 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

The $20m grant by USAID for Pakistani version of Sesame Street is part of $1.5 billion a year Kerry-Lugar Bill passed last year. Most of the $1.5 billion has not been disbursed, according to a piece in Foreign Policy Magazine:

U.S. economic aid to Pakistan, which totals over $1.5 billion per year, is a key part of the Obama administration's strategy to strengthen the U.S.-Pakistan strategic partnership. However, most of the aid that was allocated for last year is still in U.S. government coffers.

Only $179.5 million out of $1.51 billion in U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan was actually disbursed in fiscal 2010, the Government Accountability Office stated in a report released last week. Almost all of that money was distributed as part of the Kerry-Lugar aid package passed last year.

$75 million of those funds were transferred to bolster the Benazir Income Support Program, a social development program run by the Pakistani government. Another $45 million was given to the Higher Education Commission to support "centers of excellence" at Pakistani universities; $19.5 million went to support Pakistan's Fulbright Scholarship program; $23.3 million went to flood relief; $1.2 billion remains unspent.

None of the funds were spent to construct the kind of water, energy, and food infrastructure that former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) Richard Holbrooke advocated for diligently when he was the lead administration official in charge of managing the money. Moreover, according to the report, the Obama administration hasn't yet set up the mechanisms to make sure the money isn't misspent.
----------
"While the facts of the GAO report are accurate, it doesn't reflect the big picture nor adequately represent what we've achieved with civilian assistance over the last year," said Jessica Simon, a spokesperson for the SRAP office. "As the FY 2010 funding was appropriated in April 2010, it is hardly surprising that only a portion of the funding was disbursed by the end of the year."

Simon said that in total, the U.S. government has disbursed $878 million of Pakistan-specific assistance since October 2009, which includes over $514 million in emergency humanitarian assistance in response to the devastating July 2010 floods.

The floods also slowed the progress of the Kerry-Lugar program, Sen. John Kerry's spokesman Frederick Jones told The Cable.

"The floods last summer changed the Pakistani landscape, literally and figuratively, and required us to take a step back and reexamine all of our plans," Jones said. "Bureaucracies move slowly and redirecting aid at this level requires time and some patience. It is difficult to allocate billions of dollars in a responsible way without proper vetting, which takes time."

Experts note that the disparity between U.S. promises to Pakistan and funds delivered is a constant irritant in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

"There are always complaints and in terms of the delays there are pretty valid reasons on both sides," said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. He said that Congress's requirement that the money be tracked and accounted for is a source of contention.

"For a long time the U.S. didn't ask any questions about the money. And so it became a bit of a shock," he said.

The GAO has long called for better oversight of the funds, especially in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). This lack of accountability is what spurred Congress to mandate better oversight of the Kerry-Lugar money, including provisions that require reporting on the Pakistani military's level of assistance to the United States.

...

April 10, 2011 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

Here's an assessment of Pakistan's education crisis by Rebecca Winthrop of Brookings Inst:

For the millions of people who read and were inspired by Greg Mortenson’s books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, Sunday’s revelations by CBS News’ 60 Minutes that much of his story was at best vastly exaggerated and at worst fabricated, came as deep disappointment. ......

As I travel around Pakistan this week and look at education issues across the country, including in the Federally Administered Northern Areas where Mortenson’s book Three Cups of Tea was set, I am struck by the bitter-sweet effect of these revelations. On the one hand, Mortenson’s book hid one of the country’s biggest educational success stories and promulgated a model of education assistance that has been proven time and again to be ineffective. On the other hand, his story captured the hearts of millions, bringing needed attention to the very real educational needs of Pakistan’s children and articulating the very important role good quality education can play in reducing conflict risk.
-----------
Contrary to the Three Cups of Tea portrayal of Gilgit-Bultistan as a place with little educational opportunity, it is one of the regions in Pakistan that has demonstrated true educational transformation over the last 50 years. In 1946, just prior to partition from India, there were an estimated six primary schools and one middle school for the entire region. Today there are over 1,800 primary, 500 middle, 420 high schools, and almost 40 higher education institutions. Girls are often noted to be outperforming boys and staying in school longer. It is true that community leadership and civil society organizations have played a major role in this transformation; it just was not Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute. When I asked the governor of Gilgit-Bultistan, Pir Syed Karam Ali Shah, how this education transformation came about, he was quick to point to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a network of private, international, nondenominational development organizations, an assertion with which other education experts concur. Led by His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, the concerted focus on improving education, and especially girls’ education, started in 1946 and has continued, led by community members, for decades. Initially starting in the Ismaili communities in Gilgit-Bultistan, the work spread quickly to other non-Ismaili communities in the region, when the clear economic and health benefits of educating girls were seen by neighboring communities. Many civil society organizations, government interventions and public-private partnerships have developed over time, helping to increase levels of human capital and capacity through heavy investment in education, particularly of girls. According to Mehnaz Aziz, member of the national Pakistan Education Task Force, if the rest of Pakistan could only follow in the footsteps of the people of Gilgit-Bultistan, the status of education in Pakistan would be greatly improved.

