May 28, 2013
L - I - T - E - R - A - C - Y
A group of young, female college students spell out the word with their arms and legs, holding the pose for a quick photograph. They are student teachers in a new Associate Degree in Education (ADE) program at the Government Elementary College of Education for Women (GECE[W]) in Hyderabad, Sindh province, Pakistan. Their classroom is noisy with the sounds of laughter, learning activities, and discussion.
This spring, some of these students will be among the 41 new teachers who will graduate from GECE(W) Hyderabad, bringing new ways of teaching to schools in their communities.
“I believe our next generation of teachers will be motivated and energetic,” says graduate student Nadia Thalho, who teaches at the college.
Her mentor, master teacher Rozina Khuwaja, agrees. “I can proudly say that our first batch of graduates who we have trained have improved drastically,” she says. “They are competent and good teachers. ADE has built their capacity and enhanced their skills academically and personally.”
The new degree programs are part of the USAID Teacher Education Project, which is working with 22 universities and 89 teacher colleges across Pakistan to raise academic standards in teacher education programs. The program offers a two-year associate’s degree and a new four-year bachelor’s degree in education (B.Ed. [Hons.]).
Under the new teaching standards, traditional teaching methods such as lectures and memorization are being replaced with interactive group study, class discussion, and other learner-centered activities. The program is also elevating the teaching profession in Pakistan. This is significant for women seeking careers in teaching—as well as an opportunity to inspire girls to get an education and find employment.
“It is important for women in Pakistan to gain literacy skills, because it enables them to educate their children and financially support their family,” says Khuwaja, a teacher for 14 years, most of them at the college level. “When a man and woman both earn, then the standard of living is bound to improve.”
In many parts of Pakistan, women are discouraged from working outside of the home or are timid and reluctant to express opinions. Khuwaja thinks the enhancement of the teaching profession might help change that. “Pakistani women are just as competent and smart as men. And by studying topics such as human rights and elections, they become more aware about their rights as citizens.”
Thalho teaches full-time at GECE(W) Hyderabad and takes evening classes toward her master’s in education. Both her parents were primary school teachers, and she grew up appreciating the importance of education.
“The profession of my parents inspired me to become one of them,” says Thalho, who has earned both a master’s degree in sociology and a B.Ed. (Hons.) degree. “Their students always spoke so highly of my parents that it made me feel proud of them.”
Thalho taught at the high school level before joining the faculty at GECE(W) Hyderabad, learning from Khuwaja, the more experienced teacher. “Being a young teacher, Ms. Khuwaja has also been my mentor,” she says.
Khuwaja, in turn, recalls a college professor who inspired her. “When I was a student at University of Sindh, my psychology teacher inspired me the most to pursue my education,” she says. “He had such a charismatic personality and all the qualities that a teacher should possess. I used to look up to him and always hope to be as good as him.”
Today, Khuwaja and Thalho co-teach a literacy class at GECE(W) Hyderabad. Together they are inspiring the next generation of women teachers in Pakistan.
The change in the air at GECE(W) Hyderabad—along with the other Pakistani universities and teacher colleges that are part of the USAID Teacher Education Project—is palpable.
Khuwaja says the ADE program not only trains students in the newer, more effective teaching methods, it’s giving them self-confidence and greater awareness. For example, the college held a student officer election to bring the “Elections, Power, and Authority” part of their syllabus to life. It was the first time most of the girls had ever voted.
“The new teacher program helps women develop their confidence,” says Thalho. “It encourages them to prepare themselves to become mentors for the future generation. When they become teachers, they will get the opportunity to apply their new skills [with] children. When a girl acquires education, she educates her children and benefits the community as a whole.”