University of Oxford
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Contested Identities—Competing Accountabilities The Politics of Teaching in Pakistan

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posted on 2023-07-18, 16:14 authored by RISE AdminRISE Admin, Communications Development Incorporated
Official teacher policy reflects seemingly large political, bureaucratic, and legal reform to depoliticize teacher quality in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. Lived experience, by contrast, reveals that decades-long politics of patronage and compliance are still critical mediators of teacher performance.1 In addition, performance measurement does not seek to capture teacher effort embodied by teachers in their everyday routines. With outdated definitions of experience and seniority, the rules for performance continue to reproduce narratives of generalized bureaucratic practice. In an environment of personal logic (based on cultural, religious, ethnic, gendered, or other such drivers), such rules may be officially reported but are educationally irrelevant and collectively mocked by teacher collectives. These longstanding informal values continue to entrench decision-making in frameworks of ad hocism and deprofessionalization—not focusing on pedagogy, reducing the time and qualifications to prepare teachers, assigning inexperienced teachers to challenging schools, and not allowing teachers to make curricular decisions for student learning. Although the focus here is on teaching in KP, the descriptions and findings generally apply to Pakistan’s other provinces. Education sector reforms, such as lifting professional teaching certification requirements for teacher recruitment in 2014, have not improved learning levels in public education. The missing notion of teacher voice and experience from the formal instruments of state governance—such as rules, notifications, or even training manuals—creates friction between the official and lived meanings of ‘good’ teaching. This tension persists through a recruitment policy that has led to a gradual deprofessionalization of teaching for almost a decade. But if anyone can teach, and teacher deployment has increased steadily over the time since this policy was announced, why has it not been met with a commensurate improvement in both teaching and student learning outcomes? Clearly, the provision of schools with more teachers does not automatically mean more or better learning. One way to bring teacher recruitment into better alignment with an overall uplift to student learning is for the Elementary and Secondary Education Department (ESED) to reconsider the rubrics or testing process it uses currently for the induction of new teachers. Instead of depending on the currently problematic notion of general standardized tests as an effective filter for pedagogic ability, the system may need to reintroduce technical elements. One of the biggest motivations for removing professional teacher qualifications (such as a Certificate of Teaching or B.Ed.) at the point of entry was to have better qualified individuals consider teaching as a career. This was accompanied by the assumption that the state of technical qualifications (at the time) was insufficient to guarantee meritorious teaching on appointment. But by stepping away entirely from educationally-anchored metrics or rubrics for applicant evaluation, the Department’s intentions inevitably miss the requirements of a majority of its public schools—teachers who are motivated in the classroom, driven by a sense of professionalism and willing to meet the challenges that real classrooms send their way.


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