... Increasing access to quality education is likely to reduce Pakistan’s risk of conflict as cross-country estimates show that increasing educational attainment is strongly correlated with conflict risk reduction. Last month, a national campaign – Education Emergency Pakistan 2011 – was launched to spur country-wide dialogue on the need to prioritize educational investment and progress.
-----------
It is unfortunate that the 60 Minutes expose has called into question the accuracy of Greg Mortenson’s books. Without defending Mortenson or whether the facts in his memoirs are accurate, I can say truthfully that there is indeed a very serious education crisis in Pakistan. The international community should not lose sight of this and the real needs of the Pakistani children and youth seeking to improve their lives.

April 25, 2011 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Dawn report on Ambassador Munter recounting how US AID has helped Pakistan over 50 years:

The US Ambassador further said Pakistanis who doubt that US assistance has borne fruit in Pakistan would be surprised to know that they have tasted it, adding, “Pakistan’s most popular citrus fruit, the kinoo, comes from California. USAID brought kinoo seeds to Pakistan in the 1960s. Today, we are helping export Pakistan’s sweetest fruit, the mango, in the other direction.”

“In the 1950s, we brought together the University of Karachi, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and the University of Southern California to establish a campus in Karachi to meet the demand for business managers in the bustling port city.”

“USAID sponsored the project and the Institute of Business Administration became Pakistan’s first business school and one of the first outside of North America. IBA is recognized today as one of South Asia’s leading institutions,” he maintained.

Ambassador Munter said in 1965, Dr. Norman Borlaug, who later won the Nobel Prize for his contribution to agricultural research, came to Pakistan to introduce his new high-yielding variety of wheat.

“We worked with the Lyallpur Rotary Club to support a program that gave individual farmers a bushel of the new generation of seed if, when the harvest came in, they returned the bushel so we could give it to someone else. While modest in scope, this small project brought Lyallpur into the Green Revolution that in turn converted a food deficit region into an exporter of grains,” he added.

In the 1960s and ’70s, a consortium of U.S. construction firms employing Pakistanis, Americans, Brits, Canadians, Germans, and Irish built the two mighty dams of Tarbela and Mangla with USAID and World Bank financing, US Ambassador said, adding, “Those engineering feats – more complex than anywhere in the world at that time – soon accounted for 70 per cent of the country’s power output and made Pakistan a leading provider of clean energy.”

In the 1980s, the US Ambassador said, with USAID’s assistance, Pakistan’s private industry founded the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

“Pakistanis approached us with the idea for the new institution and we agreed to support it with a contribution of $ 10 million. Today, LUMS incubates the ideas and nurtures the leaders who are critical to Pakistan’s future,” he remarked.

Ambassador Munter said, since the inception of the Fulbright scholarship program, nearly 3,000 Pakistanis have studied in the United States and close to 1,000 Americans have studied in Pakistan, adding, today, the U.S. Fulbright program in Pakistan is the largest in the world.

Key to all these successes was that Pakistanis owned them.

We may have helped sow the seeds but Pakistanis made sure the flowers blossomed, he said, adding, “aid is a catalyst and its success depends on those who receive it.”

“So today, while we help complete dams in Gomal Zam and Satpara and rehabilitate power plants in Muzaffargarh and Jamshoro, only Pakistanis can put an end to circular debt by paying their bills and holding the system accountable.”

“While we work to cultivate international markets for Pakistan’s fruit and fashion, only Pakistanis can deliver quality products that can compete. While we pay for road construction in South Waziristan, only Pakistanis can provide the local population with economic opportunities to make use of those roads.

