RECENTLY, the Sindh government recruited 60,000 teachers, who are being provided induction training. Last month, I attended the certificate award ceremony at Chief Minister House for high achievers of these trainings, where the chief minister, the education minister and secretary education said the recruitment process was transparent and merit-based. There was thunderous applause by the teachers to attest to this.
Many reputable school systems in Sindh are complaining about losing their teachers to public schools. These teachers appear intelligent and enthusiastic, indicating that the government has done a reasonable job in recruiting new teachers. It may not be ideal but it is a reasonable outcome in light of our situation. While we criticise the government for negative actions, we should also appreciate it when it does some good. So well done, Sindh government! But let us not stop here.
Recruiting teachers is but one part of overall teacher management. The complete system includes teacher preparation, recruitment and retention, says Prof Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University.
It is worrisome to note that the government has no extensive plans for the effective utilisation and continuous development of this massive force of newly recruited teachers after the induction training. Based on data from the Sindh Education Management Information System, these 60,000 teachers will roughly make up a quarter of the existing teaching workforce at public schools in Sindh. This is a massive change in any organisation`s workforce in such a short span of time. The government plans to reopen the closed schools through these teachers. But beyond this, there are no plans for the further growth of these teachers and for utilising them to improve the dismal education system in the province.
A major concern is that this new workforce, which is considered merit-based, may soon become sluggish like many existing teachers. One would like to call upon our decision-makers to think about how we can protect these teachers from the bad aspects of the system, develop them as trailblazers and utilise their potential for the change all of us want to see. It should be done quickly before it is too late. Why? It is quite possible that the new teachers may be single new appointees in a school; a single teacher can quickly become frustrated and is likely to give up his/her initial enthusiasm, seeing the apathy of the older teachers there and adopt the latter`s negative practices.
Here are some suggestions for the education department to enhance the potentialof teachers: 1. Develop these teachers into a `community of practice`. The idea of a com,munity of practice, championed by Prof Etienne Wenger, suggests that teachers should be given a sense of a professional community to share good practices, inspire each other, withstand challenges together and make efforts for continuous learning. Many of these teachers are already members of online platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, etc. These platforms can be actively used for their continuous professional growth. They should be encouraged to join professional learning communities like the Pakistan Teachers Association Network in order to grow.
2. The government should have regular professional development days for the continuous growth of these teachers. In the United Kingdom, after every term break, schools open two to three days earlier for teachers, who attend professional development training and prepare for the next term. The Sindh Teacher Education De-velopment Authority has developed a continuous professional development framework that should be implemented with regular government financing.3. The better performing teachers must be rewarded. A baseline assessment of the classes assigned to the new teachers should be conducted. If the students show improvement, the teachers should be rewarded. An appreciation letter, a picture on the education ministry`s website and monetary incentives will boost their morale. Those who could not do better should be supported.
4. While many of the old teachers are not performing well, there are some who are considered `gems` of the system. It should be made possible for such senior teachers to engage with the new teachers as mentors.
Through merit-based recruitment, the government appears to have taken a difficult first step. It needs to take further steps to grow these teachers and use them effectively to see the full advantage of their effort. If these new teachers are not nurtured, the government will lose a massive advantage and may not recover for another two to three decades. I hope our policymakers pay heed to these suggestions. This is a huge opportunity; let`s not squander it. The writer is director research, Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development.