Teachers who cannot teach

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Annual Status of Education Report 2011 (ASER) — the second in a row — that was launched last week should be an eye-opener for those who do not know much about how the children of the ‘other’ learn.

In a country where even the decennial census cannot be held on time for fear of the truth being exposed, credit should be given to the group of courageous educationists who undertook this massive exercise to assess the knowledge of our schoolchildren. Surveying 146,874 children (three- to 16-year-olds) in 84 rural and three urban districts, ASER 2011 is fairly representative and comprehensive. It also compiles data on access and the physical infrastructure of schools while judging the students’ learning outcomes. It yields a wealth of information that can be put to good use by the authorities when drawing up policies and introducing legislation on the right to education under Article 25-A.

The poor learning levels of children in language and arithmetic should really surprise no one. We have known this for over seven years when the federal ministry of education set up NEAS (the National Education Assessment Service) with foreign funding to assess the children in public schools.

ASER has gone a step further to include private-sector institutions within its purview. We are told that 52.6 per cent of children completing the primary (Grade 5) level are not able to read simple Grade 2 stories in Urdu or their mother tongue, while 59.4 per cent in the same category cannot read simple Grade 2 level sentences in English and 62.7 per cent of children completing primary are not able to do simple three-digit division.

This is pretty alarming. It confirms that the millions being spent on the school sector are going down the drain. Given the fact that 50 per cent of the students drop out during the transition from the primary to secondary level, one can presume that the teenagers with minimal reading skills lapse into illiteracy soon after leaving school. Small wonder we remain a nation that is preponderantly unlettered.

This points to the numerous flaws in our educational planning and strategy that are apparently not being addressed. The main problem lies with the quality of teachers, who it is now clear, are not appointed on merit. With the education department having become one of the largest public-sector employers in the country, it is now being used to dole out jobs to reward party loyalists who could never have got selected on academic merit. It also ensures that during elections, the teaching staff that serves as returning officers in the schools that are polling centres will not let their party down.

All the other evils identified by the ASER survey stem from the absence of dedicated teachers. Take low enrolment rates. In the rural areas, 80 per cent of the children aged five to 16 years enrol in school (of them only a third are girls) but nearly a quarter of them go to private schools. Whatever the ills of the private sector, it still tries to recruit relatively committed teachers and makes arrangements to train them.

Teacher absenteeism is another deterrence. When the ASER teams visited schools, on an average 17 per cent of the teachers in the government institutions were absent when the figure for the private sector was 11 per cent. The teachers’ presence is a major factor in determining students’ enrolment and attendance. The ASER survey showed 85 per cent of the students in private schools were present on the day its teams visited when the corresponding figure for government schools was 79 per cent.

The biggest challenge education faces in Pakistan today is that a huge majority of children are first-generation school-goers in their family. ASER says that only 12 per cent of the mothers were found to be literate in the areas surveyed. This further enhances the burden of responsibility on the teacher. Where some extraordinary individuals have been mobilised, they have overcome this barrier and produced results. Unfortunately, they are few in number.

A positive trend to have emerged of late is that there is a widespread public demand for good education. Parents are no longer reluctant to educate their children, even girls. If children are still not enrolled, one has to look for factors such as inaccessibility of schools or the absence of toilets and other facilities that discourage parents from sending their offspring to school. In the urban areas where the physical infrastructure is better, female enrolment is higher and ASER found the girls to be doing better.

The poor performance of the teachers, even in private schools, has resulted in the evil of private tuition. Whether this is to be attributed to ineptitude or corruption it is not easy to say. If teachers do their job well why should the average child — with the exception of slow learners — need to be tutored privately?

The paradox is that more children attending private schools (30 per cent of Grade 10 students) where teachers supposedly perform better, opt for paid tuitions compared to the 15 per cent in government schools. The fact is that teachers, especially in government schools, are not working conscientiously. They neglect their work and then give private coaching after school hours for a heavy fee.

Many problems can be fixed if the role of the teachers is re-evaluated and corrective measures taken. Their pedagogy, knowledge, motivation, integrity and mobilisation are severely flawed.

Source: Dawn

21 thoughts on “Teachers who cannot teach

  1. A new educational paradigm based on the work of Paulo Friere would greatly help getting us out of the mess we are in. His work is easily accessible to teachers, education administrator and others who may be interested at:
    http://tinyurl.com/6nnco8c .

  2. excellent if depressing article. Shocking state of affairs – even criminal. Whats to be done? How can one fix it? It needs radical measures. Imagine all the potential students for Higher Education lost forever.

