TEACHER TRAINING: VALUE ADDED OR MONEY WASTED?

NUSRAT KHURSHEDI 
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

July 9 - 15, 20
12

Education plays a vital role in human capital formation. It raises the productivity and efficiency of individuals and thus produces skilled work force that is capable of leading the economy towards the path of sustainable economic development. That's why the very backbone of any nation, whether developed or developing in the present world, is its education system; it can be a valuable tool for providing insight into the level and extent of progress and development in the country. And, the teacher happens to be one of the core elements of the education system.

The importance of teachers is especially enormous during the formative years of children when they first join school. Therefore, it is very important to have professionally qualified teachers to ensure the right development of students. However, the quality of teachers, which is a key factor in any education system, is poor in Pakistan. The main reason is the low level of educational qualifications required to become a primary school teachers, which include ten years of schooling and an eleven month certificate program. It has been established through various studies that pupil achievement is closely related to the number of years of formal schooling of teachers. Thus, students of teachers with 12 years of schooling perform better than students of matriculate (10 years education) teachers, who in turn perform better than students of teachers with only grade eight qualifications.

The second factor relates to the quality of teacher certification programs, which suffers from the lack of adequately trained master trainers. It is the most basic standards for judging whether it improves the quality of teaching and the academic achievement of students.

Generally, federal and provincial governments provide in-service training courses for teachers, most of which have no demonstrable impact on teaching methods or student achievement. The provinces consider those holding certificates trained teachers and give them priority in hiring. They call those with no certificate untrained teachers. Trained teachers can be promoted to higher grades while untrained teachers are usually frozen at the rank at which they entered.

For last 64 years, the education system of Pakistan didn't get much benefit as other countries improve their education system with the help of trained teachers. The weak impact of certification programs in Pakistan have various reasons like the selection and qualification of the trainees, the principals and instructors qualification, the curriculum, teaching methods, behaviour during examinations, buildings, and weak leadership.

To enter training programs preparing candidates for the credential needed to teach in primary schools, the primary teaching certificate (PTC), applicants normally must have completed matriculation. The next credential, the certificate of teaching (CT), requires an FA or FSc. The bachelor of education or master of education, teaching certificates granted by universities, comes after a prior university degree such as the bachelor or master of arts. How a matric passed can serve the nation's future generation.

Along this, many candidates for teacher training enter certification programs because they can find no better job, through political connections, or both. They show little enthusiasm for teaching and weak motivation to study during training. Their academic background leaves them ill-prepared for their studies. Some cannot speak or write Urdu, the language used in class and in the textbooks. A few enter thoroughly committed to teaching and keep that commitment throughout the program. But, most find certification programs a time to be endured rather than an occasion to learn.

Even, the condition of these colleges and institutions principals and resource persons are also not up to mark. The provinces have no organized programs to develop the capacity of instructors and principals at teacher training institutes. They treat them as fully-formed professionals who need no special attention and no chances to improve their knowledge. Nor do they have a career ladder for principals and instructors at those institutes. As a result, many staff feels alienated, isolated, and trapped in a profession that has little impact and leads nowhere.

The success of any school depends heavily on its methods of teaching. Students learn not only from the content presented in lectures, textbooks, and discussions, but from the deepest principles behind the methods used. Instructors in Pakistan's teacher training institutes follow three such principles: teachers should talk, students should listen, and the official curriculum is irrelevant.

Teacher training for science teachers are another joke. In an abandoned classroom, all necessary equipments gathered are covered by dust or locked in cabinets so that they could not be used or stolen. Teachers think that experiments are unnecessary because they could cover the science curriculum perfectly well in their lectures. In science and other fields, they emphasize concepts and theories rather than practical demonstrations.

Examinations in certification programs test the extent to which trainees are able to reproduce the knowledge passed by their instructors. They contain factual and descriptive questions best handled by rote learning and based on the same five years pattern - collect the important questions and cram answers and you can pass the exams very successfully. Trainees who have read and memorized long lists of items from courses will have no trouble answering the questions. The highest ratings go to those who reproduce the best.

Examinations discourage instructors and trainees from applying the concepts they are learning to concrete problems of teaching. It would be a distinct innovation in certification programs to have students discussed what the general principles of teaching mean for such problems as multi-grade classes. They, too, will insist on rote learning, discourage innovation, debate or criticism, and rely on examinations much like those they took in the training college.

Cheating on examinations is common in Pakistani higher education. During the internal examinations, instructors allow male trainees to go into the toilets, where they store their textbooks. They simply walk out with their answer sheets and come back with the answers filled in. Women copy from the person next to them, write answers on chair handles in fine print, write hints and clues on the palms of their hands, whisper to share information, and show each other what they have written.

The buildings within which teacher certification takes place serve as housing for training programs and symbols of their value. The buildings themselves may not directly affect the motivation of the faculty or the quality of instruction they give, but they send signals about how much the instructors, the students, and the certification process are worth.

A cluttered and dirty building does send a message. It tells faculty and students that they do not count enough to have adequate and well maintained space for training. The furniture piled in the halls, the unused science equipments, the library books locked in cabinets, the wires hanging from the ceilings, and the leaky toilet fixtures show staff, students, and visitors the low priority the Pakistan government puts on teacher training.

Certification programs yield such limited results because of their poor quality. Unmotivated faculty and students, inactive principals, a curriculum divorced from the tough realities of teaching, heavy reliance on lecturing, dictation, and rote memorization, cheating on examinations, and a lack of supervision all undercut the ability of certification programs to turn out well-prepared and dynamic teachers.

The future teachers after completing their degrees are considered as a product, which is absolutely final and flawless in the field of teaching and learning. However, due to poor teaching and learning process, the outcome product is not satisfactory. The importance of teacher training cannot be underestimated. The better a teacher is trained, the better he or she can educate tomorrow's generation of Pakistan. Government fulfils its responsibility by allocating limited amount in budget (which covers only salaries and expenditure).

Government should learn that education provides the base for socioeconomic development. An educational system of poor quality may be one of the most important reasons why poor countries do not grow. In Pakistan, the quality of education is on the decline in spite of the fact that the present government has initiated drastic measures in uplifting the quality and quantity of education. Quality of teachers especially at primary level is still questionable. It is evident that without teacher's transformation, we cannot transform the education system for improving the quality of education.