Gilgit-Baltistan: Fundamentality of School Education (II)

By Syed Shams Uddin

REGIONAL print media recently reported the holding of a grand seminar – perhaps first of its kind, specifically on quality of education and the crucial role of teachers’, at KIU which can truly be regarded as  very encouraging sign pointing towards and greatly instrumental in imparting efficacious teaching practices and pedagogic skills attuned to and in conformity with the changing times insofar as bringing about a qualitative transformation in public sector schools system in this region is concerned.

Admittedly, a system perfectly consonant with the principle of preponderance and efficacy of public sector education –  the singular means or to put it, the mainstay of the overwhelming poor stratum of society, inevitably has to achieve de facto dominance over private sector in competitive terms when it comes to making quality education invariably available to the children of the poor for a positive socio-economic transformation in this era of change.

There can be no two opinions that education paradigmatically has to offer model responsive to the present whilst being futuristically contemplative of the needs ahead, by introducing a flexible system, giving autonomy to teachers and imparting skills to students, infusing in them multi cultural understanding and inculcating in them the concept of unity in diversity and the virtues of pluralistic society – encouraging them for networking with their peers beyond borders. With the fore-going being the hallmark of the education policy, teaching may include developing more entrepreneurial skills and capacities amongst the youth while more investment in human capital for the economization of education by underscoring economic model of education where skills-based technical education among other things, assumes centrality and all the more focus along with other relevant transformative pedagogies.

An Efficacious Teaching

Indeed an efficacious educational system in sum can be one tailored in keeping with the needs of society as a whole in that opportunities in terms of quality education are extended across the board to all segments of society plentifully especially when it comes to regions getting constituted as economic backwater. Such models can be ensured only by strengthening and bringing about perceptual changes in public sector schools system.

Quality or otherwise of the prevalent education system is something to be measured and testified by the number of students of each institution becoming well poised to succeed in getting admissions in the institutions of higher learning.

It is a welcome development that the G-B is witnessing a noticeable flurry of activity in this context in recent days underlining the paramountcy of ways and means to enhance teaching methodology in public sector institutions across G-B for the attainment of a qualitative change. This is what prompts this scribe to refer to an article, “Essentials of Effective Teaching’, from a renowned educationist, Shahid Shaikh, executive director of the New York City-based American Educational Research Institute, published decade and a half ago which seemingly has axiomatic validity today. It begins with: educators today, are confronted with the dilemma as to which knowledge, skills, and experiences our students need and how best to impart them. Simply put:  What makes a teacher “effective”?. A one-size-fits-all answer does not exist.

However, personal reflections on teaching, discussions with colleagues, observations of other teachers, and a review of pertinent literature highlight several proven strategies and teaching practices that help successful teachers transform the teaching profession into a true art form by superbly exploiting and perfecting them. Effective teachers envision schools as communities of self-motivated, life-long reflective learners, and see themselves as nurturers and facilitators of learning. They exploit their cultivated understanding of emotional, social, cultural, linguistic, religious and racial diversity to establish bonds of understanding with their students. The result of their understanding in sum is that their lessons and classroom activities are not only relevant, vibrant, interesting, and challenging by tailoring them to their students’ everyday experiences, but also show awareness of diversity and multicultural issues, reflecting multicultural and multiethnic compositions of their classes. Students, for instance, feel a certain magic when viewing or touching a real cultural artifact.

Good teachers are also aware of their students’ levels of emotional and intellectual growth, learning styles, special talents, and weaknesses. They rely on seamless integration of the latest technological tool, and sophisticated calculators etc, into their lessons to provide a variety of learning mediums to their students.

To him, research shows that command of the subject matter is the single most hallmark of effective teachers. No wonder, a vast majority of effective teachers attribute their classroom success to their mastery of the subject matter. They relentlessly pursue knowledge through persistent research; thy constantly update their knowledge and teaching skills through their discipline-related activities. In addition, they actively seek and share new skills, proven teaching strategies, such as, collaborative teaching, Balanced Literacy, divergent thinking skills, and cooperative learning activities – with colleagues and parents, and by doing so, they surreptitiously become their professional resources and mentors.

Parents are the linchpin in their child’s educational experience because they their child’s first and the most important teachers and role models. Successful teacher actively create, seek, and seize every available opportunity  –  such as, class, school, and community events – to communicate student’s progress to parents. Moreover, they diligently seek to establish mutual academic expectations and to discuss effective strategies to improve their child’s performance. While the ongoing rapport introduces some parents to a new and often confusing school system, it also allows them to better understand their students as well as the needs and dynamics of the community at large.

Briefly put, teachers who enlist the support of parents in their child’s education empower parents by making them active partners in their child’s education. By using ever-changing educational standard and expectations along with requirements as guidelines, successful educators urge and prod their students to be responsible self-starters. They focus on cultivating the following useful skills: remembering, organizing, apprising, classifying, synthesizing, planning, criticizing and communicating. They train their students to use systematic, scientific reasoning skills to be good problem solvers and to be reflective learners. To ensure their students’ success in unfamiliar settings and situations, they teach practical strategies as well as provide ample simulated opportunities to test and hone their skills. They offer systematic support and encouragement to their struggling students, while ensuring that their advancing students receive sufficient enrichment to blossom.

