The very backbone of any nation, whether developed or developing, its education system, 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 education, experience, job satisfaction, security and incentives are key factors effecting the performance of teachers. As far as job satisfaction, security and incentives are concerned, these are somewhat related with the monetary affairs and budgetary plans of the government. Education and experience, on the other hand, is something that can be worked upon. That’s where the various teacher training courses and degree programmes come in.
These courses and programmes range from three-month diploma courses to full-fledged Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education and even MS/MPhil and PhD degrees for research purposes in the field. Universities are the biggest stakeholders in this endeavour. Though the universities are doing well in this regard, a change is still required in order to make future teachers fully compatible with the needs and requirements of the new era.
The National Professional Standards for Teachers in Pakistan has a total 10 standards each of which comprises three equally important parts: knowledge (what the teacher knows), disposition (the teacher’s behaviour, attitudes and values) and performance (what the teacher can do and should be able to do).
Let us now take a brief look at what these standards are with special reference to our local setting. Firstly, the teacher must possess subject-matter knowledge. He or she should be able to apply it efficiently and effectively in whatever setting/situation he comes up with. Following the traditional syllabi the potential teachers are heavily burdened with theoretical subject-matter knowledge and since there is a lack of practical work so they are unable to apply the acquired knowledge in varying situations.
The second standard is human growth and development something which is highly important in the teaching-learning process. The teacher should not only be well acquainted with the basic concepts of educational psychology, developmental phases and their requirements, principles of development, development factors, individual differences, etc., he or she should also be in a sound position to apply the theories, conditions and laws of learning and motivation in an actual classroom setting. The actual situation in this regard is quite different and the teachers cannot do so as they are just being taught theoretically.
The third standard is regarding knowledge of Islamic ethical values/social life skills. The teacher should be well-versed with these and be able to educate the pupils about the ethical values and life skills. But in the absence of practical work, life skills are somewhat extinct among teachers and there is a huge contradiction between the teacher’s words and actions which in turn affects the students’ attitude and behaviour.
The next standard is related to the use of proper instructional planning and strategies. The teacher must not only know the importance of planning the lesson, pedagogy and strategies. He or she should also be well-acquainted with all the teaching aids that can help in achieving the objectives of a lesson. But in practice the situation is quite discouraging as even after completion of their teaching training, the teachers are unaware of the use of overhead projectors (OHPs) and multimedia projectors. This is just because they are being heavily dosed with theory and not practice. Where these student-teachers are personally willing to use these gadgets to gain experience, they are being stopped from doing so on the pretext of the gadgets being fragile and costly.
The fifth is the assessment standard which means that the teacher should know the significance of assessment and different assessment techniques and methods. He or she should not show favouritism while assessing any of the students but the fact of the matter is quite contradictory to the standard.
The next standard deals with learning environment. The teacher should be well-acquainted with the meaning of learning, learning theories and other related concepts. He or she should at the same time take certain measures to create a learning and knowledge-sharing environment, not only within the classroom but outside of it as well. But here the teacher’s sole emphasis seems to be on the cramming factor.
Communication is another factor in National Professional Standards, which means that the teacher should not only know the basic concepts related to communication. He or she should also be able to use it effectively and efficiently.
The teacher is supposed to collaborate with certain professional development organisations in order to get updated about the new and most modern Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and trends occurring in the field of education and research. Here as well the situation unfortunately is not that encouraging.
In light of the above mentioned standards, this is the right time to replace the traditional instructional and teaching methodologies with new and modern techniques and pedagogical skills.
There is a dire need to update the course outlines of the corresponding subjects as well by discarding the sole emphasis on theoretical knowledge in order to give the future teachers more exposure to practice and action research.
These professional standards must be considered while updating the course outlines because they serve as a blueprint and give us an insight on how and to which direction a prospective teacher should be trained.
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. All these standards must be incorporated in them through the course content and they should be given complete autonomy to use each and every gadget which would aid them in gaining personal experience and lesson objectives in the actual classroom.
The component of teaching practice serves the basis for sensitising and experiencing the prospective teachers about their work. But unfortunately the duration of teaching practice is very little, i.e., 40 days at the most in the Master’s degree of education.
Since teaching cannot be learned theoretically and is rather a skill which gets strengthened through practice the duration of teaching practice should be increased up to six months for the Master’s degree and three months for Bachelor’s in education.
These feats would definitely pave the way in improving our educational system, which would ultimately lead to progress and prosperity of the motherland.
The writer is a lecturer at Government Degree College, Sohawa, Jhelum