Group Brings Science to Pakistani Classrooms

University of Calgary
Student Contributor


I usually write about the local events happening around the U of C campus for geology and geophysics students, but because our activities are just getting underway, I thought I would also share with you my experience with the Foundational Learning for the Economic Empowerment of Women Program.

My involvement began with a summer job at Spectrum Seismic, and my bosses were nice enough to let me take advantage of a volunteer teaching opportunity in Pakistan. I was based in the city of Lahore, where I taught math and physics to 35 students – who did not have even a basic understanding of concepts.

Top, Pakistani girls, generally in their mid-teens, came from the city and the countryside for classes; bottom, members of the mathematics and physics curriculum development team.

When I arrived in Lahore, I learned that half my students were locals from the city, and half were brought by bus from little villages in interior Punjab. After the first day of classes, I knew I had to split my class into two groups: one English-speaking, and one that needed Urdu translation.

After myriad preliminary problems were addressed, I found it enjoyable to teach these students. I especially had fun with the physics labs, among them the running races lab, which demonstrated the concept of velocity.

It was interesting to experience the different challenges in learning that rarely exist in Canada. For example, in Pakistan there is a big emphasis placed on memorization, so I had to spend a lot of time teaching students how to apply their knowledge to other problems.

Results Prove Program’s Worth
I covered as much of the curriculum that I could, but I put an emphasis on teaching the basics of each module to ensure that students had a firm grasp of these concepts.

I saw positive results for most of the students. We gave the same assessment exam before and after the program; for comparison purposes.

One student went from a score of 8/45 to 33/45! Seeing this kind of improvement was rewarding.

Some of the challenges went beyond the classroom. I was sick off and on, for example, but nothing too serious – only the usual problems that you have to expect when staying in a developing country for a period of time.

The people were wonderful, and the students showed us a lot of respect. I felt that by helping out what little I could, I gave back to the world a bit of what I have taken from it. We are so fortunate here in Canada to have a good education system, and so many opportunities.

You cannot save the world – this was not my intention – but you can make a small difference if you try. This is what the whole group did, not only the instructional team, but also all the people on the curriculum development team and all our sponsors. As partners in world development, we helped make a difference in 150 individual lives.

We all hope these young women will take this as a first step, and pursue their education ambitiously. But even if they do not, I am certain that they will send their own children to the best schools possible, and encourage their children to pursue a good education.

Afshan Kaba is a geophysics student at the University of Calgary. For more information or to get involved, contact her at or visit the Women’s Mathematics Enhancement website at

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