Islamabad: US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Pakistani students and teachers who participated in educational programs funded by the US Department of State and the US Agency for International Development on December 10, 2015 at a town hall meeting hosted by the Chairman of the Pakistan Higher Education Commission, Prof Dr Mukhtar Ahmed.
During the event, Prof Dr Mukhtar Ahmed announced Pakistani plans to fund up to 125 additional scholarships for Pakistani Ph.D. students to study in the United States through the Fulbright Program over the next five years. Deputy Secretary Blinken and Prof. Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed reiterated the commitment to intensify cooperation in the education sphere made by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during their meeting in Washington, DC, on October 22, 2015.
Both Prof Dr Mukhtar Ahmed and Deputy Secretary Blinken encouraged students and teachers to take full advantage of their educational opportunities and experiences to benefit their communities, especially to create more chances for women to pursue education. The Deputy Secretary also commended Pakistan for its vision to significantly increase the number of Ph.D. students studying in the United States and welcomed the Pakistan Higher Education Commission’s new contribution to the Fulbright Program and increased faculty development.
“Investments in education are prerequisites for long-term security and sustainable development,” Deputy Secretary Blinken said. “By equipping students with a world perspective rooted in respect, social justice, diversity, and critical thinking, we can expand their horizons while allowing Pakistan’s economy to grow and its society to flourish.”
Prof Dr Mukhtar Ahmed thanked the United States for its collaboration on initiatives supporting the Pakistani education system at every level, from primary to post-graduate. He recalled the idea of the U.S.-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor, a concept laid out in June 2015 in the Strategic Dialogue by both sides to enhance cooperation in education, science, and technology, including academic linkages between many U.S. and Pakistani universities and increasing educational opportunities.
“Working together, we have given young women the opportunity to go to university, helped new teachers gain the tools they need to succeed in the classroom, and supported research in areas critical to Pakistan’s development,” Prof. Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed commented. “The United States has been a dedicated, long-term partner for the progress of the Pakistan Higher Education Commission, and I know our joint efforts will continue to support economic prosperity and stability here in Pakistan.”
Pakistan and the United States have over 20 university partnerships, including three “U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies” in the fields of energy, water, and agriculture. The United States invests more money in the Fulbright program – the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government – in Pakistan than in any other country. The U.S. Mission to Pakistan also provides scholarships to thousands of aspiring teachers and also operates the largest English Access Microscholarship Program worldwide for Pakistani teenagers to learn English. The Pakistan Higher Education Commission and USAID also have collaborated on a national program of teacher education reform designed to improve the quality of basic education in Pakistan.