Teachers can make a difference
July 2009: With every single component of society struggling to keep itself on track, it is
basically illogical to expect that education - or, for that matter, any other
single unit - will lift itself out of the morass on its own. It just can't
happen. The vision and commitment of the leadership are two vital ingredients
for any turnaround, but that have been precisely the two factors missing from
Having said that, it does not absolve individuals of their
duty to act responsibly in their respective professional domains. Teachers are
no exception to this simple rule. Everyone knows that the system doesn't work in
both its specific and wider meanings. Going a step further, it is part of
everyone's belief that it is pointless to even expect the system to function
with any semblance of professionalism. Despite all its ills, woes and maladies,
however, the system does not forbid a teacher to teach properly. Does it?
There may be an argument about teachers facing problems in a rural
setting, but by and large it is the teacher himself who is either interested in
or indifferent towards doing the job properly. In this specific context, the
failure of the system is in terms of its inability to enforce accountability on
individuals. The system does not encourage the teacher to do it right. In fact,
it is not too wrong to say that the system does not even require the teacher to
do it right. But if someone decides to do it right on his own, the system does
not come in the way. Does it?
When it comes to the examination part of
the education cycle, there are indeed pressures that a teacher has to face. From
schools to universities, the pressures are different at different tiers, but
they are there and teachers have to put up with it. However, when it comes to
the core issue of classroom teaching, there is nothing that stops a teacher from
being at least good, if not dynamic.
Apart from the missing
accountability factor and the general indifference that has come to characterise
our national life, there is one obvious reason behind the decline of the
standard of teaching. The mere fact that teaching is not a profession of choice
explains to a large extent why things are the way they are. For the last few
decades, teachers have failed to be role models for their students. No one, as
such, aspires to be part of the academia.
The low wage structure only
adds to the problem. Lack of opportunities in other, more lucrative areas push
individuals into the black hole of teaching and once there, they tend to spend
more time grumbling over one thing or the other than actually picking up and
honing teaching skills.
The problem, by the way, is not specific to
Pakistan or even the Third World. It seems universal. In the United States, for
instance, a large number of teachers leave the profession after just one, two,
or three years of teaching. Almost one out of every two new teachers leaves the
classroom by the end of five years. This is chaotic for school administrators,
but it is the students who suffer the most with when they are left with
inexperienced, unseasoned teachers year after year.
confirms that students who have an ineffective teacher during any given year may
test as much as one year behind peers taught by a more effective teacher. Those
unfortunate enough to have weak teachers for three or more years in a row may
never catch up.
The vital difference between this universal pattern and
the problem in countries like Pakistan is that in the advanced world, the
teachers for whom it is not a profession of choice use it as a transit phase and
move on to other areas when an opportunity comes their way. In contrast, people
who take up teaching here stick to it because they are generally not good enough
for other, more competitive areas. This basically means that such individuals -
and there are hundreds of thousands of them across the land - spread their
ignorance, incompetence, lassitude and mindset in society for the rest of their
lives.Forget the state-run schools for they are bad enough to be kept out of
this discussion, or, looking at it from the other angle, so important that they
deserve to have an independent scrutiny of their mechanics and dynamics. The
private-sector entities that charge a fee that is good enough for the owners to
pay proper wages to the teaching staff and yet earn them a fantastic profit,
fail to deliver because of the voracious fiscal appetite of the investors who
are always busy finding a location for their next campus rather than in
improving standards at the existing ones.
At the intermediate level, the
scene shifts to the tuition centres. The same bunch of sleepy teachers with a
couldn't-care-less attitude wake up in the evenings and become good enough for
the students to at least depend on them.
The fun doesn't stop once you
enter the realm of higher education. Teaching at the university level in
Pakistan is nothing more than a pastime for most of the faculty members.
Exceptions, rare as they are, aside, the junior ones do not have enough in them
to be effective. The senior ones carrying the doctorate chip on their shoulders
spend much of their time conducting workshops, addressing seminars, attending to
their administrative assignments and so on. The more dynamic of the seniors
become members of the various government committees on education reforms and
spend time visiting foreign shores for lectures and fellowships. But classroom
teaching? That features at the bottom rung of their priority ladder, if at
all.As far as natural sciences go, things are said to be slightly better because
teaching entails theories, formulas and equations that teachers talk about. When
it comes to social sciences and liberal arts, things tend to take a turn for the
worse. The reason is simple: these are disciplines that have human beings lying
at the heart. Howsoever hard one may try to focus on the theories, the
complexity of the human mind is too enormous to be covAs the teacher learns and
evolves, so does the community...
ered by them. It is only by
encouraging the students to think that one can hope to have an aware citizenry
at some point in time. But classroom teaching at the university level is often
not geared to serve that purpose.
The crux of the argument is that
regardless of the tier of education and without any consideration to the
constraints of the system, individuals can do better if they so wish. If you are
doing a job, you might as well do it properly; at least to the best of your
capacity. The concept of converting educational institutions into learning
communities is not a new phenomenon. Floated by Professor Tom Sergiovanni back
in 1993, it has come a long way in the last decade-and-a-half. While it is
implemented by the respective administrations in a number of countries, the
module does have the potential for individuals to make a start on their own
without having to wait for the authorities to make a decision on their behalf.
The pattern of learning community is basically about giving a new
orientation to the role of the school and the teacher in the overall scheme of
things. It emphasises the need to make schools a community of learners rather
than teachers and students, arguing that as the teacher learns and evolves, so
does the community.
The conventional system dates back more than a 100
years to the Industrial revolution when schools were established using the
metaphor of the school as a factory with organisational bureaucracy as its main
characteristic. The fresh approach rejects the traditional top-down and
quick-fix approaches to teacher development, favouring, instead, a field-based
and bottom-up strategy.
Lying at the core of the concept is the belief
that teachers should become researchers in their own classrooms, and contribute
to self-development and school improvement. It encourages teachers to stop being
scared of having to say "I don't know", which in the traditional mould happen to
be a much-dreaded proposition.
The idea has challenged, reconstructed
and transformed the whole grammar of schooling wherever it has been practised
with a sense of purpose. There is no reason why it should be any different in
our context. Individuals can start it on their own provided they are willing. As
the cliché goes, even the longest journey begins with the first step. It is a
journey that holds much promise, but only for those who may dare to travel. -By Humair Ishtiaq (Dawn)
"IT IS GOOD NEW FOR FATA AND POOR STUDENT becauese education playing a rules like back bone in country and all life .i apricate with those athurity hom arranged this programme. "
Name: aziz ul haq
City, Country: Bajaur PAKISTAN
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