While we build schools in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, only Pakistanis can ensure that qualified teachers show up to teach in them,” the US Ambassador maintained.


http://www.dawn.com/2011/11/04/pakistan-us-relationship-dogged-by-history-munter.html

November 4, 2011 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report on launch of EMI's children rhymes in Pakistan:

KRACHI: Renowned actor, singer, compare, musician and producer Khalid Anam, known for his dedicated work for children’s welfare, Friday launched EMI Pakistan’s children division.

Two CDs containing rhymes and lessons for children, entitled ‘Ray se rail chali’ and ‘Zarb-al-Misl’, have been introduced at the EMI children division’s ceremony, held at a local hotel.

Anam composed the material on the CDs that included rhymes, poems, cartoons and video lessons that teach children not only language skills but also moral values.

Addressing the launching ceremony, Anam said that national language should be promoted in the society. He regretted that their children learnt English rhymes, poems and culture, but they have been going far from their own language and culture. It is the matter of shame for us that our children do not know Urdu, he said.

He was of the view that their society had fallen prey to a complex and sense of inferiority towards English language. He said that it was common in the society that their children, even having age group between three to eight, were seen dancing on the songs like ‘Muni Badnam Hoi’ while parents clapped on it instead of refraining and guiding them.

Khalid said, “Children are our future, so it is our duty to take care of them and tell them that what they should see and what not. We should keep checks on media, particularly dramas”. He further said that entertainment was the major tool for educating children that was why he chose that medium to connect next generations with their own culture and language.

He said that besides this, what compelled him to launch his initiative was that there was lack of positive entertainment for the children.

EMI Executive Director Ameed Riaz started his speech through an attention notice that at the launching ceremony of a product about Urdu, participants were expressing their views in another language. He hailed Anam for his efforts and dedication to children and society. He further said that EMI was moving towards digital media from physical medium.

Addressing the ceremony, various prominent figures shed light on the role of Anam for his cause and dedication to his work.

Later, talking to Daily Times, senior actor Behroz Sabzwari said that indeed it was a matter of regret that their children knew ‘Baba black sheep’ but were not aware of ‘Lab pe aati hai dua ban kay tamanna meri’. He said that before the invasion of private sector, Pakistan Television PTV was contributing for children, but after the waves of private TV channels, children had been neglected. He said that since day one, Anam was continuing his efforts in this regard.

Tehmina Khalid told Daily Times that all the prominent school groups in the metropolis, including beacon house, were teaching Urdu to their students through the programmes, designed by Khalid. She further said that Anam was working for children for a long time.

On the occasion, EMI’s official website was also launched by EMI General Manager Zeshan Chaudhri. He also presented a multimedia presentation on the website and the programmes of children division available on it.


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\11\05\story_5-11-2011_pg12_9

November 5, 2011 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

The makers of the US TV show Sesame Street launched a new puppet show in Pakistan on Saturday.

The programme was jointly developed by Sesame Workshop, the creator of the American children's series, and Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, a Pakistani group that has been staging puppet shows for more than three decades.

The show, called Sim Sim Hamara, received $20 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

"I think, we have had a really good take off on making a Sesame Sim Sim Hamara which belongs to Pakistan," Faizaan Peerzada, the chief operating officer of Rafi Peer and one of several family members who run the organization, told the audience at launching ceremony in Pakistan's cultural capital Lahore.

"It has Pakistani characters, it has content which is specially designed for Pakistan and there is a lot of development on the side of making an international level production."

The shows will appear on Pakistan state television in late December and the producers hope they will reach three million children, one million of whom are out of school.

A total of 78 episodes will be aired in Pakistan's national language, Urdu, over the next three years, as well as 13 in each of the four main regional languages, Baluchi, Pashtu, Punjabi and Sindhi.

The TV show has a new cast of local characters. The lead character is a six-year-old girl named Rani who loves cricket and traditional Pakistani music. Another character, Munna, is a five-year-old boy obsessed with numbers.

Baily the donkey, Haseen O Jameel the crocodile and Baaji, a strong woman, are a few of the other characters.

The programme is expected to help the educational difficulties of children without access to schooling and reflect messages of inclusion and mutual respect.