  3. Good article , I read in dawn in the morning. Terrible state of affairs .i wish we could do some thing in this regard"

  4. fully subscribe to your views. Indeed, our education system is in a shambles–and our so-called teachers are primarily responsible for this. The government should deal with the education issue–especially primary education–on an emergency footing and fire delinquent or incapable teachers forthwith. I've come across elementary and primary government teachers who are barely matriculate and enjoying handsome perks and salaries without actually going to schools! This is unacceptable. The government should rise to the occasion and take concrete steps to revamp our dilapidated education system.

  5. OK , that is one part of the overall picture of the world of *education*.
    May one point out that the teacher is a mediator between a good text-book and students who are willing to learn.
    Yes, some teacher can not teach. But even the most incompetent teacher or school management will confirm that :
    ** OFTEN THEY HAVE TO * teach* pupils who do not want to learn ** !!!

    The general observation is that a teacher is a good teacher for the first 4 years of his/her teaching career. After that , for various reasons, the excitement of teaching becomes *stale*. The teacher then lapses into indifferent, non-motivated teaching.
    In South Asia , once a teacher gets the essential teaching degree or diploma, that teacher is a * teacher for the rest of his life** .
    One of our teachers here got married to a fellow-Tibetan . The wife he married was a US citizen who had been given an emigration to America. Well, our male teacher was not allowed to teach in USA. He had to sit in the class of a certified teacher for 3 or 4 years—just being an observer. Later he was tested and examined for teaching skills that USA needed; he had to qualify. THEN ( this is the BIG point : He was given a certificate to TEACH_____but he is re-tested and re-certified, every 6 months, or so.

    In South Asia, Post-graduate persons do get quick employment in teaching jobs. If this teaching is for the high school and the secondary school level, it is a well known observation that PG level teachers have a very high educational standard. However , most of them can not come down to the level of the school students. They tend to *lecture* as if it is a degree college.
    As opposed to this, regular BEd teachers who have , so to say, risen from the lower ranks of the teaching system to be finally promoted as *lecturers* at Senior Secondary schools, turn out to be persons who understand that they are dealing with 16 or 18 year-old students . At this age one needs a bit of *spoon feeding*

    There is a another genuine reason why some teachers can not teach.
    Many school managers think that if a teacher is a BSc or Msc in Mathematics , it automatically means that he can be made to double-up as a teacher of PHYSICS.

    My experience says that this is a myth. To teach good Physics , one must understand and one must love physics____ both practical and theoretical.
    To teach decent well understood Mathematics , the teacher of Mathematics has to re-teach to HIMSELF much of the school and college level mathematics which he *picked up* during his own student days.
    Many *really brilliant persons,with excellent academic degrees* are so brilliant that they just can not teach the average school pupils. .
    When i ask my ex-maths students how the teaching of maths is their graduate and professional institutes , the INVARIABLE reply is : SIR, what to tell you, the Professor comes to class ; he turns to the LARGE blackboard.
    Then he writes on it; and he continues to write from one end of the board to the other. He explains NOTHING of what he has written; he write —-and writes till the bell rings and the period is over.
    He can not explain _____but he knows his stuff.

    This is enough for today______{{{ more is to come }}}

  6. i read the article this morning. just to share with you I have interviewed over 2000 teachers, lecturers, professors, assistant professors and other teaching staff for government schools, colleges and universities in the last 9 years. They were experienced, qualified professionally and also with zero experience and no professional teacing qualification.

    In hardly few dozens I found had the urge to teach and take education as their career. Most were looking for economic benefit only. With any graduate qualification they are ready to teach because for them its a easy job. If they found better opportunity they would change track.

    It is important that the Government should devise a policy that only graduation in education would lead an individual to teach. Additionally periodic courses should be regular feature. Motivation is yet another measure to be adopted.

    I am currently a part of school system and I devote considerable time in motivating teachers and providing them professional updates. This works and you can see desired results.

    1. I agree with the motivation bit. It is very essential for a teacher to be motivated and therefore, there is better productivity. I am now teaching in a private, bilingual school in France and I can feel the difference just with the motivation which I felt had lacked in both the private schools I taught in back in Pakistan.

  7. Teacher
    (Dedicated to teachers around the world – Deepak Sarkar, http://www.kolki.com)

    [We all come to this world as listener, become reader, viewer, spectator, speaker as we grow up; but the wise always keeps on listening to be a knower! Kolki]

    Buddha taught me to keep it simple and direct
    Muhammad asked me to preach away from birth place
    Jesus cautioned me from disciples and friends
    Gandhi guided me to stay on the course of non-violence
    All enlightened me with the universal laws of co-existence!

