June 13, 2012
EDC and Teachers College, Columbia University, are hosting a visit this month by high-ranking Pakistani education officials and provincial leaders. The educators have been visiting U.S. elementary and high school classrooms, meeting with teacher leaders, and examining various aspects of the U.S. higher education system, including education research, school-university and community college-university linkages, accreditation procedures, and the use of standards-based assessment for pre- and in-service teachers.
“We have picked up so many good ideas, had a chance to meet with other professionals doing similar work, and we’ve been able to sit together and do the full spectrum of planning we need to do—from staffing to infrastructure to budgets,” says Maryam Rab, one of the founders of the Fatima Jinnah Women’s University in Punjab. “It has been incredibly worthwhile.”
The visit to New York City and Washington, D.C., is part of the USAID Teacher Education Project , a five-year, $75 million project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to professionalize Pakistan’s teachers and significantly upgrade the quality of education in the nation’s primary and secondary schools.
As part of the effort, EDC has been working with Teachers College to create a 136-credit, four-year undergraduate teaching degree and a two-year associate’s teaching degree. The program will include a nationally-approved curriculum and provide resources for a formalized field of education research in Pakistan. “This is the only program in Pakistan focused on pre-service teacher education,” says Gita Steiner-Khamsi, professor of education at Teachers College.
A primary goal of the U.S. study tour is for the delegation, which includes nearly 25 university deans, college faculty, and provincial education officials from Pakistan, to refine their strategic plans for upgrading the training and certification of teachers in their country. According to EDC’s Mahmood Butt, that upgrade is long overdue.
“We are in the midst of an educational emergency,” says Butt. “There are 7 million children who are not in school. Fifty percent of all students drop out of school between grades 1 and 3. In addition, 55 percent of children completing grade 5 cannot read a story at grade 2 level. And because of population growth, Pakistan is also one of the few nations in the world where illiteracy is on the rise.”
Butt links these problems directly to the state of teacher preparation in his country, describing the current system as a mix of programs that award teaching certificates to teachers who themselves lack the necessary educational background. In addition, their knowledge of what constitutes good teaching practice is long out of date. Overall, it is estimated that 70 percent of Pakistan’s 1.3 million primary and secondary school teachers are considered inadequately prepared for the job.