"A programme like this can bring forth the children of Pakistan to understand all the ideas with inclusion of kindness to one another, mutual respect and equal opportunity. And I think, that's one of the things that we are very very pleased to be a part of to be able to sponsor that," said U.S. Consul General, Nina Maria Fite.

In addition to the television show, the USAID-funded project will include radio programmes for parents and other care-givers, live puppet shows, mobile video shows, a website with e-books, games, and children's songs.

Educational curriculum will focus on language development, critical thinking, and cognitive processes.

According to figures from UNESCO and other non-governmental organisations, roughly one in 10 of the world's primary-age children who are not in school live in Pakistan, placing Pakistan second in the global ranking of out-of-school children, behind Nigeria.

The World Bank approved a $400-million loan earlier this year for Pakistan's flailing education system, one of the world's worst where the country spends less than 1.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on schooling.

http://www.citytv.com/toronto/citynews/entertainment/news/article/171097--sesame-street-launches-in-pakistan

November 26, 2011 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report on the airing of the first episode of Sim Sim Humara in Pakistan:

The first episode of the Pakistan Children Television’s programme “Sim Sim Hamara”, an educational and capacity-building TV series for children, will be aired on Dec 10 at national TV.

The TV series will be a high-quality early education resource for a large number of children who lack access to formal education opportunities.

“Sim Sim Hamara” is the Pakistani adaptation of the engaging programme “Sesame Street”, created by Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, New York, and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The theatre group will create a total of 130 episodes of the “Sim Sim Hamra” broadcast on PTV Home.

Seventy-eight of these episodes will be produced in Urdu and 52 in national languages. The first episode will be aired at 5:30pm on Dec 10 and the repeat telecast will be at 9:30am next day. The moving spirit behind the project, Faizan Pirzada told Dawn that “along with language and numeracy skills, this new educational show will promote basic life skills, healthy habits, mutual respect and love for learning. The show’s locally-developed puppet stars include Rani, a six-year old school girl with a keen interest in natural sciences and a love of reading, Munna, a five-year old boy with big dreams and a flair for mathematics and numbers, Baily, a fluffy, hardworking donkey who aspires to be a pop star, Baji, a colourful, spirited woman with a passion for food, family, fun and tradition, and Haseen-o-Jameel, a crocodile who has a wonderful way with words, rhymes and songs.”

Throwing light on the background of the project, one of the heads of the PC TV, Faizan Pirzada said Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, held a national content seminar and four provincial workshops to gather educational advisers from various fields to provide direction for the educational framework for the Pakistan Children’s Television project.

He said the participants included representatives from both regional and federal government entities, academicians, performing artists, civil society members working with children, representatives from Sesame Workshop, USAID and the federal education secretary.

He said there’s a need to impress upon children and families the fact that learning happens in both formal and non-formal environments. PC television is using authentic examples from the real world, such as observing a family member count change at the grocery store, weighing produce on scales at the vegetable market, reading prayers from the Holy Quran and other holy texts, and measuring ingredients for ‘roti’ as a basis for storylines and materials that promote a lifelong love of learning.


http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/02/educational-tv-serial-for-children-from-dec-10.html

December 3, 2011 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

US State Dept & Sen Feinstein defend US aid to Pakistan, according to Dawn:

WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Tuesday defended aid to Pakistan amid calls from senators for a full review of whether economic and military assistance there serves the US national interest.

“We believe our assistance to Pakistan still continues to provide dividends for the American people in trying to grow and strengthen Pakistan’s democratic institutions, boost its economy,” said spokesman Mark Toner.

“In the long term, you know, those are the kinds of things we’re seeking to achieve,” he told reporters one day after Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham made a full-throated call for reevaluating the aid.

His comments came shortly after US Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein said that cutting assistance to Pakistan would be unhelpful but warned that calls to do so had strong congressional support.

“I don’t think that’s useful,” she told reporters. “My understanding is that there’s some overtures under way to restore the relationship. Well, that’s fine, but I suspect that if a bill were to come to the floor which fenced money, the bill would have a good chance of passing,”she said.

US lawmakers have expressed mounting anger at Pakistan, accusing military and intelligence officials there of supporting the Haqqani network blamed here for attacks on US forces and targets in Afghanistan.

“I can only express my profound disappointment with the relationship” and the “deterioration” in an already troubled alliance that “goes up and down, and up and down, and up and down,” she said.