    Krishna taught me to work towards goal without expectation
    Chaitanya urged me to document realization beyond devotion!
    Tagore gave me the courage to write neglecting criticism
    Leader’s mistakes helped me control hormonal temptations!
    Media ensured, time and again, news can be speculations –
    That pro-Military pro-Israeli+ are immune to, physical and/or character, assassinations!

    Ocean pounded me with the message of persistence
    Wind whispered relaying art of free flowing deliverance
    Mandela taught me campaign for freedom is best from prison cell
    Dr. King inspired that serving is not monopoly of Chosen brain
    Western leader’s actions unmasked that Zionism is not Semitism
    History taught me violence against Palestinian is anti-Semitism!

    Democracies around proved most not really ruling by the majority
    Paperless voting fraud can elect minority empowering military
    Holocaust survivors can be vocal against peace for war and hostility
    NEOCONS virus can infect fast political conservatives
    High-tech media can really indulge people into gossips!

    Mother taught me caring is a property of every sentient being
    Father gave me the art of praying through singing
    Neighbour taught me dig enough to pay bills ensuring safe exit
    Travelling revived my worldwide warm fellow feelings
    Birds amazed me how to live minimally with sharing
    Sun empowered me to illuminate all without racism
    Moon echoed how to shower blessings even when sleeping!

    1. @ Deepak Saarkar

      A different and pleasant way to tell that apart from School Teacher we confront with too many teachers from whom we learn day by day.

      The mention of FRIEND and WIFE/HUSBAND as a teacher should have also been here.

      Above all these a PERSON himself a great, good and perfect teacher. The lessons/teaching got from one's own experiences are the most 'solid and precious' lessons.


  8. َAbout the prejudice and debate for and against **TUITIONs** !!!

    This reflects often on why some " TEACHERS DO NOT TEACH". In many schools and degree colleges, the observation is that some teachers deliberately teach badly in class, or make the topic un-understandable in class .
    Their strategy is to draw as many students as possible for the teaching of the same topics in their private tuition classes, after school hours. This is a lucrative side business.
    The way to avoid this is to have a SERVICE RULE for all teachers which FORBIDS them to take private tuitions.
    ( Our school management set this rule in 1986 and it works very well !! )
    Apart from this commercial-minded misuse of the idea of * tuition classes*, there is another angle.
    In every class there are at least 5 out of 50 students who are already able to do well in ( say) mathematics.
    Their aim is to prepare for the eventual Engineering Entrance Examinations to come. When such pupils come to your home in the evenings ( or mornings) for additional specialized help, it is a great pleasure to coach them. Their motivation and ability is high. One can guide them to tackle those topics that are beyond the routine maths syllabus.
    Such extra classes are not exploitation. This is what i feel ; because i have been doing this since 1983

  9. @ Zubeida

    Your classic behavior is that you analyze the system in the context of Pakistan but keep in mind the non-Pak readers.

    My experiences say that India also have the same symptom as narrated by you. Private Tuitions, Arrangement with Book Sellers and Uniform have done a great damage. In earlier years, say up to 1968 Private Tuition was treated as CURSE. Private Tuition was advised to those who missed the classes for a long period due to some genuine problem or change of syllabus due to change of School etc. etc.

    The parents and teacher should form a combo to find out the real reason of slow learning habit of student.

    One film of Bollywood 'Tare Zamin Par" staring Aamir Khan, Darsheel deals with this issue. Parent and Teacher failed to understand the students skills and how he could not learn lessons. In the later part of film Aamir Khan comes in as a new teacher and after thorough study diagnose the student to be a TOPPER. This film is worth to see with family.

