Lubna Punjwani training the teachers in Karachi

Lubna Punjwani training the teachers in Karachi

Lubna Punjwani training the teachers in Karachi

Sharmeen Peshimam from British Council Pakistan discovers that, in some areas, nothing comes close to working with people face-to-face when building cultural relations.

Today we can share information and interact with millions of people across the world at the click of a button, and the British Council is continuously improving its digital platform to reach millions more.

While the digital space is high on impact and low on cost, when building cultural relations in developing countries such as Pakistan, there is no replacement for working with people face-to-face.

Internet penetration in Pakistan is one of the highest in the region, yet more than half the population doesn’t have access to any electronic devices. One of our aims is to reach those on the margins of society and in these circumstances, digital doesn’t quite do it.

Last month in Karachi, we trained 25 teachers from the Tharparkur district of Pakistan’s Sindh province, which ranks as one of the poorest in the country. None of them had ever been trained before, despite some having taught for more than 15 years. For most, it was their first time in Karachi (Pakistan’s largest city), their first stay in a hotel and their first interaction with a female instructor.

In the first few sessions, the teachers were shy to speak up and rather formal when they did. Trainer Lubna Punjwani summed up the stilted atmosphere:

‘While I understood their limitations on paper, it was another thing altogether to experience them first-hand. To accommodate the culture shock, I had to ease them through learning basic soft and social skills by conducting myself in a certain way.’

Over the course of the five-day workshop, the teachers slowly began to change. ‘On the last day, there was no noticeable sign of their early unease’, added Lubna with a sense of pride, ‘They were confident and spoke fairly articulately compared to the first day.’

Teachers at the training in Karachi

Face-to-face training not only enables participants to learn social skills, but also exposes them to new ideas in an open and stimulating environment. These kinds of personal interactions are particularly important in a region where life can be isolated and lead to a conservative and myopic worldview, and where economic conditions often prevent people from experiencing the wider world.

Fifty-year-old participant Mir Muhammad was one of those visiting Karachi for the first time. He explains how remote his village is: ‘I have to walk through the desert for at least three hours daily to reach the school and, by the time I come back home, it is already dark.’

Of course, digital engagement can provide useful teaching techniques. But a real environment, where the subtleties of body language and tone of voice play a part, allows dialogue to flourish. It helps people to really open up, grow in confidence and learn the soft skills of teaching. These deeply personal skills will have a lasting impact on the teachers and ultimately benefit their students and the community as a whole.

Find out more about our work in Pakistan


Total 4 Comments Add your comment

Abdullah-JMC KUST

Posted on January 17th, 2012 Report abuse

Great work
Keep it up

Name*Muhammad Ramzan

Posted on January 26th, 2012 Report abuse

connecting people is in fact an endavour to strengthen culture and social cohesion in the world. it will certainly reduce the misunderstanding among people.
with best wishes
Dr Muhammad Ramzan
associate Professir/ chairperson
department of Educational Development
Karakoram international University Gilgit Pakistan


Posted on January 28th, 2012 Report abuse

I appreciate the effort to bring teacher together. made them ease to talk and to share their ideas. being a teacher I really liked that.and wished we also have such self grooming workshops.
plz let me know is the correct word “TRAINED” or “TRAINING” a teacher. “Trainer”. I think we train animal and the person who trained animal are known as Trainer. so, if am not wrong please use synonym like for Training we can use grooming or self grooming for trainer we can use facilitator.
please correct me if am wrong.


Jim Cooney

Posted on January 31st, 2012 Report abuse

Hi Gul, just to help you out with your mis-understanding,
I can use the verb “to train”, meaning to practice and perfect, e.g sport. To “Train” is the practice part, yes you train an animal, it practices and perfects skills to achieve a task, we are no different. To manage your time frames, regualr verb I use the “ed” form to tell me the time in the past, the “ing” form I am in the middle of the action and the finish is in the future. The “er” aspect makes it a noun, to name a person. You are in the right area, just need a to slow down a bit.
I just wanted to leave comment on this work, such a positive action and piece of work. I have to work hard with my teaching to breakdown barriers and help people to broadern their understanding globally. This part is equally as important as “phrasal verbs for IELTS”. The social aspect I think is far overlooked and we need to address this as educators in order to help people make an informed opinion of events locally and globally. Please keep this valuable work up.


Director of studies
Reivers Education