USAID expands support for teacher training

The United States Agency for International Development, USAID, has stepped up efforts to assist in modernising education in Pakistan by expanding its US$75 million teacher education project across all of the country’s provinces.

The USAID Teacher Education Project, which started in 2011, has built partnerships with Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC), 15 universities and 75 colleges. More than 2,600 students are enrolled in new education degree programmes developed and funded by USAID.

“We have now expanded the project to all territories in the country and it has started bearing results, with the first cohort of the students getting their degrees and starting teaching careers,” Fazal Rabbi, USAID’s education specialist in Pakistan, told University World News.

USAID had announced offering 1,900 scholarships under its five-year teacher training programme, of which more than 1,000 scholarships have been awarded to academically talented but financially needy Pakistani students.

The USAID Teacher Education Project, one of several USAID higher education support initiatives in Pakistan, is a practical step to implement recommendations that emerged from a 2006 study of the state of teacher education, jointly funded by USAID and UNESCO.

The study, “Situation Analysis of Teacher Education in Pakistan”, found several weaknesses in the teacher training system and recommended institutional and policy-level changes, including robust pre- and in-service teacher training, and development of up-to-date curricula.

“A review of the history of educational planning in Pakistan depicts that establishing targets, lamenting the failure to achieve the same, and setting new targets with unqualified optimism has been a continuing trend by the government of Pakistan,” the study found.

Mahmood Butt, chief of party for the USAID project, told University World News: “Teaching is the backbone of the entire education system and we are working to realise targets that the Pakistani government has set to raise standards of the profession and of teaching.”

Butt was referring to the document, National Professional Standards for Teachers in Pakistan, which the Ministry of Education developed with support from USAID and UNESCO in February 2009.

USAID first started a pre-service teacher training programme in 2008, but it did not make visible progress as Pakistan’s government ended an agreement with the Academy for Educational Development, the then implementing partner for USAID.

The project was resuscitated in 2011 with the new implementing partner being the Education Development Center, a Boston-based non-profit organisation.

Working in partnership with Pakistan’s HEC, the teachers’ college of Columbia University, provincial departments of education and teacher training institutes across the country, the project launched two education degree programmes that were developed by USAID and approved by the HEC.

Under the same project, USAID is carrying out construction and rehabilitation of education faculty buildings at several universities in Pakistan.

Javaid Laghari, chair of the HEC, told University World News: “Higher education support from USAID for strengthening teachers’ education will directly benefit secondary and primary-level education in the country.

“We hope for a good change, when today’s students become tomorrow’s teachers.”