Teachers Need Support

The purpose of adult and non-formal basic education is to provide an opportunity to those who
were left out or dropped out of school for some reason. There are a host of reasons why they
lagged behind in the mainstream of education and development. Generally speaking, they come
from the resource poor families who have no faith in the meaning and fruitfulness of long years of

Attracting such adults and children to education at a later stage requires not only dedication among the
key education players but better teaching skills and the capacity and capability in teachers to
meet up the challenge. They have a set of learners in front of them fundamentally different from
the mainstream students in their world view and socioeconomic reality. Their thinking patterns
take shape by the demands of practical life they have to live in. They do not experience the same
kind of childhood a middle class child has. Most of such children either assist their parents in
on/off farm work, work as helpers at petty businesses in urban centers or work as apprentices in
various workshops. As children are economically active in the low-income households, faced with
greater responsibilities and harsher realities of practical life, they are very different from the
typical middle class children who enjoy a cozy family environment and who live in economic and
social protection. They learn to give fiscal value to everything. They know the immense value of
commodities and also how to guard their possessions jealously. They also have clear views on complex social issues like dowry and gender roles.

The adult learners also have their own priorities that are in contradiction with the goals and
objectives of the policy makers. As adult education that is focused on adult literacy does not
respond to their needs their situation very soon throws them back to work for survival and to
make both ends meet.

Under such circumstances the role of teachers becomes much more
complex and demanding than a regular school teacher. With syllabus not responsive to the
learners’ reality,  just to retain the learners in the school becomes an uphill task for the teacher.
They are required to teach the same mainstream syllabus that does not take into consideration
their special circumstances and special learning needs.

As non-formal education teachers, they have to be competent and better skilled to teach the
same syllabus in three and half years that is taught in the formal schools in five to seven years.
Furthermore, they must know how to deal with the parents who do not have the same kind of
interest and commitment to send their children to school, as displayed by the formal school
children’s parents. The matter does not end here and unlike the formal school teachers they have
to face various kinds of pressures from the community.

But who are expected to do this demanding job? Those who have discouraging educational background. They are selected either on the basis of availability or the local politics play a key
role. Contrary to formal school teachers who are required to be formally trained and whose
training is spread over at least a couple of years, they have no proper training. Resultantly, they are
incapable of either leading the classes or responding to the problems raised by the learners or to
show them a way in the difficulties they face. For instance, they are ignorant of the most basic
rules involved in simple literacy (and such is the fate of the most of the teachers) and have
absolutely no idea of the correct pronunciation. How can a person display any degree of
motivation who has no solid grounding in the field she/he is expected to work in? Only a teacher, who has some basic understanding of the topic being dealt with, can be receptive to the questions, issues and problems raised by the learners.  Obviously, in the absence of qualified, competent and well-trained teachers neither quantity nor quality in the realm of education for all can be achieved. And the net result is a huge population of schooled and dropped out illiterates.

An adult educator’s job is more challenging and daunting but her job is seen as merely passing
on some half cooked literacy skills to learners. No in-depth training, therefore, is seen necessary. Teaching
literacy is seen as an even easier job where a teacher is required to teach how to read and
write with very low levels of achievement. We have a situation both in adult literacy and formal and non-formal education that in most of the cases literacy in Urdu language is taught that is not the mother tongue of the most of the learners in the country. Literacy programs do not display this understanding that imparting literacy skills is much more challenging when a second language is to be taught to perfect illiterates. Teaching the recognition of letters of alphabet and at best how to write a word does not help but in fact blocks comprehension and self expression.

In a number of situations there is no real choice available for selection of teachers. But that
should not be an excuse for throwing the future of the already under-privileged and
disadvantaged sections of society to such empty hands. If education has to become a vehicle for
social and economic development, the experience shows that such teachers require, in most of
the cases, not only training in how to teach but their capacity also needs to be built to understand and
absorb the objectives and the contents of the training.

In order to take education to the right track, we need to invest more on teachers’ education and
training and a focus has to be on teacher development. Teacher trainers have to be well versed
in what is happening in the schools and their training design must be informed of the training
needs specific to the group of teachers being trained. It is imperative to build a linkage between
the training and the actual instruction and the process of teaching. Otherwise trainers and the
trainees have totally different terms of reference.

The training design must make a good use of the feed back by the monitoring and evaluating
staff. A critical appraisal of the school performance, socio-cultural-political and development
issues that play a positive or negative role goes a long way not only in improving the method but
also the content of teaching.

In order to be fruitful, the training has to be a two way process. The trainer must be aware of the
specific training and learning needs and the training program designed must be a response to
those in letter and spirit. A challenge for any such training lies in bringing the teachers on the
track of using the newly acquired knowledge and skills and making that use a habit. Thoughtful
interventions need to innovate to bridge the gaps between learning and doing. The trainer need to
be constantly in touch with what is happening in the field and having feedback so that a timely
response can be given by the trainer. Without creating such a link between training and
implementation the dream of education for all cannot be realized in the real sense.

A teacher, undoubtedly, is at the center stage of educating the nation but other key players and
stakeholders can not absolve themselves of their responsibilities in the process. Education should
no longer be seen as the sole responsibility of teachers. It has to be a team effort. If various
pillars of a given education program come together and contribute in the training design and also
in assessing how far the training responds to the learning needs of the learners the perspectives
and experiences of the management, the monitors and evaluators, the parents, the community
and above all of the teachers it yields far better results than a conventional training program.
The above process helps the trainer to tailor the contents of further training and follow up. Going
through such a process, results in better quality of future training programs.

Such training is process oriented but yields not only encouraging results but contributes greatly in
teacher development in terms of their personal educational attainment, their understanding of
issues in teaching and learning, their views on curriculum and education policy and the role of a
teacher pertaining to the above.

The above model of teacher training has been experimented with encouraging results. It is
process oriented and demands time and energy. In a number of cases there is no other viable
option of teacher training if an education program has to get off the ground in any sense. Working
with human mind is not an easy task; it is a demanding job. The players in the non-formal
education sector has to be content with a limited territorial jurisdiction as working with human
beings is fundamentally different from building physical infrastructure. They need to focus on the
intensive work instead of spreading themselves too thin.

The dividends of such an endeavor are incomparable. It can produce teachers with better
educational attainment and entailing higher self confidence. When they are involved in the
process of planning and designing the training they become competent in planning their work,
developing teaching aids and other educational materials. Qualified and competent teachers
become potential trainers. And having local teachers and trainers brings knowledge to the
doorsteps of the people. If we are able to develop such teachers at the local level lack of
motivation and commitment would no longer be an issue. One must not forget that teacher training and grooming is an ongoing process.

Five or fifteen day long trainings cannot do any good to the already resource poor -educationally and financially both-teachers.

Non formal and adult education need, without delay, at least a diploma in teacher training and development program at the university level. And the faculty for such a program must be drawn from the field practitioners if it has to become a real response to the gigantic problem our country is confronted with.

One Response to Teachers Need Support

  1. Bushra Sadiq says:

    Yes off course, there are several reasons the poor system of education. Because I have worked with public and private schools, I have met about thousand teachers of every scale. I found only 3,4 teachers how had really the passion of teaching. One thing I must want to share because this post about teachers training and methodology, In both public and private, teachers were reluctant to attend training and learning sessions. Training was an extra burden on them. I don’t know why this type of attitude is acceptable for their supervisors??

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