Stories about British Council

The Pakistan International School of Damascus: The unreported and silent success story of diplomacy

Almost all the stories coming out of Syria over the last few years have been of doom and gloom. There has been much destruction to a land rooted in deep and unparalleled history, possessing two of the world’s oldest cities along with people who can easily be called the world’s most diverse set of communities coexisting peacefully; all before regional and international actors made it a battleground for proxy warfare. Before the war, Syria had the most robust state education system in the Arab world, and even the BBC did an in-depth documentary on the diversity and progressive nature of the Syrian school system. It is these real ...

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How in God’s name was Regent Plaza even allowed to function without fire safety measures?

Anyone who has taken their Cambridge exams in Karachi will know the significance of Regent Plaza. I was not only a Cambridge student who scurried through the halls of Regent Plaza but later, for odd jobs, I was also an invigilator for British Council and often had duties in the various conference rooms of the hotel. There are so many people like me who, for years, have some sort of consistent relationship with Regent Plaza. I remember attending a conference there, and I even stayed there when I came back to Pakistan for a short while. When I returned, ...

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Bristol Hotel: A haunting remnant of the old, glittering Karachi

The building in this picture was the setting for most of the horror stories in my seven-year-old mind. It was also the view from my room in my grandparents’ house. I would listen in awe as my friend talked about the ghosts that she had seen lurking there in the dark of the night. At night, I would draw the curtains together so I wouldn’t have to stare at that abandoned dwelling. I didn’t know much about it back then. My dada (paternal grandfather) told me it was called Bristol Hotel and that it was constructed pre-partition. My imagination added another detail; I assumed ...

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Why was Karachi’s Commissioner Asif Hyder Shah dismissed, Mr CM?

Whenever there is honey, there will be bees and wherever there are bees, there should be a beehive nearby. In other words, be careful of honey or the bees will sting you, not to mention the odd bear or two lurking about. Karachi is akin to the honey, which welcomes millions of people looking for work within its high rises but these people must survive amongst the bears (land mafia, political power mafias, death squads, extortionists and an endless list of the like). The number of bears Karachi attracts is roughly the same number which goes to the rivers to ...

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From Lahore to London – From Karachi to Kensington

London held a host of activities highlighting Pakistan and the cultural vibrancy it has to offer to the world. This weekend saw the launch of Suzali, a platform showcasing Pakistan’s most well-renowned designers which included Mehreen Noorani, Nida Azwer, Naureen Arbab, Lalarukh, Shirin Hassan, and Sarah Anees.  Although these designers are well-established in Pakistan and Dubai, they are not so accessible to Pakistanis living in London. Suzali aims to provide a bridge between renowned Pakistani designers and potential customers in England who have limited access to high-quality Pakistani clothes. Sana Habib, the brainchild of Suzali, was inspired to create the name using the ...

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“Pakistanis are known for taking shortcuts in life” – True or false?

On April 8, 2015, it was reported that blatant acts of cheating were underway during the yearly SSC-I and II examinations in four districts of the upper Sindh. The examinations were being conducted under Secondary Education, Sukkur (BISE) and the Board of Intermediate, Sindh. It was reported to The Express Tribune that about 210 centres had been placed for the examinations in all the four districts. Out of these 210, 174 had been assigned for male candidates while 36 for female candidates. The report suggested that 27 teams of invigilators confirmed 311 students who had cheated in various examination points while five ...

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Aao Parhao – Let’s work towards facilitating our teachers

Education is one of the fundamental foundations for a nation to move forward. For this, various models are being introduced and implemented as the most effective and efficient education systems. However, whichever education equation is opted for, it is worth noting that it cannot be initiated without the most crucial building block – teachers. Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education and author, Joel Klein, observes, “A great teacher can rescue a child from a life of struggle.” This statement could not be any truer. A high-performing, well-trained, and committed teacher can not only enhance a child’s learning abilities but can ...

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Street Child World Cup 2014: We gave our street children nothing but they made us proud!

As Owais Ali lined up to face India in Pakistan’s opening match of the Street Child World Cup, 2014, his life must have flashed before him. Here he was standing up for the national anthem in Rio de Janeiro in a prestigious football competition but just some time ago, things had been different. Very different. Like so many others on the cruel streets of Karachi, hustling, doing drugs or simply trying to survive on a daily basis, Owais too thought he would waste away his life and succumb to the fact that he ran away from home at the age of seven after ...

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Have the British Council and CIE become moneymaking machines?

Recently, the British Council of Pakistan dropped an email saying that I was required to visit its office to collect my Cambridge International Examination (CIE) certificate. As the scheduled time clashed with my university hours, it was almost impossible for me to go myself. However, when my mom called the office to ask if she could come and collect it for me instead, the person answering the phone said, “No. Your daughter will have to come and collect it herself. We need her identification card. We are not dispatching the results this year.” I had no choice; I direly needed my ...

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Lessons from the past: The O-Level retake is in your benefit

Every teenager who took Part 1 of his or her O-level exams this year is in a state of shock. The British Council has announced “a breach of security”. Because of a few low cheats, all students will have to retake their Pakistan Studies and Islamiyat Papers in ten days time. Reactions range from anger to hysteria to downright depression. Leaks are hardly new. The Matric Board exams are challenged with accusations of cheating every year and there is no doubt that the results from some centres are highly suspect. One senior citizen recalls being woken up by classmates the ...

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