What is the best way to improve Teacher Quality?
In recent times, most of the attention has shifted away from education to the quality of education. Everyone knows that the quality of education provided to our children is generally very poor. We have a large number of test scores that prove this.
It feels like when people apply for ‘teacher’ vacancies, we don’t get to choose good and talented teachers. People apply to teach after completing their studies, so we as teachers have no way of evaluating their experience to determine whether they will be better teachers.
Analytical studies of education make it abundantly clear that selecting candidates based on their educational background and teaching credentials gives very little insight into whether they will be good teachers or not.
Therefore, the quality of teachers cannot be improved even if tests are conducted for the selection of teachers or the educational requirements are increased.
In traditional teacher training programs in Pakistan, everyone was given the same training. When the teachers were involved in the government sector, they were given initial training; the quality of this training had to be such that all teachers could be trained. The quality of initial training has been fairly consistent so far.
Provinces have also initiated a series of professional development programs to support teachers throughout their careers. Initially, training was given to all in an equal manner in the programs.
Through the training, for each subject, deficiencies in the general teaching and learning materials were identified which needed to be reviewed and then efforts were made to address these deficiencies through standardized programs.
Such programs have been going on for years. Their internal and external evaluations revealed that specific weaknesses, classroom practices, and students’ reading performance had limited impact.
To address this issue, Punjab has recently started experimenting with a ‘specialist’ system. This is a step towards an individual level program. By recruiting as many as 20,000 subject matter experts at once, Punjab is bringing the experts closer to the teachers.
How beneficial this program will be cannot be said yet, but some parts of it need to be highlighted.
The subject matter experts who are recruited come from more or less the same background in terms of qualifications as the rest of the teachers, so they may face similar problems.
The quality of subject matter experts will also differ from each other. Quaid-e-Azam Academy for Educational Development, Punjab’s teacher training administration is trying to address this issue through more standardized training modules, which will later be shared with experts.
And then those experts can choose the training modules according to the needs of a particular teacher.
The job program needs to be carefully observed and evaluated. Will it be able to strike a balance between training with individuality and the desired improved quality?
This is an important question that only time will tell. But given the investment in the program, it is important to frequently and rigorously evaluate how the program can be improved over time.
Advancing technology has also illuminated other possibilities. Governments are introducing tablets and computers in schools in all provinces. Thus it becomes possible for teachers to get quality material directly from the internet.
Assessment of teacher needs at the individual level, assessment to ensure the provision of quality materials for improvement is essential to assess whether such initiatives have benefited, and all this can be done via the Internet. We can also think of a hybrid model in which technology is used to support experts and then those same experts then support teachers.
Analytical studies make it clear that good teachers are essential for student learning, but the question is where to get good teachers and how to help them do their teaching work better, because quality Selection of teachers on the basis does not seem possible. We have no way of knowing who is capable of being a good teacher.
I think the only option we have to improve the teaching style of teachers is to train them. Considering the size of the public education system, this is by no means a trivial problem. How can we meet the need for quality improvement in such a large system and the individual needs?
It remains to be seen how beneficial Punjab’s experience in training specialists will be and technology options are yet to be fully explored. So we don’t have any concrete way to solve the problem. Until a concrete approach is found, it seems very difficult to determine how the quality of education in the public sector can be significantly improved.