  10. Thank You Zubeida for the treatment you have given to ASER 2011 findings. We are very pleased that you will be a panelist for the Sindh launch on the 13th Feb at the Aga Khan Auditorium to focus on perhaps this area a bit more within the context of Sindh rural and Karachi. This is the first year of a truly representative data set as a baseline on trends for Pakistan covering 84 districts (rural) 3 urban . So can this report start a movement by the citizens for the restoration of education in this land.. with 9000 years of heritage and surely great learning traditions that stopped some where . We need a populist reaction the way you reported some time ago in Brazil and Chile.. We need to raise the bar on education.. it truly has to be an equalizer like good fast foods at Dhabas, Haldirams, Phajja payas .. affordable high quality and people/children friendly…non-discriminatory towards rich and poor in terms of quality, ingredients and satisfaction. Something to think about .. Seriously, I am not trivializing the challenge but we need to break it down to the pure essentials without which we cannot recognize the experience .. be it learning, nourishment or security. So if teachers need to teach they must recognize those .. and more importantly the preparatory colleges/universities who prepare them.. But really thanks Zubaida for triggering a debate across all borders. As ASER Pakistan is a cross border happening pioneered by our friends Pratham and ASER centre India and shared so generously since 2008 we the ASER team in Pakistan are delighted to hear the comments to your article coming from all over the world. We hope that you as a catalyst par excellence for sensitive thinking on social sectors will be the activist that ASER Pakistan deserves. Baela Raza Jamil, Director Programs ITA and Coordinator SAFED

  11. The Education sector in Pakistan has been neglected deliberately. The microscopic allocation for education in the national budget speaks volume for it. Education department plagued with the problems. Recruiting the incapable teachers is one of them. The attitude of the persons on the helm is paradoxical. On one hand they consider the education must for development and on the other hand they earmark peanuts for the hapless department.
    If teachers are appointed on sheer merit it would work wonders. The persons who are aligned with pedagogy should be paid attractive salaries so that they may be able to carry out their job in a satisfying manner.

  12. We the "educated elite" lament the state of education in government run schools and colleges, but with few exceptions, none wants to teach in them. Our men and women educated in foreign institutions- if they ever return to Pakistan- opt to teach in schools inaccessible to the slum kid, or open schools that are out of reach for the majority. Higher salaries for teachers is not known to improve standards of learning. What it needs is commitment.. How about we wake up our own educated elite youth to get involved with the education department, or teach in the poor man's school? Maybe you or Baela can float this idea at the AKU panel

    1. Good idea Naseem. This idea has been floated before and I heard of some organisation that was paying highly educated "elite" youth to take up one year internships and teach in the rural areas. I tried to contact them but have not heard from them. What you suggest could be an interim sarrangement till local teachers are trained and upgraded. Ultimately the teachers from a local community would do the best job. Since we don't have good teachers there a beginning can be made by hiring the highly educated youth from the elites to kick start the system. Thanks for your idea.

      1. Naseem this is such a great idea the same that Babar Ali sahib was advocating at the Punjab ASER launch yesterday Feb 7th, ..it is a wake up call for all of us and our young educated to show their commitment to society and its challenges…that is the stuff that we were brought up on .. we need to propagate it far more and shake our youth out of their comfort zones. I am sure the rewards will be enormous. … but really it is the way to go.. baela

  13. Here are 2 good news Items from the TRIBUNE ( Chandigarh) 6/2/2012

    BUT before that , i wish to submit that ALL TUITION CLASSES are NOT a CURSE. In RURAL areas of India, students come from very poor academic home backgrounds. Many are the 1st generation of educated youth.
    They need extra tuitions. My classes, for instances , are not mass production ( or commercial ) minded. At one time i help just 4 to 5 students for one and a half hours per batch. Out of that, those who can pay, pay___-some are free. IS THAT FAIR ENOUGH ? If you don not believe this , come over and see for yourselves.

    ( what about students not learning properly during the year, because they think that they will CHEAT their way through in the final exams. ?? )

    The ARTICLES :

    After flunking test, teachers throng coaching centres
    Aditi Tandon
    Tribune News Service

    New Delhi, February 5
    Just when the government thought it could crush the booming coaching business that had come to stay during the IIT-JEE era, it must brace for a new reality. After students, it is time for teachers to be coached!

    In less than a year of the HRD Ministry making it mandatory for wannabe primary and elementary school teachers to clear the new Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) under the Right to Education Act, coaching options have sprung up for anxious aspirants who feel the test is too tough and the time given to crack it too little.

    In the first Central TET, organised by CBSE last year, and state TETs, the results were very poor. Only 14 per cent candidates could crack the Central TET and a mere 1 per cent passed in Punjab.

    But this year, aspirants are not alone in their struggle to pass the test. They have assurances of success from the first-of-its-kind online TET coaching facility – TET Guru – that is offering mock tests to train aspiring teachers.

    TET Guru, the online learning platform, surfaced in September last and already has 2,500 registered users preparing for TETs to be held this year. It offers candidates training in speed, accuracy and knowledge that they need to crack a competitive exam like TET.

    For CBSE TET, conducted on January 29 this year, the platform even offered discount packages comprising 30 mock tests for Rs 264! It has links to central/state TET syllabi and state TET timetables for 2012.