“My very strong feeling is you can’t walk both sides of the street with respect to terror,” said Feinstein.

Relations slid to a new low last month when Nato air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border, prompting Pakistan to boycott an international conference in Bonn on Afghanistan’s future.

“This is a very complex relationship,” Toner said, adding that the deadly border incident “was difficult for the Pakistani people, for the Pakistani government.”

“They have reacted in a way that shows how important and how significant this tragedy was for them,” Toner said.

“It’s absolutely essential that Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US, other international partners, work through this and beyond. It’s in all our interests.”

But Republican Senator Mark Kirk told AFP that McCain and Graham, who serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, “are right.”

“Military aid to Pakistan is unsustainable, and in this time of deficits and debt, we ought to save the money,” he said, warning that if Pakistan has chose “to embrace terror and back the Haqqani network,” it should do so “without subsidies from the US taxpayer.

Kirk has also called for bolstering ties to India and “making India a military ally of the United States and to encourage India to fill the vacuum in Kabul once we leave.”


http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/07/us-state-dept-defends-pakistan-aid.html

December 6, 2011 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Nation about the use of mobile phones to deliver teacher training and resources:

ISLAMABAD - Nokia and UNESCO Islamabad have launched “Mobile Learning Project for Teacher’s Professional Development” on Thursday as formal collaboration took place in the presence of senior government officials, Nokia and UNESCO representatives.
As part of this programme, UNESCO and Nokia are joining hands, where Nokia is providing a technology solution known as Nokia Education Delivery to the UNESCO project ‘use of ICT for professional development of public school teachers’ in remote areas.
In Pakistan, through the project, Nokia will help UNESCO to enable the delivery of high- quality educational materials to teachers who lack training and resources.
Through mobile phones teachers will be given an opportunity to train themselves. Nokia developed the Nokia Education Delivery programme to allow using a mobile phone to access and download videos and other educational materials from a constantly updated education library.
Speaking about the project, UNESCO Director, Kozue Kai Nagata said, “In 21st century public-private partnerships are enjoying growing attention and support as a new and sustainable modality for development.
We are confident to collaborate with Nokia to provide us with the best platform to train public school teachers. Nokia Education Delivery programme is fit to match our need of delivering quality training to a large number of public school teachers across Pakistan through the project named “Mobile Learning for Teachers”.
Amir Jahangir, President AGAHI and a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, shared his views on the launch that “Pakistan is a knowledge starved country, where universal education has its own challenges. To meet the target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on education, Pakistan needs to address its education challenges through innovation and technology which can reach to a larger population with cost effective solutions”.
This unique pilot project for Pakistan has been initiated by UNESCO and AGAHI while Nokia Pakistan will enable the project implementation by providing not just Nokia devices but a complete solution via its Nokia Education Delivery programme.


http://nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Business/23-Dec-2011/Nokia-Unesco-join-hands

December 22, 2011 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Brookings Inst paper on mobile phones are helping increase female literacy in Pakistan:

In the small village of Hafizibad in Pakistan’s Punjab province, a young girl is using her mobile phone to send an SMS message in Urdu to her teacher. After sending, she receives messages from her teacher in response, which she diligently copies by hand in her notebook to practice her writing skills. She does this from the safety of her home, and with her parents’ permission, during the school break, which is significant due to the insecurity of the rural region in which she lives. The girl is part of a Mobilink-UNESCO program to increase literacy skills among girls in Pakistan. Initial outcomes look positive; after four months, the percentage of girls who achieved an A level on literacy examinations increased from 27 percent to 54 percent. Likewise, the percentage of girls who achieved a C level on examinations decreased from 52 percent to 15 percent. The power of mobile phone technology, which is fairly widespread in Pakistan, appears in this case to help hurdle several education barriers by finding new ways to support learning for rural girls in insecure areas—girls who usually have limited opportunities to attend school and who frequently do not receive individual attention when they do. Often they live in households with very few books or other materials to help them retain over summer vacation what they learned during the school year.

http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2012/01_education_technology_winthrop.aspx

January 7, 2012 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Time magazine blog post on Sim Sim Hamara:

