TEACHING is a noble profession. While educators impart knowledge and prepare students for exams, they also inspire and groom young minds for practical life. Many senior and devoted teachers are trusted as policy partners. The profession, however, demands that practitioners gather knowledge and skills and adopt modern methods to have a lasting impact.

This profession, despite being highly valued across the world, has been denied the respect it deserves in Pakistan. Moreover, as compared to medical, engineering, legal and other occupations, teaching is considered a low-wage profession. However, times are changing as, in the past few years, teachers’ salaries and benefits have increased substantially. Hence, it is time that the hackneyed perception prevalent in society changed so that more people become inclined to join this fine force.

It is equally if not more important to remember that the prestige of pedagogy is not linked to financial initiatives alone. The discipline depends on and is synonymous with academic excellence, professional competence, erudition and the commitment of practitioners.

In the past, the remunerations of teachers were admittedly far from decent, yet educators were held in high regard due to their outstanding contributions to society in the form of refined minds as well as professionalism — an aspect absent in present times. As a result, even with an increase in salaries and additional perks, a majority of bright graduates prefer other vocations to teaching.

Authorities must endorse respect for teachers.

Pedagogy requires all aspiring tutors to participate in and clear the teacher education programmes, which includes a two-year Associate Degree in Education, a four-year Bachelor of Education, a two-and-a-half-year B. Ed, another spanning a year-and-half, and a four-year Bachelor of Studies in Education. However, the standard of these programmes varies from institution to institution. This was reflected in the recent and rather dismal results of the teaching licence test conducted at the Sukkur Institute of Business Administration, where a large number of candidates failed.

The Higher Education Commission in Islamabad has formed a National Accreditation Council for Teacher Education. The purpose of this body is to ensure the provision of accreditation through a quality assurance process. But a vast majority of teacher education programmes are still uncertified. On the other hand, the accredited programmes are so substandard that they belong in the lowest of categories — this is sufficient proof that there is a dire need for an extensive review and modernisation of teacher education courses.

Some affiliated colleges in the public sector appear to be reluctant to seek accreditation for their teacher education programmes for various reasons. Their careless attitude has dealt a blow to the quality of these programmes. For one, it has led to poorly trained and incompetent teachers.

Over the years, several attempts have been made to professionalise pedagogy, such as the introduction of a teaching licence. But these attempts have been in vain. Recently, the Sindh government launched a phase-wise teaching licence policy. The step indicates the government’s interest and commitment towards enhancing the standard and position of teaching as a career choice, and has come as a breath of fresh air. In fact, a teaching licence will be awarded by the Sindh Teacher Education Development Authority, making Sindh the first province to take the lead in professionalising teaching with a permit.

While the measure is likely to boost the significance and standard of academic discipline, the provincial government must also increase financial benefits by granting BS-16 to junior elementary school teachers.

Elevating the status of pedagogy is a concerted and collaborative journey undertaken by policymakers, educational institutions, communities and teachers. Some necessary measures comprise changing public perceptions, adequate financial compensation and benefits, and offering professional development opportunities as well as pathways for career advancement.

Moreover, teacher autonomy and empowerment, with superior working conditions, and space for academics in social development — from advocacy, policymaking and reform to sustained community engagement and partnership — guarantee that teachers’ voices will be heard beyond classrooms. But monitoring improvement with evolving methods should not be overlooked.

All stakeholders need to join forces so that an illustrious line of work — pedagogy — can gain the revered status it enjoys all over the globe. For this, the authorities must endorse value and respect for teachers and support their vital role as guides and mediums of learning, social, moral and intellectual development.

As in the case of other professions, it is pivotal for our teaching force to meet international criteria of excellence with a structured and modern approach consisting of social and moral commitment to education and outstanding qualifications. Above all, tutors must have the capacity to take decisions, amplify collective social progress and form associations and institutions. These are demanding conditions and run the risk of alienating many from scholastic pursuits.

Hence, for Pakistan to transform pedagogy into a viable occupation, certain measures must be implemented with urgency: re-evaluate national standards to engage the brightest graduates;, overhaul teacher education — practicum/ clinical component — with opportunities for internship, which sifts out mediocrity and assures meticulous teacher education programmes through accreditation; create a resilient professional development framework that enables teachers to ‘learn to teach’; and remodel pedagogy to respond to emergencies, uncertainties and the digital revolution.

This cannot happen without making the teaching licence — a tool that demonstrates professional merit and steadfastness — obligatory for aspiring instructors. It is the best way to build a community of specialised practitioners in the country.

Once adopted by civil society and policymakers, a comprehensive, contemporary agenda can achieve more than a raised rank for the teaching force. It has the power to instil an idea of how indispensable tutors are to the goals of a society that is enlightened, balanced and harmonious.

The writer is a senior educationist, policy scholar, and researcher.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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