    Neetu Rana, an ETE student at Jamia Millia Islamia who took Central TET this year, said, “This year’s test was tougher that the last year’s. We got 36 seconds per question and questions were too long. It was impossible to finish the test. Speed is a huge issue. That’s why many of us are seeking coaching.”

    To succeed in TET, 150 multiple-choice questions must be answered in 90 minutes with 60 per cent pass percentage. “After the Central and state TETs last year, we got experts to analyse question banks and develop models to help new aspirants. TET question papers are tough considering there is little time to answer. We have 2,500 users now,” Kolkata-based Souvik Majumdar of TET Guru said.

    Mohd Zaibar, another Delhi-based student preparing for TET, admitted to coaching options mushrooming across the capital. “Institutes are offering TET coaching in Durgapuri, Okhla and Mukherjee Nagar. Many are operating clandestinely,” he said.

    The online coaching platform has users from across India. “The most advanced tests on the platform cost Rs 4 per test. The package of 250 tests is priced Rs 1,000,” Neetu Rana said. The platform gets 500 hits daily.

    Ironically, TET coaching is spawning at a time when the HRD Ministry is working to end the high-difficulty Joint Entrance Exam (JET) for IITs and replace all tests with one central-level entrance for all technical institutes. With TET, it has opened another route for coaching to flourish.

    Hriday Nath of Vidya Bhavan Society, Udaipur, a pioneer in teacher education, said, "TET may not be the best way to assess teachers. It is one way." The Ministry said TET would standardise the quality of teachers across India.

    Test facts

    In Feb 2011, Centre directed that BEd/DEd won’t be enough to become school teachers
    Passing TET is necessary to become teachers in private, govt, aided and unaided schools
    Exam conducted once a year by CBSE; also by states


    9 Bihar babus caught copying in exam
    Sanjay Singh/TNS

    Patna, February 5
    Nine gazetted officers of Bihar were caught copying during a departmental examination and told to leave the examination hall. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered the officers’ suspension.

    Those caught cheating by invigilators on Thursday included two doctors from the Bihar State Health Service, two Deputy Collectors from Bihar Administrative Service and one officer each from the Bihar Education Service, Bihar Finance Service, Bihar Agriculture Service, Bihar State Cooperative Service and Bihar Industries Service.

    The parent departments of these officers would soon initiate departmental proceedings against them.

    Officers are required to clear the departmental examination for promotion. The exam is conducted by the Central Examination Committee of the Bihar State Revenue Board twice a year. Candidates can take the exam at their convenience.

    As many——

    1. @ Ahmed41

      In continuation of the above, the other major factor is the relation between teacher and student. The relation which was too pious and strong in earlier years is not same presently. A teacher was worshiped and taken as a trustee. Parents would also not dare to ignore the teacher's suggestion/advice. When I was a school student up to 1965 parents use to say 'see we do not get any call/complaint from your teacher. The teacher was treated next to Parents. Parents would take the side of teacher and not of their son/daughter.

      Now a days the relation level has come down considerably. Teaching is a business and not a noble profession. When students have no fear from their parents would they fear teachers? Teachers are being beaten and killed in school premises. Parents have started taking side of student. Today,s news is that in Chennai (earlier Madras) a student stabs his teacher to death in class. Read it at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Chennai/… and at http://www.indianexpress.com/news/chennai-scolded….

      So merely considering the teachers attitude is not sufficient. Parents are also responsible (by taking the side of student) for the sorry state of teaching profession.

  14. @ zubeida

    Very excellently elaborated ASER,

    BUT its just a policy matter

    i would like to add that a jobless graduate will not be ready to teach (if offered) just for 6 to 8k. Those in the Govt. sector would not teach until or unless he/she is not monitored accordingly, and head of those will not invigilate until / unless motivated (either by appreciation / competition among institutions or by any other means). Proper check and balance will help mitigating the mess in Govt. sector.

    Selflessness is a virtue gifted by God, spare the time which someone to waste finding a pious teacher,
    Just train them,
    tight the screws,
    get the children "learned".

    There should be

    Same syllabus (Public and Private schools)
    same rule,
    appointments on merit,
    incentives for bright teachers,
    in-time availability of books
    check and balance
    may help.

    Good suggestions by some of readers about the deployment of "Educated Elites" but its not seems practical, rather to indulge more in grind, let the presently "working" uplifted to the level, so that that start "teaching"

    ………… Shahid

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