Professionalism in Teaching - Asif Iftikhar

Professionalism in Teaching

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 Pakistan?

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 effectively.

I.  Factors responsible for lack of professionalism in teaching

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 Pakistan.

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 mentioned system.

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 profession.

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 the government.

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 virtually alien.

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 legal requirements.

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 updated.

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 updated.

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 them

  • 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 career.

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 research work.

4.   Great emphasis should be given in the curricula on developing language skills and mathematical ability in primary and secondary education.

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.

With thanks to Written/Published on July 1997
Author : Asif Iftikhar
Uploaded on : May 31, 2016
11565 View