French Ambassador Philippe Thiebaud says his country is extending all-out support to Pakistan in its various initiatives for science and technology promotion. We are working with PSF to promote the La main à la pâte (education programme) in some schools in addition to regularly holding science expos in various cities for awareness
What has attracted French aid towards Pakistan?
PHILIPPE THIEBAUD: France has along tradition of economy development and science and technology could be the basis for cooperation for future economic development. We have a vision that Pakistan is a country where there are a lot of opportunities where France can extend support for initiatives for the promotion of science and technology.Presently, France is supporting the government of Pakistans endeavours to promote science and technology. The population of Pakistan is a huge assetas it is going to be130 million in the near future;increase in population means more opportunities for higher education and in science and technology related fields.According to my observation, Pakistani people are very a talented nation and currently a large number of Pakistani professors and academics are serving in European and US universities. Since the government of France accords priority to science and technology and the related fields, it prefers the states concentrating on these sectors and Pakistan is one of them.
How much support the French government is providing to Pakistan?
There are a lot of programmes that are ongoing incollaboration with Pakistani government and universities.These programmes include grant of scholarships for Masters and PhD level study in many French universities. Pakistanistudents are already studying in diverse fields like sciences and social sciences in France and getting quality education to our satisfaction. Another key area of cooperation between France and Pakistan is the field of Archaeology. French archaeologists are also working in Balochistan province on various sites. The cooperation between Pakistan and France is very broad; scientists of both the countries are working with each other under different collaborative programmes.Apart from this different French and Pakistani universities are also collaborating with each other in different scientific disciplines as well.I would like mention here that France also initiated a need-based scholarship for students in Pakistaniuniversities during 2012.We plan to expand this programme in the coming years as there are more and more students who are showing a remarkable achievements in various disciplines and they, I think, should be encouraged through offering an opportunity for quality education. Another key area on which France is stressing upon is the gender balance in Pakistani universities. We have initiateda scholarship programme inSardar Bahadar Khan (SBK) Women University, Quetta, as we believe that gender balance is the essential for sustainable development in Pakistan. I would again like to mention here that we strongly believe that Pakistan has a lot of positive potential in terms of human resource. This is the strong endeavour to continue rather expand the scope for the outstanding students of Pakistan.
What is the background and what are the main points of the memorandum of understanding signed between CCSTI and Pakistan Science Foundation?
The Pakistan Science Foundation and the French Government have been working together for the last several years in the form of arranging travelling expos in different cities across Pakistan. These Expos are displayed throughout the country every year on different themes. The theme of the Expos is based on the UNESCO declaration each year. These are basically designed to increasestudents interest in different scientific disciplines. The expos comprise different panels and small experimental kits. Students learn the concept by actually doing these experiments with their own hands.This process has produced great results as students have now starting taking keen interests in these experiments. These Expos travel across the country with the help of the PSF Science Caravan Unit that also takes it to the remote areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. Expos on different scientific topics i.e. Chemistry, Environment, Biodiversity and Energy have been displayed so far in different parts of Pakistan during the recent years, which has proved a good experiments. Under this agreement, arranging expos would continue in future. We plan to arrange science expos in smaller cities as we are focusing on increasing awareness among the students of schools, colleges and other educational institutions of smaller towns about science and technology.
Is there any possibility of French faculty exchange with Pakistan?
Yes, this is quite possible. Many universities in Pakistan invite French academics for their programmes, for conducting lectures and workshops. But right now in a broader sense the conditions are not very encouraging due to the security reasons in Pakistan.
Are you satisfied with scientific and the technological development in the country? Howcan we promote science and technology to achieve self-sufficiency?
The concept of self-sufficiency is not prevalent any more. Today, the face of the earth has changed and the whole global community is dependent on each other. Progress in any field is not possible with international cooperation.Leading economies of the world allocate their major portion of their budget for scientific cooperation as the science and technology has emerged as a vital factor behind all the progress and development in the developed world. Pakistan has to make a lot of struggle to make progress in this sector. Though the government of Pakistan is taking initiatives to promote this sector, yet a lot more is still needed in this regard. In fact, the government of Pakistanhas to prioritize its area of interest for possible cooperation with France. Our government is ready to extend any kind of help in this regard.Currently, we are trying to create as well as increase the interest of students in science and technology enrolled in primary and middle schools. As in todaysscenario students are more inclined to study business and finance studies rather than opting for the science subjects.This changing trend has emerged as anew challenge, as we have to divert their interest towards science and technology and it will require cooperation at all the levels.
Explain about the LAMAP programme in Pakistan; are you facing any challenge in Pakistan in the implementation of this programme?
The programme La main à la pâte was initiated in France about 20 years ago. The basic approach behind initiating this programme was children studying at primary level who should be practically shown scientific experimentations. It is a common observation that students studying at primary classes love to learn things by touching them and personal experience.Under this programme, instead of the classical schemes of memorization and concentration of scienti_c concepts or formulas, the proposed methodology insists on the appropriation of knowledge through the individual investigation and questioning attitude, leading the children to learn by experimenting in partnership with the teacher. The LAMAP programme in Pakistan is initially started at the pilotscale at Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Currently, we are working on expanding the programme in Pakistan in collaboration with other European Union (EU) countries.The French government is collaborating with Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) and the Foundation is working as a focal point for successfully implementing this programme in Pakistan. It has already active liaison with different ministries of education in federal and as well as in provinces which is a good sign for the promotion of this education initiative.
Do you have any timeline for the completion of this programme, and do you think this programme has created any impact?
Right now it is difficult to establish any timeline for the completion of this programme as popularization of science is a continued process owing to the fact thateducation is an ongoing process with more and more students getting enrolled in schools each year.Similarly, it is also difficult to establish the impact of this programme at this stage, but the one established fact is that if the children are exposed to better scientific concept today, they will definitely excel in Science and Technology in coming years.Another important impact of this programme is the teachers training; this programme imparts training to science teachers at schools. Over all, LAMAP is expected to generate the well trained human resource in science in Pakistan.
Did the French Government have any plan of increasing the Broadband services in Pakistan?
Currently we dont have any specific programme in this regard, but we have many online programmes for teaching French language in Pakistan. Apart from this programme, many French universities are collaborating with Pakistani universities through many online programmes.
What is your opinion about the conferring of Medal to PSF Chairman Dr. Manzoor Hussain Soomro?
Dr. Manzoor Hussain Soomro has been very active in science promotion in different capacities from the past many years.He is a renowned figure in the fields of agriculturist/biochemistry and science and is actively involved with Pakistan Science Foundation in different capacities from the past 20 years. This award is conferred by the French Government in recognition of extensive services in the field of Science and Technology. I think he has done a lot for the promotion of science and technology in Pakistan through taking various initiatives especially in schools, colleges, universities and other related institutes. Holding science caravans in various cities in collaboration with the French embassy has done a lot in this regard and the credit of course goes to Dr. Manzoor.