Welsh superheads train Pakistan's school leaders
A team of Welsh "superheads" is at the forefront of an international project to train the next generation of school leaders in Pakistan.
The nine former headteachers and local authority education advisers are working in the country's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, formerly known as the North-West Frontier, as part of a major effort to improve education in the region.
They will each spend three weeks training secondary-school heads and local officials in school leadership techniques and development strategies.
It is hoped that by the end of the year 100 people will have received the training. About 20 per cent will then be selected to train others as part of a rolling programme that aims to create 2,000 new school leaders within six years.
The scheme is being run by Giz, a German international aid company, on behalf of the German government, with major funding from Australia and the Netherlands.
Germany has a long history of economic co-operation with Pakistan, and an educational improvement project has been running in the region for more than 30 years.
Although there are already some 27,000 schools in the region - more than Wales and England combined - the Pakistani government must build 20,000 more if it is to keep its promise of educating all children aged three to 16.
Although they will work in Islamabad, the "superheads" will train teachers to work in areas renowned for being unstable and dangerous. The region borders Afghanistan and was a frontline in the war on terror.
It is still home to groups of Taliban militia, which strongly oppose Western culture and the education of girls. The town of Abbottabad, where Osama Bin Laden was killed earlier this year, is also in the region.
Ulrich MacDonald, an educational adviser with Giz in Pakistan, saw a desperate need for good- quality senior management training, and recruited his former mentor Gareth Buckland, co-director of South Wales-based educational consultancy Empathi Cymru.
Mr MacDonald, a former teacher and deputy principal of a secondary school in Cologne, said: "The Pakistani authorities admitted they only spent one day a year training their heads. I knew that to bring those people forward to manage schools and make sure they were running effectively and efficiently would take at least 160 hours of training a year.
"But we didn't have the staff for it, so I contacted Gareth, who is one of the best school development practitioners I have ever met."
Mr Buckland is a former teacher and Estyn inspector who has worked in a number of Welsh local education authorities and has run in-service training for schools across the UK and Germany.
With his co-director Terry Mackie, a former school improvement officer for Newport City Council, he set about training a number of former colleagues and contacts who expressed an interest in helping out.
Mr Buckland said: "This project has the potential to have a huge impact on the future of Pakistan, where 50 per cent of children don't go to school. What we hope is that by the end of the year 100 or so master heads will be able to develop further and train the next generation of heads.
"We have been amazed at how willing people have been to take up what is a challenging task in a country they have never been to before."
Mr MacDonald said he had been extremely impressed by the commitment of the Welsh educationalists. "I'm convinced they are probably the best people we could get in Europe," he said.
HEAD TO PAKISTAN: `I think it's up to Western countries to help'
Gareth Evans, former headteacher of Kings Monkton School in Cardiff, is one of the "superheads" travelling to Pakistan.
Having worked for a number of years in children's homes in India, he was keen to return to the subcontinent.
"Pakistan has had a raw deal over the past 10 years, and I think it's up to Western countries to help them, so I'm pleased I can do my bit," he said.
"I'm hoping my experiences as a head can be transferred to people in a similar situation in Pakistan."
Mr Evans said he particularly wants to share the valuable leadership skills he developed through the National Professional Qualification for Headship and his knowledge of dealing with children with special educational needs, who are currently not catered for in the Pakistani education system.
He added: "I don't think we should impose our system on them; it's a matter of sharing what we have done and the things we have found helpful and innovative."
Original headline: Welsh superheads drive project to train Pakistan's school leaders