A teacher's freedom
Sep 3: In almost every seminar and conference on education
there is a common note of dissatisfaction with the quality of education. A
number of reasons are given which are responsible for the decline in standards
of education. Similarly a number of projects have been launched to improve the
quality of education. The ultimate outcome of most of these initiatives,
however, is not very significant. It is relevant to understand the common notion
of quality in education. For instance it is useful to know what common masses
think about a quality school.
A very common notion of a quality school is
the school that shows good results. The school that gets maximum number of A
grades is considered to be a quality school. Another criterion of a quality
school among the masses is its 'Englishness'. Fluency of English language in a
certain accent impresses the parents and tends to believe it an important
criterion of quality school. Similarly the exterior and interior of campus is
also considered as an important factor for a quality school.
the above factors are not only considered important by parents but also by our
policy makers. So, one can see the obsession with English in our educational
system. To improve the quality of education the whole emphasis is gone to the
introduction of English from class one. The ministry of education believes that
by making this announcement would resolve all our educational problems.
Similarly the government has decided to encourage certain schools and
teachers for their performance. The only criterion of the performance of a
teacher and school is the result of students. If a school has shown a large
number of A grades it is considered as a good school. Similarly a teacher is
considered good teacher if s/he shows good results.
It is important to
note that common misnotions about quality school are also cherished by the
policy makers at higher level. Most of the initiatives to 'improve schools' are
to do with results of a school or construction work of school, or putting extra
emphasis on fluent English with special accent. This notion of quality of
education and school is incomplete, misleading, and therefore na´ve. It confines
the view of education and curtails its objectives.
This notion of
quality, however, is very popular among the policy makers and administrators as
it is relatively easy to demonstrate. Therefore most of the governmental and NGO
efforts are geared towards the external aspects of quality as they are
quantifiable. A large segment of educational system is based on private
enterprises where the above discussed attributes of quality are practiced and
demonstrated as a matter of pride. Private educational institutions are largely
modeled on corporate sector.
In private educational institutions fluency
of English language is considered as a synonym to competence. Fluent spoken
English is viewed as a major criterion in hiring of faculty in private schools.
Similarly an attractive fašade is preferred on the essence of the educational
institution. A superficial aura of efficiency is created to impress the
visitors. In most of the initiatives to improve quality of education the role of
teacher is not appreciated properly. Our assessment system and our corporatized
version of educational institutions have drastically reduced the creative role
of teacher. The ponderous corporate structure has forced the teachers to believe
that they are helpless creature who is there as consumers and implementers of
A number of ways are used to stifle the individual freedom of
teachers. Multiple levels of monitoring are in action. Some of them are
legitimized and visible but some of them are invisible and unethical. The
pressure of invisible monitoring that you are watched is tremendous. This
cripples the creativity of teachers. In the wake of excessive 'classroom
observations' the teachers tend to engage into socially desirable activities to
satisfy the 'observers'. Another popular trend in chain private schools is to
provide readymade lesson plans to the teachers with the expectation that they
should be followed religiously. Using lesson plans, made my somebody else, in
diverse contexts is tantamount to underestimating the significance of context on
the one hand and on the other hand individuality of the teacher.
source of scare which has a direct impact on teachers' individual freedom is the
state of uncertainty of their job. This uncertainty emerges from short term
contracts for the teachers. This uncertainty about the jobs keeps the teachers
'on toes' and they keep on doing this work in school putting their head down.
The suppression of their own voice demotivate the teachers and whole teaching
process turns into a mechanical activity.
In a typical private school
culture teachers are exploited in terms of heavy work load and unjustifiably low
salaries. For instance the number of copies checked by the teachers, the number
of classes taught by them, and the co-curricular activities organized and
supervised by them are some of the responsibilities a teacher expected to carry
out. This is a typical exploitation of labour model of neoliberalism.
status of teachers in a typical private school is not certain. A head clerk or
secretary, they are close to the corridors of power enjoyed by administration,
enjoy more prestige than the teachers as. It is interesting bust sad to observe
that how a clerk in administration wield his/her power on the teachers. This
situation leads to a feeling of helplessness and teachers' self image gets
tarnished. Teachers in such a scenario do not try to move beyond the track
determined by the administration as it is the only safe way to
To bring a meaningful change in this situation we need to
revisit our notions of quality education and quality schools. The policy makers
need to know that results and school building are important but the main actors
engaged in the process, i.e., teachers are of central importance. The idea of
school improvement remains incomplete if the whole emphasis is laid on just
institutional development and personal professional development of teachers is
ignored. The institutional and personal development are complementary to each
other and go hand in hand.
The professional empowerment of teachers
ensures an effective process of teaching and learning. The policy makers need to
realize that process is as important as product. To make this process more
effective and meaningful it is important that teachers are provided spaces to
exercise their academic freedom and it is only possible when they are viewed as
change agents and not mere salespersons catering to the needs of
Dr Shahid Siddiqui: The writer is a professor and director of the Centre for
Humanities & Social Sciences at the Lahore School of Economics. Email:
shahidksiddiqui@ yahoo.com (The News)
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