Good communication skills have a very important role in the success of a teacher. During the first week of classes, effective teacher clearly communicate their academic standards and expectation to their students. They post the standards in clearly visible places in their classrooms and urge their student to copy them in their notebooks. They explicitly demonstrate to their students how they can meet or exceed them.

With regard to class discipline, they collaborate with students to develop a thorough code of conduct, which they enforce with compassion to promote a good and safe learning environment for students as well as faculty. Formal and informal learning assessments are an ongoing process for effective teachers. A multitude of assessment tools – such as, standardized tests, essay exams, presentations, discussions, and community-based projects are at their disposal. Being fully aware of each assessment tool’s strengths and shortcomings, effective teacher diligently choose only those tools that can clearly pinpoint their students’ specific strength and weaknesses, while providing them with an overall picture of their students’ progress.

For a great many successful teachers, an ongoing reflection of their own teaching is a finessed habit. They contemplate the effectiveness of their teaching techniques, strategies, goals, their own classroom behavior, classroom activities, classroom management skills, what and if their students are learning and modify them if necessary.

In sum, good teacher strive to help their students grow into self-directed, capable, independent, self-sufficient young adults who not only succeed in school but also in life. In their endeavor to achieve their ultimate goals, they leave no stone unturned in imparting value-added, quality education and superb training to their students.

As becoming well ascertainable from a report, there are 2762 schools across GB out of which, 1315 are government schools. Among them, 1315 government schools, 1284 are said to be functional and 31 (primary i.e 12 merged and 16 closed and 03 middle i.e merged and o1 closed) are non-functional having been temporarily closed owing to shortage of staff and dilapidated buildings. Out of 1315, there are 854 for boys and 451 for girls, which further get categorized into 790 primary, 303 middle, 198 high and 20 higher secondary schools. Out of 790 primary schools, there are 30 mosque schools which are said functioning as primary schools. Due to difficult terrain and sparse population, accompanied by harsh topographic conditions of the region, 88 primary schools are functioning as middle, 14 as high schools and 11 high schools offering services of higher secondary classes in keeping with and attuned to public demand.

This is indeed, a good step but nevertheless, capacity building of these institutions becomes very vital in that the existing infrastructural facilities may not in anyway, cater to their needs nor may the staffing meant exclusively a high schools meet additional burden resulting from such verbally made higher secondary lacking the direly needed paraphernalia or the wherewithal. Public sector schools get termed with and denote those schools managed the Education department of Gilgit-Baltistan while ‘Other Public Sector Schools’ means those run exclusively by the Federal Government, Army, GB Police, Bait-ul-Mall. Then comes the ones managed by the ‘Private sector’ id est by individuals, NGOs/BoDs or chains etc. Besides 1315 government schools, 725 schools are said to be those managed by Federal government (BECS and NCHD Feeder schools), Army, GB Police and Pakistan BAIT-UL-Mall while the number of those existing in the private sector is put at 725. Against total 2762 schools, there are 935 for boys while 595 are exclusively meant for girls and 1232 are mixed schools offering learning at the inception or preliminary stage. A cursory look at current statistical data concerning educational landscape of Gilgit-Baltistan brings it to the fore that overall enrollment in the region is 322,166 with 151,756 (47%) in public sector schools 125,341 (39%), while that in private sector is 45069 (14%) and in other public sector schools. Among 322,166 students, there are 177,034 (44%) boys and 145,032 (45%) girls.

As regards manning of the these institutions, the total number teachers in government schools is put at 7860 posts of posts of teacher sanctioned for public sector schools ( 5404 male + 2456 female) in which 2103 ( 1,523 male + 580 female) are in government primary, 2449 (1504 male + 945 female ) are in government middle, 2976 (2225 male + 751 female) are in government high and 332 (152 males + 180 female) are in government higher secondary schools.

Viewed in terms working, the number of teachers in public sector schools is put at 7363 (4619 male + 2744 female) out of which 2090 ( 1257 male + 833 female) are those manning public sector primary schools, 2185 (1293 male + 892 female) middle, 2757 (1867 male + 890 female) public sector high and 331 (202 male + 129 female) public sector higher secondary schools across the region.

The number of teachers in (non-government) private schools is 7772 out of which male teachers are 3303 and female teachers are 4469. Out of the above, 1713 teachers are working in primary level schools, 2523 in middle schools, 2551 in high level schools and 985 in higher secondary level schools.

Cumulatively viewed, there are 16082 teachers working in all sectors of educational institutions in G-B. Among these, there are 6593 (4264 male + 2329 female) teachers in public sector schools, 1736 (449 male + 1088 female) in Other Public Sector Schools (Federal Government, Army, GB Police and Pakistan Bait-ul-Mall, while 7754 (3301 male + 4453 female) employed in private sector schools.

   The writer is a Gilgit-based freelance contributor, blogger. He can be reached at Email: shamskazmi.syed@gmail.com

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