Teachers are the most important educational resource for students and a critical determinant of education quality. However, in Pakistan, teacher performance remains a concern to many education stakeholders. The key issues include: i) inability of the system to attract and/or retain quality human resource to teaching; ii) the system does not recognize either the teacher or the teacher educator as professionals; iii) although there is general acknowledgement of the weak educational background of teachers and lack of motivation and commitment among them, not enough is done at the policy and particularly at the implementation level to address the situation and establish teaching as a profession of real status; and iv) scaling up and sustainability of quality teacher education programs in Pakistan poses a challenge. Teacher education programs, which focus on quality, are either short lived or small scale. Longer term and large-scale programs, on the other hand, do not address quality.
It is important to focus on teachers’ professional development and policy changes to improve teachers’ performance. Teachers’ performance can be seen as a combination of three fundamentals: (i) competence; (ii) motivation; and (iii) opportunity. Competence, motivation and opportunity are affected by factors from both within and external to the teacher. It is important to identify four levels: teachers, schools, local management, and policy.
Teachers: Pedagogical skills, subject knowledge and professional attitudes are most important for quality teachers. Professional attitudes refers to the teachers’ knowledge of how to be an effective teacher. Subject knowledge is the major constraint to low quality teachers. Unless teachers have sufficient subject knowledge, they are unlikely to use improved teaching skills.
Schools: One single factor which can make a difference to the quality of teaching in a school is a good head teacher. School development processes not only provide additional resources for the school, but also provide an atmosphere of progression and improvement.
Local Management: The interface between the teacher/school and the government is critical to motivation and opportunity. Teachers need to know that their actions will be recognized and rewarded/sanctioned by their employer. Schools need to be confident that attempts to improve will be supported. Local management includes, advisory support, inspection of facilities, teaching and management and delivery of teaching and learning resources.
Policy: Ultimately the procedures adopted for recruitment, posting and transfer and promotion exert the most influence over teachers motivation to perform. Transparent and merit based procedures in this area send a strong signal that other aspects of professional development are taken seriously. Policymakers need to pay closer attention to teacher management policy including the following:
- Career Progression
- Actions to promote the status of teachers
- Assessment/exam policy
- Non-salary expenditure
- Curriculum/instructional approach
Following points are also important as recommendations for policy actions:
- Value teachers as stakeholders in the education process: Involve teachers in planning, designing and decision-making stages in order to ensure successful delivery and implementation of Education policy/reforms.
- Provide teachers with effective support structures, especially leadership and management: Strengthen the relationship between schools and the district education office by conducting more school visits by district staff (followed by feedback to schools) and instituting a faster and more transparent system for dealing with transfers, promotions and postings.
- Enabling conditions for Quality Education: Teacher can only be strong if she/he is enabled to teach well; Quality is only possible with regular monitoring, continuous professional development and support.
· Make teaching a respected and attractive profession for teachers: Address the transportation difficulties faced by teachers in certain areas. The district office could make provisions for a school bus or provide a transport subsidy to teachers. In order to boost morale and to return to the days when teaching was a well-respected profession, find innovative ways to publicly value teachers. For example, provide ‘best teacher’ awards and announce these on the radio; organize annual events, which get teachers and education policy makers from federal, provincial and district levels together, such as World Teachers’ Day.
Overall, to improve education quality, teachers remain the single most important factor. This has to be supplemented by provision of other determinants of quality (textbooks, teaching material etc.). Measures need to be taken to attract more able and qualified people to join teaching profession. It is important to strengthen the relationship between schools and the district education office by conducting more school visits by district staff (followed by feedback to schools) and instituting a faster and more transparent system for dealing with transfers, promotions and postings. Improve teachers’ problem-solving skills and their capacity for critical reflection.