For a 3-year-old who has yet to master the use of the personal pronoun, Elmo is a whiz at foreign languages. Already fluent in Chinese, German, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic, among others, the fluffy red icon has just picked up Urdu, the most common language in Pakistan. At a time when the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is at its worst in more than a decade, Sesame Street — the quintessential American children’s television program — has burst onto the Pakistani scene in a flurry of fake fur, feathers and infectious ditties about the letter alef, or A.
-------------
On a tour of the workshop where the show’s Muppets are made, Peerzada, a master puppeteer with more than 40 years of experience directing educational puppet shows for Pakistani children for the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, slips his hand into a limp, feathered pocket of gray felt. Even without eyes, the unfinished puppet springs to life with the mannerisms of an owl, swiveling its head to listen as Peerzada expounds on Sim Sim Hamara’s potential with evangelical zeal. Underfunded and neglected for more than 30 years, Pakistan’s education system is in a parlous state. The recently released Annual Status of Education report in Pakistan reveals that nearly 60% of school-age children can’t read, or even do basic, two-digit subtraction problems. For a country where 35% of the population is under the age of 14, the consequences are enormous.

“As a nation, Pakistan has failed its children,” says Peerzada. If Sesame Street brought the joy of learning to generations of American preschoolers, why can’t it help teach Pakistan’s 66 million children under the age of 14 how to read? he asks. “Our children deserve this. All children deserve this,” he says. Obviously a television program that airs twice a week can’t compensate for missing teachers and limited school access, but it’s a start. “To me, Sim Sim Hamara is a gift to Pakistani children, and a window into homes that might think their children are better employed in the fields than at school,” says Peerzada.
------------
The same could not be said of reactions to the program in the U.S., where Fox News in October dubbed Sim Sim Hamara a boondoggle for Elmo and conservative commentators quickly took up the cause. But as Sesame Workshop’s Westin points out, $20 million pays for a lot more than Elmo’s Urdu lessons and a plane ticket to Pakistan. It covers a state-of-the-art studio, high-definition digital-video equipment that won’t be obsolete in a few years, and the foundations of an educational institution that, if all goes to plan, will provide Pakistani children with the basic-literacy building blocks that have been the mainstay of early-childhood education in America for more than four decades. Current estimates say that Sim Sim Hamara is reaching more than 3.5 million Pakistani children who have no other access to preschool education. “This is a smart investment,” says Westin. “Early-childhood education is one of the most effective ways to build stability in any country. An investment like this is not only going to benefit Pakistan, but our children as well. If we can help to create a more peaceful world, that is a benefit to all of our children.” And that sounds like something Elmo would love, in any language.


http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2012/02/20/pakistans-sesame-street-can-an-urdu-elmo-aid-a-blighted-nation-2/

February 20, 2012 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on early childhood education in Pakistan:

Plan International Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), on Thursday presented its Early Childhood Education (ECE) syllabus to the Punjab government.

Developed after a year’s research, the syllabus focuses on six ‘learning areas’ and includes lessons about personal and social development, language, creative arts, health and hygiene, basic mathematical concepts and general knowledge regarding the world around the child.

The syllabus called Barhtay Huay Qadam has been prepared by Nasira Habib, the founder and director of Khoj, an NGO that focuses on education.

The curriculum has been developed for children between four and five years of age.

Lessons include Aao kuch banain (Let’s make something), Khel ka waqt (play time), Ghar ghar khailain (Playing house) and Kahani ka waqt (Story time).

During a presentation at the launch, Habib said that each ‘learning area’ had a list of expected outcomes, which could be measured with the help of a list of competencies.

Habib told The Express Tribune that after the final draft was submitted in October 2011, pilot projects were run at seven community centres in Chakwal, Vehari and Islamabad.

Habib described the teaching method prevalent in most schools across the province as “regimented”. “Deep down, our society is [still] under the impression that you can’t teach without being strict or [without] corporal punishment,” she said. “We have incorporated elements of our heritage – local stories and games – in the syllabus,” she said.

Habib said that ideally 15 children should make up a ‘learning group’. If there are more than 20 students, she said, it would be best to divide them into two groups. The syllabus can be covered in 32 weeks of ‘active teaching’, with each week following a particular theme. The last week prepares the child for school, with teachers focusing on making the child ready for organised schooling, said Habib.

Habib stressed the role ‘caregivers’ play in early stages of learning. ECE teaching requires expertise, she said, “We underestimate the expertise required to impart education to such young children.”

