In a recent seminar on Professionalism in Teaching, a
visiting scholar at Ali Institute of Education (a teacher training institute in
Lahore), spoke on the issue. This article explains the points she made.
This article addresses the following questions related to
‘professionalism’ in teaching in Pakistan.
1. Can teaching be considered to be a profession in
2. If not, what must occur before it can be considered
to be a profession in this country?
3. If not, how might one proceed in making it become a
profession in Pakistan (assuming that such a move is desirable)?
The article is divided into three main sections. The first
section defines ‘professionalism’ and enlists the factors responsible for lack
thereof in the teaching profession in Pakistan. The second section looks into
these factors in some detail and suggests remedial measures. The last section
relates to the question of how one might proceed in taking these measures
I. Factors responsible for lack of professionalism in
1. ‘Professionalism’ refers to that peculiar nature of a
specific occupation which entails, for commencement as well as continuation,
maintenance, individually and collectively, of certain standards in relation to
knowledge, skills and behaviour, which standards are such that they ensure the
user of the services the profession provides a high, expected and usually
objectively measurable level of competence and commitment, and which standards
afford the profession a legitimated status, established right to privileged
communication and relatively great autonomy, on the basis of the general
confidence in the individual and collective maintenance of standards in the
profession, from societal supervision or control.
If this definition of ‘professionalism’ is accepted,
there is not doubt that it is in acute shortage in the profession of teaching in
2. A number of factors contribute to this lack of
professionalism. Of these factors, some rather important are:
i) Absence of any effective system of accreditation,
licensing and certification.
ii) Absence of appropriate standards for the above
iii) Lack of appropriate pedagogy, curricula, didactic
resource base and personnel for teacher training and development.
iv) Lack of incentives for competent and dedicated people
to join the profession.
v) Inadequacy of work environment, that is of schools,
colleges, etc., to provide a congenial atmosphere and appropriate set-up for the
growth and development of ‘professionalism’.
vi) Multiplicity of prevailing systems of education and
the lack of interaction, which hinder standardisation in the teaching
vii) Inappropriateness of the pedagogy, curricula and
examination techniques used for the education of students.
viii) Non-availability of funds for dealing with many of
the above mentioned problems.
ix) Socio-cultural constraints.
x) Lack of seriousness and concern by policy makers in
II. Analysis of ‘the factors’ and remedial measures
This section analyses each of the factors mentioned in the
previous section and suggests some remedial measures.
1. In the U.S., accreditation, licensing and
certification are done at the government levels. There is a growing movement
there to improve these methods for the development of teachers and teaching
programmes. In Pakistan, however, the very concept of such standardisation is
What may be described as ‘accreditation system’ of a
sort does exist, but it is highly ineffective. Schools which are ‘registered’ do
not show any marked difference from un-registered ones. Those that offer
matriculation and intermediate classes can easily get ‘recognition’ from the
relevant ‘boards of education’ without meeting most of the standards set by
these boards. Similarly, ‘affiliation’ is granted to colleges by the University
Grants Commission even though many of these colleges do not actually fulfil the
It was reported to the writer of this paper by a
prospective entrepreneur that on evaluation, about six years ago, the
entrepreneur calculated the cost of setting up a commerce college in accordance
with the legal requirements for affiliation around seven million rupees, whereas
colleges with ‘affiliation’ from the Punjab University had been set up at costs
ranging from Rs. 600,000 to Rs. 1.5 million. Corruption and nepotism have
pervaded the system.
Furthermore, the standards themselves need to be
As far as ‘licensing’ for teaching is concerned, the
idea is essentially an alien one in Pakistan. ‘Certification’ on achieving
advanced levels in teaching has never even been considered. In government
institutions, some tests are conducted for entry into the profession and there
are certain ‘in-service’ academic requirements for promotion, but these tests
and requirements are inadequate or inappropriate in most cases and also suffer
from corruption, nepotism and favouritism.
It is recommended that a national body comprising
eminent educationists be formed, which should have adequate staff, to oversee
registration and affiliation of educational institutions and selection and
promotion of teachers in government institutions. Moreover, the body should also
devise an effective system of accreditation, licensing and certification so that
non-governmental schools, colleges and institutions also have to conform to
certain accepted standards and teachers in the private sector cannot exploit
students as they do now, especially through private tuition and coaching.
Divisions or branches of this body should be formed
to cater for the educational needs at various administrative levels.
