A new focus on education in Pakistan promises to improve instruction for millions of students, from Karachi to Islamabad. And it is changing the lives of the very teachers who will be at the front of the country’s classrooms.
At the root of this change are two new degree programs. The first is the new Associate’s Degree in Education (ADE), which gives aspiring educators a professional avenue to pursue their dream of teaching. The other is the improved Bachelor of Education (Hons.) Elementary degree [B.Ed. (Hons.)]—the equivalent of a master’s degree. They are both supported by the USAID Teacher Education Project, an ambitious $75 million effort that also focuses on strategic planning, college improvement, and curriculum development.
So far, the project has been a success. And in recruiting interested educators from all stations of life, the project has helped create a new cadre of teachers throughout Pakistan, all turning to education to pursue a better life.
Changing Mindsets about Learning
Imran Ali Mallah has swapped fishing nets for pencil and paper as the tools of his trade.
“I know the pain and suffering that comes along with poverty,” says the former fisherman. “The ADE program has been a source of inspiration.”
Imran worked along the Indus River seven days a week, struggling to make ends meet despite long hours pulling up nets. Seeing an advertisement for the ADE program convinced him that education could help him take another path.
Despite some hardships—not the least of which was a four-hour commute to class—Imran enrolled and will graduate with a teaching degree. He hopes that his experience will help young people value education.
“Changing the mindset of the youth toward learning and success is very important for the citizens of our country,” he says. “It enables personal growth. I hope to pass on this beacon of knowledge.”
A New Way of Teaching
For students such as Imran, the ADE program is opening doors of opportunity and hope. And for Pakistan at large, the program is reforming teacher education through a new focus on modern teaching methods, accountability, and professionalism.
Shehnaz Rafique is working toward a four-year B.Ed. (Hons.) degree through the USAID Teacher Education Program. Before enrolling, she was bothered by the skills of Pakistan’s up-and-coming teachers. She wondered whether Pakistan had structures in place to educate new teachers adequately. “My answer was ‘No,’” Shehnaz says, emphatically.
But upon entering class, Shehnaz found that stale lectures had largely been replaced by lively discussions and cooperative learning activities. She was impressed.
“I am so thankful for the capacity building, the resources, the support, the exposure, the experience of developing course curriculum, the plans that we developed for each session, the innovative teaching ideas, and the clear vision and direction we were given,” Shehnaz says. “The program has completely transformed my teaching and learning techniques.”
Increasing Access to Education
The ADE program is also providing opportunities where none existed.
“Reaching college was beyond my imagination,” says Hakeema Gul. One of 11 children in her family, Hakeema believed that she was destined to work in the fields like other girls in her region.
But since she was young, Hakeema had dreamed of pursuing a different line of work. “I would idolize the primary school teachers who had taught me,” she recalls. “I wished to become like them one day.”
Enrolling in the ADE program enabled Hakeema to pursue her goal.
One of the biggest obstacles Hakeema faced was not having a command of English. ADE teachers helped her by translating materials from English to Sindhi. Now in her third semester, Hakeema can read and write English unassisted. Her hard work is paying off—soon she will be able to achieve her goal of becoming a teacher.
She hopes to use what she has learned to pave the way to a brighter future for others in her village. “I would love to teach at my village,” she says, “so that I can share the benefits of what I have learned.”
Originally published on September 19, 2012