She also noted the lack of designated ECE centres in the Punjab, “There are only 32 centres in 36 districts.” She said that implementation of early education would be difficult because “70 per cent of rural primary schools in the Punjab are single classroom schools.”..
------------
Aslam Kamboh, the School Education Department secretary, said that since ECE was ‘material-based learning’ (needed educational toys and space), appropriate budgetary allocations were necessary.

He promised to issue a notification, which would make ECE classrooms and playgroup area a valid charge under the ‘Farogh-i-Taleem’ budget ensuring that it becomes an integral part of schooling activity.

Sofia Aziz, the learning adviser for Plan International said that such initiatives would help standardise pre-primary schooling. She also hoped that the NGO would launch the syllabus in Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Sindh later this year.

Rashid Javed, country director of Plan International Pakistan, said that they were going to send out the syllabus developed to all government schools in the province.
.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/377007/early-learning-six-lessons-you-need-to-teach-toddlers/

May 10, 2012 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

Here's CBS News story on termination of US funding for Pakistani version of Sesame St:

The U.S. has terminated funding for a $20 million US project to develop a Pakistani version of Sesame Street, the U.S. Embassy said Tuesday. The decision came as a Pakistani newspaper reported allegations of corruption by the local puppet theatre working on the initiative.

The organization in question is the Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, a group in the city of Lahore that jointly developed the show with Sesame Workshop, the creator of the American series.

The show, which includes Elmo and a host of new Pakistani characters, first aired in December and was supposed to run for at least three seasons. The U.S. hoped it would improve education in a country where one-third of primary school-age children are not in class. It was also meant to increase tolerance at a time when the influence of radical views is growing.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Robert Raines said the U.S. Agency for International Development terminated funding for the program, but declined to provide further details.

The Pakistan Today newspaper reported Tuesday that the cause was "severe" financial irregularities at Rafi Peer, citing unnamed sources close to the project. Officials at Rafi Peer allegedly used the U.S. money to pay off old debts and awarded lucrative contracts to relatives, the sources claimed.

Faizaan Peerzada, the chief operating officer of Rafi Peer and one of several family members who run the organization, denied the corruption allegations. He said the U.S. ended its participation after providing $10 million US because of the lack of additional available funds.

"Rafi Peer is proud of its association with the project and of the quality of children's educational television programming created within Pakistan as a result," the group said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.
------------
Rafi Peer plans to seek alternative sources of funding to continue producing the local version of Sesame Street, which is called Sim Sim Hamara, or Our Sim Sim....


http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2012/06/05/pakistan-sesame-street.html

June 5, 2012 at 7:08 AM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Lima News Op Ed on Sim Sim Hamara:

When I first heard that America was shopping a version of “Sesame Street” to Pakistan, I couldn't help but feel a touch of pride that someone finally got around to stealing my idea for Baywatch Imperialism.

It is true, I can't take full credit for the idea. I'm certain imperialism wasn't the only reason the government decided to export Elmo and his friends to the troubled nation. There is the fact that an estimated 6.5 million Pakistani children do not attend school and 72 percent of those who do leave before the fifth grade. A few minutes a day with “The Count” may be the only math these kids get, so sending them “Sesame Street” — or, “Sim Sim Hamara,” as the Pakistani version was known — is generally a nice thing to do....
-------------
That said, governments tend not to blow $20 million to do nice things. They spend money to further the national interest or, to put it in slightly less political verbiage, to win.

Winning is always the endgame of international diplomacy. We can win resources, we can win new markets, or we can win the hearts and minds of people, but the goal is always the same. What does vary is our method. Sometimes we invade and take what we want. Sometimes we try to buy our way in with gifts and offerings. And sometimes we send them “Baywatch.”

For those of you either too young to have experienced it, or too old to recall, “Baywatch” was the biggest (and some would say, greatest) television show of the 20th century. At its peak in the mid-1990s, the show had 1.1 billion viewers worldwide.
----------
This sort of imperialism is hardly new. Alexander the Great was wise enough to use the cultural benefits of ancient Greece to placate the masses in his conquered worlds, as has every conqueror since. America has long understood the benefits of showing off its goods, and it works. As someone who spent some time in Eastern Europe in the late-'80s, I can tell you that the world, especially the part of it living at the time under communism, coveted the heck out of what we had, just as much of the Middle East does today.

