FEATURE STORY December 11, 2018

Improving Access to Quality Education in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province

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Aasiya is the head teacher of a relatively new two-room government primary school in Ziarat Badazai, a small village in District Pishin of Balochistan. 


Hiding behind a sheet held by two little volunteers, Aasiya Ramza voices out the characters of the hand puppets for her students.

Through the puppet show, she teaches them about health, hygiene and the importance of washing hands. The puppet asks the class what they should wash their hands with and a few students enthusiastically raise their hands to answer.

Aasiya is the head teacher of a relatively new two-room government primary school in Ziarat Badazai, a small village in District Pishin of Balochistan.

The mixed-gender school caters to Kindergarten through to Grade 3 with two teachers. Like many other teachers who work in the remote areas of Balochistan, she teaches a multi-grade classroom of about 8 - 10 second and third grade boys and girls, sitting together on the floor. Many of the students are attending school for the first time.


"I don’t burden the children, we progress according to their individual pace and needs. That way they are more interested in the activities and learning."
Aasiya Ramza
Teacher

MULTIMEDIA

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Provincial training programs are enabling local educators

Aasiya was recruited through a competitive, merit-based process by the Government of Balochistan’s Education Department in 2016, through the Balochistan Education Project (BEP).

As part of recent education reforms, the provincial government has endeavored to find female teachers from local districts, to improve access to education for children, especially girls.

She is one of approximately 1200 other teachers who were hired through this process.

Many teachers, including Aasiya, attended a compulsory, comprehensive teacher training program. This was conducted by the Provincial Institute for Teacher Education (PITE), where teachers recruited across Balochistan are trained before being assigned to their stations.

Depending on the number of available teachers and to ensure cost effectiveness, trainings are organized in clusters at the provincial, division and district levels. Aasiya took both the Elementary School Teacher training in Math, Science and English modules, and the Early Childhood Education (ECE) national curriculum training built on play-based learning.

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In the next room, students sit together from first grade and kindergarten (KG), or as it is known locally ‘katchi’, repeating the alphabet after their teacher, Afshan, as she shows them flash cards of each letter.

They are surrounded by colorful artwork made by teachers and students. ECE classrooms are designed to be child-friendly environments. The classroom is home to the ECE Learning Corners – six child-sized tables dedicated to Language & Literacy; Mathematics; Science & Social Studies; Art; Health; and Hygiene, Safety and Personal & Social Development.

The puppets and flash cards are part of the Learning Kits provided by the Balochistan Education Project (BEP), a subsidiary of the Education Department, as part of their Pehla Taleemi Basta (First Learning Backpack). The kits are also filled with supporting learning materials to help ECE educators teach through interactive and engaging activities. 

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Limited resources give way to innovative teaching methods

To help alleviate this, post-training, BEP Education Officers created a WhatsApp group for the teachers as a platform to build professional capacity.

This proved to be an effective, low-cost use of technology to help teachers continue learning and encourage creativity. 200 teachers are currently part of this group, where they receive news, announcements, acknowledgement and support from the project officers.

More importantly, the group is a platform for knowledge-sharing amongst peers, and where they often share teaching milestones and ideas that have worked in the classroom.

“Often teachers will share pictures or a video of an innovative activity they tried in class, and how involved and happy the children were,” says Safia Noor, Education Officer at BEP and administrator of the teachers’ group. “Even a little recognition gives them a boost of confidence and other teachers are encouraged to try something new in their own classroom to share with the group.” The friendly competition has helped boost creativity, especially in areas where teachers must craft educational art materials on their own with small budgets.

Education quality and student milestones need improvements and closer monitoring. While the new teacher-recruitment process has been a successful reform, similar training programs would benefit the more established teachers in Balochistan’s schools.

The Global Partnership for Education – Balochistan Education Project aims to increase school enrolment and retention in project-supported schools, with a special focus on girls’ participation, and to improve the management of education in Balochistan.



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