FEATURE STORY

Teachers Hold the Key to Student Learning: Pakistan Education Sector Review

October 29, 2014

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Research shows that knowledge or degrees alone do not ensure good teachers. It is incentives for good performance and disincentives for shirking responsibility that drives the behaviors of teachers and resultant performance of students. 

World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A student’s exposure to a high-performing teacher for as short as one school year can be enough for long-lasting, positive effects on future education, employment, and earnings outcomes.
  • While 90% of Pakistan's education budget goes toward paying teacher salaries, student learning outcomes are mixed.
  • In order to improve education system in Pakistan, teachers should be provided with pre-service and in-service training that equips them with up-to-date teaching methods.

“Reading is not walking on the words; it's grasping the soul of them”, Paulo Freire  

Teachers are considered the main input within schools for helping students learn. The positive impact of a high-performing teacher is not limited just to test scores.  A student’s exposure to a high-performing teacher for as short as one school year can be enough for long-lasting, positive effects on future education, employment, and earnings outcomes. New research shows that individual teachers impact child learning differently. This was discussed in recently held Pakistan Education Sector Review workshops organized by the World Bank in Lahore and Islamabad.

Ninety percent of the education budget in Pakistan goes toward paying salaries of approximately 1.5 million teachers in public and private sector schools.  The fact that students’ learning outcomes are mostly not up to the mark can only mean that something is amiss in teacher’s performance because it is reflected in the student’s learning.



" This lack of association is consistent with a storyline of weak governance and accountability in the public schools, which impairs the real acquisition and application of teacher skill.  "

Dhushyanth Raju

World Bank Senior Economist


One of the important determinants of teacher performance is the prevalent multigrade teaching system. With 70 students being taught by 2 teachers under the same roof, quality cannot be ensured without adequate training. Introduction of modern techniques for managing multi-grade classrooms is imperative, as is the need for continuous professional development of teachers.

Multiple participants felt that the state of accountability and governance in the public education system is a major contributing factor for poor teacher performance. They urged that the public sector draw lessons from successful private sector governance models and tailor them to its needs.

Evidence from a World Bank survey of the lowest performing schools in three districts of Punjab shows that, even within schools, it is teacher performance that determines varying degree of student learning. Standard indicators like teaching experience, school tenure, and teacher training do not appear to be associated with average student test scores. “This lack of association is consistent with a storyline of weak governance and accountability in the public schools, which impairs the real acquisition and application of teacher skill,” Dhushyanth Raju – Senior Economist, World Bank said while underlining the factors affecting teachers’ performance.

Private schooling is an important feature of the educational landscape in Pakistan. The recent expansion of low-cost private schools has made them a viable alternative, even for the poor.  More than a third of all children in the country are now enrolled in private schools, where tuition averages less than $5 a month in rural villages, a small fraction of average household income. Studies of these schools have generally found that student learning is higher and teachers perform better, although teachers are paid less and are often less educated than their counterparts in government schools. This shows that knowledge or degrees alone do not ensure good teachers. It is incentives for good performance and disincentives for shirking responsibility that drives behaviors and resultant performance.

Head teachers’ status and role is also important. The amount of time spent at schools and the value added by the head teacher can make a difference in both teacher accountability and motivation as well as student achievements.  Head teachers are usually present in the private schools, however in public schools head teachers are mostly involved in other activities like immunization campaigns, election duties etc. 

Risk and opportunity in child school participation was another subject that was discussed at length during the workshops. A large proportion of the children aged 6-15 years are out-of-school or at the risk of dropping out. There is, however, notable variation in the extent of risk and opportunity across provinces and schooling levels. Although vast majority of in-school children are safe but the percentage of at-reach, out-of-school children exceeds the percentage of at-risk, in-school children. In Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the percentages of at-reach, an out-of-school child is more than the percentages of hard-to-reach, out-of-school children. Studies show that raising the income levels of the poor, raises the probability of retaining these children in school.

In order to improve education system in Pakistan, teachers should be provided with pre-service and in-service training that equips them with up-to-date teaching methods and to see the results the students should be consistently tracked to measure the learning outcomes.