Sadly, it seems as though we've forgotten all that. Instead of trying to win over our enemies by emphasizing our innate awesomeness, we feed their hatred with drone attacks. We send them bombs when we should be hooking them up with free cable.

Earlier this week, the U.S. terminated funding for the Pakistani version of “Sesame Street.” Government officials said the decision came as a Pakistani newspaper reported allegations of corruption by the local puppet theater working on the initiative. Apparently, it's impossible to find a puppeteer who isn't on the take. I've long suspected as much.

That means the kids in Pakistan won't be growing up with the sweetness of Elmo and Big Bird. I don't know what they'll be watching instead, but I suspect it isn't going to help our cause much.

Not that all hope is lost. In a few years, they'll be old enough for “Baywatch.” We can only pray a Hasselhoff concert is not far behind.


http://www.limaohio.com/articles/baywatch-84439-win-imperialism.html

June 7, 2012 at 7:52 PM  
Blogger Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Newsweek on corruption charges in Pak Sim Sim Hamara project:

While the project was in development, Rafi Peer and the show’s U.S. licensor, Sesame Workshop, had to work through some cultural differences. “We had to explain there were certain things that cannot be shown in Pakistan,” says Moneeza Hashmi, who competed with Rafi Peer for the project and then joined as script supervisor. “Some of what they wanted us to use was culturally insensitive.” She recalls one exchange over a segment about an animal farm. “I had to explain why we cannot show pigs in Pakistan!”

The project was originally to have received $16–$20 million until 2014. The U.S. Congress shaved this down to $10 million, of which 30 percent was allocated to the Sesame Workshop. With the $6.7 million that came to Rafi Peer—a fraction of the annual $300 million USAID says it spends on various projects in Pakistan—the company completed 26 half-hour episodes, scripts for Season 2, and 13 episodes dubbed in the Pashto language.

Even though it debuted months later than initially planned, Sim Sim Hamara was averaging 18.7 million unique viewers—or about 10 percent of the total population—each month from its first broadcast through the end of April. And yet in May, USAID told Rafi Peer it had run short of funds and would not be able to continue assistance beyond Sept. 30. This deadline was later moved forward by the U.S., citing “credible allegations of fraud and abuse.” In its May 24 letter to Rafi Peer, the agency writes: “USAID would like to underscore our respect for [Rafi Peer’s] creative talent and commitment to furthering the objectives of Sim Sim Hamara.” It also states that it would “encourage the continuation of the program.”

Like its Indian counterpart, Sim Sim Hamara was slated to eventually become self-sustaining—something Peerzada had been working toward. He recently met with Sesame Workshop executives who visited him in Lahore after USAID’s decision, and he says they want the show to go on. But more than the shifted goal post, it is the corruption allegations against his company that make his job harder, if not impossible. “Today, Rafi Peer cannot raise a single dollar,” he says. “The whole world is calling us names. I wish USAID had handled this more responsibly.”

For all practical purposes, Sim Sim Hamara’s fate appears to be sealed. Work on road shows, radio programs, and episodes in other regional languages have stopped. Half a dozen staff members have already been let go. And the show’s official YouTube channel, which prominently featured the USAID logo, has been “terminated” by the social-media website over an apparent copyright violation.

“The wonderful work Rafi Peer has done for the children in this country is absolutely undeniable,” says Moneeza Hashmi, who worked on the project scripts for three months. “I don’t know if it became the victim of some political quagmire, you never know.” U.S. funding to Palestinian initiatives, including their Arabic version of Sesame Street, was stopped in January in response to the Palestinians’ bid at the U.N. for statehood.

The Norwegian government, which has worked with Rafi Peer for almost two decades and helped fund its Museum of Puppetry—which has hosted some 600,000 children since opening its doors eight years ago—has also withdrawn support. “We have put our collaboration on hold,” Terje Barstad of the Norwegian embassy told Newsweek. “However, we have no reason to believe anything was wrong during our collaboration with Rafi Peer.”

“I’m more concerned about the reputation of my family, my organization, and my country,” says Peerzada about the future of Sim Sim Hamara. “It is very sad. We are an artistic group of people. We are liberals. We have been left tumbling.”


http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/06/17/pakistan-loses-urdu-language-sesame-street.html

June 18, 2012 at 9:58 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home