Good teachers needed / EDITORIAL

Uniform syllabi, greater access to schools, ghost teachers and missing facilities at schools are some of the issues that exercise the minds of those in policy making positions in the government when they sit down to discuss the state of education and propose new initiatives. Rarely, if ever, does the quality of teaching in the nation’s classrooms come under discussion.
Three cheers therefore for Syed Murad Ali Shah, who, at a recent meeting, brought up the issue of professional quality among primary and secondary school teachers. The Sindh chief minister also highlighted the need for a sharp focus on training of public school teachers. He told the authorities concerned to accommodate in other wings the teachers who did not show the adequate skills and aptitude for teaching.The chief minister is spot on. The quality of our teachers is the most pressing issue in education today. Unfortunately, this is also one of the least-invested areas in the education sector.
Only a few months ago, there were reports of hundreds of public school teachers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa opting for early retirement for lacking the skills necessary to deliver lessons in English. The example showed once again how government policies are framed, often without an adequate realization of the teachers’ capacity. The KP government changed the medium of instruction for public schools classrooms four years ago, apparently without much homework and necessary training for its teachers. Opinions on the issue of medium of classroom instruction vary in the public as well as among experts. The mass exit of KP teachers, however, brought the pedagogy issue to centre stage. Apparently this is also happening in Sindh.
Basic facilities and a sound curriculum do set the right tone for learning goals, but in the end it is the teachers who help the learners achieve the desired objectives. The teachers have done the nation a great service by keeping the public schools functional and maintaining the minimum retention levels, often by putting in their best efforts. The authorities’ lack of interest in continuous professional development of teachers has been a serious curb on their contribution.
It remains to be seen what measures the provincial governments take for improvements in teaching quality. Utmost care is needed to make a turnaround in the learning standards, which have hardly shown any improvement in the annual assessment reports by Alif Ailaan and Agahi. The provinces probably also need to devise new recruitment policies so that teachers are recruited on the basis of teaching skills, conceptual clarity, and aptitude for teaching. The practice these days is to go by academic record and a test given by the National Testing Services.
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