As the world’s sixth most populous nation - home to more than 200 million people - Pakistan has a vast teaching community, with nearly 400,000 professionals educating the country’s children.
But many are doing so without official professional qualifications. While formal Initial Teacher Education (ITE) exists in Pakistan, it is not compulsory and teachers’ professional learning is largely done on an on-the-job basis, through in-service training and continuing professional development (CPD).
These practices are widely used in the education profession worldwide and have great value in developing and enhancing teachers’ skills and knowledge but they tend to be informal and do not carry the same status as an officially accredited qualification. Furthermore, they are often not designed to offer teachers the opportunity to take a broad look at their profession and their place in it.
The University of Strathclyde is collaborating with a school in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-biggest city, to bring a fresh approach to the country’s teacher education. Strathclyde is delivering its PGCert Educational Impact and Issues and MSc Educational Studies programmes to teachers at Crescent School, a trust-run school with a roll of 8500 pupils of primary and secondary school age.
An initial intake of 20 Crescent School teachers were taught the PGCert course by Strathclyde academics visiting Lahore in 2019 over two phases - 10 days in summer and five days in winter - with tasks in between to allow students to develop further. A selected group of teachers then came to study at Strathclyde for a pilot MSc programme during the first term of the current year.
The inaugural year of the course proved to be so successful that the school has opted to extend Strathclyde’s contract for a further three years.
The collaboration stemmed from an initial approach to Strathclyde’s School of Education by Crescent School Principal Sobia Lodhi, who previously studied at Strathclyde.
The course has provided me with an opportunity to have an exposure to a cross-cultural environment. This has expanded my horizon and I learnt a great deal through collaborative methodologies adopted here in Strathclyde.
Sofia Khan, Vice-Principal, Girls’ Campus
Dr Ingeborg Birnie, a Lecturer in the School of Education and Course Leader for the PGCert, said: “She asked us if Strathclyde could deliver a programme for her staff and we prepared it in collaboration with the school, so that they could decide what they wanted from the programme.
“Preparation for teaching is very different in Pakistan from Scotland, as teachers tend to begin work without having done a formal teacher qualification. The programme offered by Strathclyde enables teachers to reflect on their practice and have a professional dialogue on developing their own practice appropriate to their own context.
“This is important as the teachers involved in this programme range from early years teachers to primary teachers and from secondary subject specialists to school section leaders.”
The course consists of four modules:
- Principles and Policy in Practice, which looks at assessment and behaviour management and how these link to academic research
- Educational Policy in Practice, which gives students an opportunity to consider 'big ideas' in education and how these relate to their own context, at school, local or national level
- Professional Specialisation, which allows students enrolled on the course to experience a different context from their own to reflect on their own educational practices
- The Professional Project, a practitioner enquiry which enables students to focus on one element of their practice and conduct a small-scale study in their own context
The learning opportunity at Strathclyde is pertinent to the needs of my school; independent learning, research methodologies and variety of teaching styles will help me support the teachers I plan to train back in my country, Pakistan.
Khizra Yasin, Manager, Training, Middle School
Jonathan Firth, a Teaching Fellow in Strathclyde’s School of Education, said: “The Crescent School’s teachers are excellent but even for some of them, this course has been very transformational.
“Some have had very little involvement with educational research but taking part has benefited their learning practice and this, in turn, has had benefits for their pupils.
“The professional project was also useful to many; in this, they did an assessment where they had a particular focus. For example, they might look at a marginalised child, who perhaps does not have good family support or has difficulties with English, which is a highly-valued subject for many families.
“The course has some similarities to our PGDE programme but we had a lot of discussion with the school to find out what they needed before beginning to teach it.”
Crescent School was founded in 1968 through a not-for-profit trust and operates a merit-based admission policy, enabling gifted students to become the next generation of informed and engaged citizens.
They established an institutional ethos that helped in developing “Crescentarians” to become “Game Changers” for Pakistan in general, and their own families in particular. Over the last fifty years, the school’s alumni have built careers in many fields, including education, academia, architecture, business, finance, defence, engineering, public service and sport.