2. Professional teaching institutes for teacher training
need to be set up. At present, there is very little realisation by employers of
teachers that even a high level degree is not guarantee that a person is an
effective teacher. ‘Teaching’ is still not regarded as a separate and distinct
field. Institutes as AIE (Ali Institute of Teaching) need to be set up to train
teachers and teacher trainers. Also, curricula for this purpose in relation to
specific needs of teachers in Pakistan need to be developed and continually
3. Teaching is generally an ill-paid and often
disparaged profession in Pakistan. In this country revenue expenditure on
education has rarely been more than 2.5%. With the present constraints of the
ever growing cost of debt-servicing (about 54%), this situation is unlikely to
change. Since there is an education emergency in Pakistan (where the literacy
rate is estimated at 40% -- a high inflated figure and totally out of line with
international standards), some radical solution is required, for example
entailing part time teaching by highly qualified government servants, mandatory
teaching service for a certain period of time to obtain university degree to get
government employment. Effective control mechanism will also be required, which
can include ‘examination results produced’ by the students of these ad hoc
teachers as basis for successful completion of requirements for the mandatory
service. Organising voluntary help must also be considered. ‘Social rewards’ of
various kinds, for example certificates of appreciation, tax benefits, etc., can
also be used to motivate volunteers. These teachers can fill in the void created
by lack of high quality input in the teaching profession. Training curricula for
these teachers should include such things as the trainees might also find useful
in their own vocations, for example communication skills, science, mathematics,
languages, linguistics, general knowledge and management. These disciplines can,
with modification, be applied to almost any other vocation especially where
administrative and managerial skills are required.
4. Work environment in most educational institutions is
not conducive to professionalism viz-a-viz the following:
i) the curricula and pedagogy do not entail a
professional approach and are rarely updated.
ii) performance and competence of teachers is rarely
used as an effective basis for remuneration and promotion.
iii) In-service training programmes are usually not
encouraged in the real sense of the word.
Accreditation standards should include existence of programmes in educational institutes to deal with the above mentioned problems
and to ensure that the teachers:
are committed to students and their learning
know the subjects they teach and how to teach them
can and do manage and monitor student learning
think systematically about their practice and learn from
regularly contribute papers on their subjects, curricula
development and pedagogy
periodically attend approved teacher training programmes
are involved as proteges or as mentors with their peers
and colleagues for professional development
are members of learning communities and clubs.
5. Qualified people in the government and among
celebrities should take part in voluntary teaching and in training programmes so
that the existing disdain in our culture for teaching as a profession can be
replaced with the highest regard for this ‘nation making’ profession. Gradually,
more funds should be allocated for making teaching a highly paid and rewarding
Furthermore, teachers who have received a high level
in their profession must not be ‘cut off’ from their real work -- teaching,
teacher training and development of curricula, texts and pedagogy -- by
involving them more in administrative jobs and positions. Cancellation of
certification might even be considered an option where continual contribution to
their work is deliberately avoided by such teachers under the cover of
privileges afforded them in the wake of their achievement.
6. At present, commercialisation has improved existing
standards of education and of teachers owing to competition. However,
commercialisation results in such improvements as is not related as such to
excellence in education. Quite often it exploits students as well as teachers.
In a system of education full of flaws, commercialisation which stresses more on
‘higher grades’ than on anything else a ‘professional teacher’ if often
out-competed by what may be called ‘gimmick teachers’ who stress on the rote,
‘guesses’, ‘model answers’ and ‘selective study’. This un-professional attitude
needs to be checked and better, more effective, and universal standards need to
be applied to check exploitation by commercialisation. Non-conformity must be
punished by taking away the permission to operate.
7. For rural areas, better didactic resource base may be
communicated through T.V. and radio to enable the teachers there to catch up
without actually coming to the city to update their knowledge. One T.V. set can
of course be used with better management by a whole group.
8. Seminars must be conducted to increase the awareness
and enhance the sense of responsibility in the public and government regarding
professionalism in teaching. Intelligible literature must also be published in
this regard. Fund raising should also be done with the help of seminars,
articles, books, pamphlets and other programmes to finance various teacher
development programmes at the government as well as private sector levels.
III. How to proceed?
The measures suggested above must be adopted
in a systematic manner to make them effective. In this regard, the following
suggestions are made:
1. As the third International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS)
tests (the largest ever international education research) has shown, teaching
methodology is far more important than the time or money spent on a subject. It
is also not necessary in all cases to have small class size, which may be
financially impractable in a country as ours. The greatest need therefore is the
development of pedagogy, curricula and teachers. In the first two -- pedagogy
and development of curricula --, a lot can be done if the government spends on
these areas rather than on setting up new, ineffective schools and on other
palliatives. A national level team should be formed to develop the curricula and
the pedagogy for students and teachers as the first step.
2. These curricula and this pedagogy should be used as a
standard throughout the country for accreditation, licensing and certification.
3. These curricula and the pedagogy should continually
be updated on the basis of feedback from use and on the basis of further
4. Great emphasis should be given in the curricula on
developing language skills and mathematical ability in primary and secondary
5. Other suggestions given in the previous sections
should be put into practice gradually and only after work on the above mentioned
points (in Section III) has been completed and consolidated.