Train teachers like doctors | Pakistan Today

Train teachers like doctors

They deserve it – and so do we

The world is facing a wave of teacher shortage that threatens our ability to deliver on the promise of quality education. In the United States, baby boomer retirements and high rates of teacher turnover, coupled with steep drops in enrollment in teacher-preparation programs, have contributed to this growing crisis. Some states have shortages in nearly every subject area, affecting students.

In our country, the education department has responded with shortsighted policies that lowers the bar for new teachers, making it easier to enter the profession, which has paved the way for more people with little or no training to become teachers. As has been the case for decades, these policies will hit children in poverty hardest because they are disproportionately assigned teachers with the weakest preparation.

While a number of these teachers will find their way and go on to transform the lives of the children they teach, we know that teachers with little preparation have the hardest time helping students learn. They also leave the profession faster, which creates a revolving door in precisely those schools that need stability.

Higher expectations and standards have made teaching more demanding than ever. Just as we recognise that aspiring doctors need training before they can diagnose and prescribe, we must acknowledge that teaching children require an upfront investment. Aspiring teachers need well-designed and well-supported preparation.

Years back we had Central Training Colleges to train teachers and having co-teachers programs, where candidates work alongside an accomplished teacher while studying child development and teaching methods, offering a promising path. I can witness that program as in Government Central Model School, student-teachers in Central Training College were assigned to work as co-teachers with our regular teachers.

Contrary to fast-track certification programs or traditional student-teaching, which is often a brief experience with limited opportunities to practice, strong residencies pay aspiring teachers as assistant teachers so they become fully integrated into their schools. We need to start that program once again and immediately.

We need to start teaching residents who will participate in the full range of teaching responsibilities and develop deep relationships with students and colleagues. The model also draws on the talent of good practicing teachers who, along with teacher-training faculty, focus on the individual needs of each aspiring teacher, coach them intensively in the areas where they need to grow and help them to integrate theory and practice in the classroom.

The government should treat the teachers as the future builders of the nation and proper pay-scale should be designed which should be better than all the other professions with all the facilities as are provided to the other professionals like doctors, engineers and army personnel. The law should be enforced for government as well as private institutions.

In the United States, it was observed that residency graduates overwhelmingly stay in the profession. Upward of 90 percent remain in the profession after their early years, while nearly half of other new teachers leave. This means that even if residency-trained teachers merely performed as well as their counterparts, the reduced turnover would save millions.

But in fact, education department be over-hauled with highly educated and trained people capable to control the residency program efficiently and successfully. Residency graduates are likely to improve student’s achievements. Rigorous evaluations of smaller programs, like the New Visions partnership, which may help residency graduates more successful promoting student learning.

Top-tier independent schools like Beacon House, Lahore Grammar, City School and others should establish teacher-residency programs, but under the strict control of Education Department. In public schools, residency programs should be financed by the government because they don’t have enough resources.

Public funding in other countries, including Germany, Finland, Japan and Singapore, ensures that their teachers get such training. In United States, subsidies are offered as stipend so that they can afford to live while learning their craft. These financial supports allow them to focus fully on developing the skills they need to become successful teachers.

In medicine, we long ago recognised that significant study and practice under the guidance of a skilled practitioner are necessary to ensure that doctors are qualified to serve the public. After World War II, the world increasingly invested public money in a range of efforts to strengthen doctor’s preparation, including stipends for training. Now same programs have been introduced in education field worldwide. US at present spends $7.5 billion a year on teaching education program, roughly $65,000 for every new teacher. For a fraction of that cost they have built a strong system of teacher preparation. In our country it can be reduced to $6,000 for every new teacher.

Much of the money could come from reallocating current resources. Provinces and the Federal Education Department need to do the tough, detailed work to redirect and focus funds that are not being used well. Redirecting a portion of their budgets could help us transform teacher preparation.

Minimal training for teachers is simply not good enough. If we are serious about improving public education which is essential for the development of the country, we need to invest in our aspiring teachers and ensure they get sustained practice with real coaching and support. The nation will need more than half a million new teachers in the next decade. They will be teaching our future doctors, engineers, pilots and other professionals, all of whom will be experts in their field and will be highly paid in their professions.

Our teachers deserve the same.

Tariq Mushtaq

The author is a technocrat and an international affairs analyst