Education, Development, and Change
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Teachers' fest at AIE

Dawn, 10 Oct. 2010
LAHORE, Oct 10: Teachers need to change their attitudes, keep revisiting their knowledge and teaching skills and ensure that they are able to help clear thought process of their students.
This was stated by speakers at a panel discussion on “Teachers for Tomorrow’s Pakistan: Expectations and Challenges”. The discussion was part of Teachers’ Fest at the Ali Institute of Education in connection with the World Teachers Day on Saturday.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Arifa Syeda Zehra said it was an unfortunate fact that the teaching profession had become the last choice profession because social norms motivated the youth to acquire authority and power. She, however, acknowledged that the salary structure did not offer teachers proper social status.
Dr Zehra emphasised the need to recognise the role of national language and history in education. She stressed that teachers should honestly contribute to character building of students and encourage critical thinking among them.
Lahore School of Economics’ Dr Shahid Siddiqui said there were three challenges facing the nation: students’ access to schools, massive dropout rate and quality of education. He said there was not a big gap between haves and have-nots in the past, but now there were separate schools for the poor, lower middle class, middle class and the elite class. He said social inequalities needed to be addressed because economic disparity was a great hurdle in the way of quality education. Similarly, he said, there were schools that were promoting rote learning instead of honing analytical skills of students.

Dr Shahid Siddiqui stressed that teachers should impart quality education by continuously upgrading their own knowledge and inculcate interpersonal skills among students. He stressed that teachers should play a key role in contextualising pedagogical skills to enhance life chances among their students. “A teacher should not be a consumer of knowledge or a mere technician rather he should become a reflective practitioner,” he added.
Beaconhouse National University’s Dr Mehdi Hasan said teachers’ duty was to develop a civilised nation. He, however, regretted that teachers had so far failed to educate students to become citizens of the modern world. He stressed that the curriculum needed to be revised, as it was not capable of making students compete in the international market. He said curriculum should cover human rights education, democratic traditions, tolerance and peace education. He said secular academic environment was required for educational growth in Pakistan.
The panellists also discussed private schools that were in a cutthroat race to ensure that their students get maximum As.
AIE director Dr A H Nayyar said teaching was important for nation building and educated youth in some societies decided that they would dedicate their lives to the teaching profession. He said Finland was one such country where teaching was a first choice profession.
He said public schools were in bad state physically as well as intellectually because teachers were unable to make teaching a joyful activity and attract students to schools with full enthusiasm. He said there was an acute shortage of teachers as required to impart education to students enrolled in schools. He said existing schools were catering to only 60 per cent of the school going age population.

The panel discussion was followed by Dr Shahid Siddiqui’s lecture on “Reflection, Innovation and Change and launch of his new book entitled "Rethinking Education in Pakistan".  Later, parallel workshops on a number of topics were conducted by senior educationists and films on inspiring teachers were shown to Teachers’ Fest participants.Dawn