Although learning is a top priority for families in Pakistan, some 20 million school-age children across the country do not receive even basic education. And those that are able to attend school face an educational system beset by many challenges.
“There is increasing concern about the quality of basic education in Pakistan,” says EDC’s Helen Kamal, an expert in curriculum and professional development. “For those children in school—only around 60 percent at the primary level—learning outcomes have been really low. There are many reasons for this, but poor quality teaching is often cited as one of them.”
Pakistani leaders, together with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), decided to reform teacher education in colleges and universities, and the USAID Teacher Education Project was born.
Working with the Higher Education Commission and provincial governments in Pakistan, the project is helping to design and introduce a four-year teacher B.Ed (Hons) Elementary degree, and to put policies and plans in place that will improve teacher education. To date, the new degree has been rolled out in 45 colleges and 12 universities across the country.
“Most teachers in Pakistan are dedicated to their work,” says Kamal. “They care about their students and their own ability to teach. The project is designed to help elevate teaching as a profession by giving it a proper degree.”
The program is helping the teacher-educators develop knowledge and skills that will help their students, who will someday be teaching in elementary grades in Pakistani classrooms. Student teachers are experiencing active learning approaches, such as class or group discussions and science investigations, which they will be able to use when they start teaching children.
“We [teachers and students] have become more engaged due to the use of active learning strategies in our classrooms,” says Shehnaz Rafique, a teacher-educator from a college in Balochistan. “This was not so when we were delivering lectures and dictating notes for examinations.”
A practicum, where student teachers try out newly learned techniques, provides valuable, real-life classroom experience says Kamal. “The practicum is a very important part of the new degree program for student teachers. We want to help new teachers learn what teaching and learning looks and feels like in the classroom.”
This summer, the first group of teachers who have studied under the project’s teacher-educators will graduate. “You see how receptive children are when they’re in school. If they get a good teacher—they’re off to a good start,” says Kamal. “If the project can make sure those good teachers are there in both urban and rural classrooms, this will be a huge step forward for Pakistan.”