Home Global Village Piecing together Pakistan’s education puzzle

Piecing together Pakistan’s education puzzle


Maha Dania Qazi |

If we wish to accomplish progress in the education sector a major part of the effort should be to make teacher training compulsory. Only then can teaching as a profession make its contribution to meeting the challenges of the 21stcentury. This applies to schools in both the government and private sectors.

A World Bank study (2007) shows a significant correlation between the quality of education during school years and the quality of economic growth and social security. The quality of an individual teacher does not depend on just having so many years of teaching experience. It depends as much or more on the individual teacher having training and qualifications in the field of teaching.

The government has been trying to achieve the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by prioritizing equitable quality education and to increase the supply of qualified teachers by 2030.

For this to happen on a national scale it will be important to develop a culture that prioritizes the hiring of individuals of merit and quality over other more subjective considerations. Wherever subjective or arbitrary criteria are used for the selection and appointment of teachers the standards of teaching and education accordingly suffer. The longer-term costs of this for society are very considerable.

The provision of good quality education at affordable cost, especially in a developing country, is a basic governmental obligation. Unfortunately, in Pakistan decent levels of school education – that equip children for the challenges of today – are only available in some private schools. The fee structures of these schools, however, rule out children from poorer families availing of better educational services. Moreover, many private schools avoid hiring qualified and trained teachers in order to increase their profits. There are, however, a few private schools that conduct in house teacher training such as Beaconhouse.

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The government has been trying to achieve the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by prioritizing equitable quality education and to increase the supply of qualified teachers by 2030. The problem has been the attitude of private school owners and their senior management staff who often look upon the provision of primary and secondary education as a private profit-making business rather than a social and public obligation.

There is one piece that is essential to secure a job and that space is reserved for the favored. Accordingly, to save costs there is a tendency to underrate the need to have professionally trained teachers who will have to be paid decent salaries. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken note of this situation. The government has often spoken of an education revolution.

If the country is to survive this is unacceptable. Enrollment of school-age children must reach as close to 100 percent as quickly as possible. There is no higher national priority.

Bridging the educational gap has assumed the status of an urgent national priority given the ticking time bomb of population increase and climate change. The future of Pakistan will depend on harnessing the potential of Pakistan’s biggest asset, its children and youth.

Parents of school going children should demand the constitutional right of all Pakistanis to a decent education and at the same time be cognizant of the challenges and adopt new modes of thinking alongside schools. Parents and educators need to encourage technical education as early as elementary school to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It is good that robotics as a subject has been introduced in some private schools but streamlining education across the board should be a priority, as well as trained instructors who can keep students engaged and on task.

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According to Pakistan’s National Education Policy (2018), one of the biggest challenges facing the country is out of school children who are estimated to number around 22.5 million. If the country is to survive this is unacceptable. Enrollment of school-age children must reach as close to 100 percent as quickly as possible. There is no higher national priority.

The Prophet (SAW) said: Seek education, even if it be from China!

Recommendations
  1. Create opportunities and allocate resources to provide training courses to school teachers for early childhood and adolescent education and development. Such courses should include a range of ideas, concepts, and collaborative activities to get teachers engaged with curriculum and materials. One of the big challenges is that few teachers have been trained to know how to engage students in the curriculum or materials at their disposal.
  2. Teachers need external support and mentors as they begin their teaching in a new environment to help them succeed. There is ample empirical research evidence that shows students achievement is significantly related to the professional preparation of teachers.
  3. Even in private schools the number of students far exceeds the desired norm of 14 to 15 students per classroom. This is because of the tendency to maximize profits at the expense of the quality and quantity of attention received by each student. A government that claims to give priority to education must address this situation through laws and regulations.
  4. Similarly, government schools must raise the salary of the teachers while ensuring they are fully trained. Their training should, in addition, be upgraded on a five-year basis with certification of upgrading made mandatory at the end of their training. This would enable teachers to market their services at different schools and raise the overall quality of education. Currently, teachers in the government sector are given security of employment irrespective of competence and training. In return, they are paid minimum salaries. This is exploitation, not education. Students and their families suffer as a result of this state of affairs.
  5. Establish monitoring mechanisms to assess reforms at schools, and provide feedback to civil society, schools, and government policymakers.
  6. Teacher training programs should enable teachers to understand different learning methods as all children do not learn in the same way. Teachers need to have a general awareness of a child’s brain, physical growth, and activities involving imagination linked to problem-solving. In Elementary school and Middle school years, boys generally like to participate in group games and learn the rules, whereas girls tend to use physical and social skills.
  7. Prioritize a curriculum that contributes to general education and economic productivity. This is in consonance with the National Education Policy (2018) where the government seeks to prioritize skills-based education to ensure better job opportunities for citizens in the future.
  8. Donors should be encouraged to focus more on training teachers and establishing polytechnics for skills-based learning and IT, rather than solely building facilities and schools.
  9. Salary and grade increases should be tied to experience, upgraded qualifications and objectively assessed performance. Teachers have traditionally had an honored place in our society. But today this is more fiction than fact. Their status needs to be restored in a 21st-century environment which requires teachers to have access to modern methods of training and standards of professionalism. For this to be possible informed public opinion and organized lobbying by parents and experts will be essential.

Maha Dania Qazi is a teacher, writer, and poet. She can be contacted at mahadania@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.