Despite claims from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government about a “revolution” in the province’s education sector, there are no computer teachers in government schools from grade five to eight, despite there being a computer science course for these schools available.
Policy makers introduced a compulsory computer science course for elementary classes in 2010, but the post of computer teacher for middle schools has yet to be created. During visits to government schools in different parts of Abbottabad district, The Express Tribune found that teachers from other departments in government schools -- from arabic to physical education -- have been teaching computer science in the absence of a specialized teacher for the course.
Ten compulsory subjects are taught to elementary classes but there are only seven sanctioned teaching staff posts. These posts include a secondary school teacher, who also acts as headmaster or headmistress of the school, as well as science, arts, drawing, Arabic, theology and physical education teachers.
The post of information technology teachers (CI-ITs) is not sanctioned for middle schools, so people recruited for this role are doing their duties in high schools, where management of the school assigns them computer related tasks, including maintaining online attendance, updating online census form and making online action management plans. In the absence of CT-ITs in middle schools, arabic teachers and physical education teachers are tasked with teaching computer science for all schools in Abbottabad district.
Some students said they found computer science period boring while some other say they enjoy this class because it gives them an hour to play. They say teachers who came to those classes are often unprepared. Without lesson plans, they mostly read straight from the textbook. Instead of engaging in the class, students find other ways to pass the time, including playing games.
According to the official statistics received from education authorities, there are 173 government middle schools, 121 secondary schools and 33 higher secondary schools in Abbottabad district where about 55,000 students are enrolled. During The Express Tribune’s visit, a teacher serving in an administrative position, who asked to remain annonymous, said governmetn schools across the province are facing a shortage of specialized teachers, especially for computer science positions.
In middle schools, certified teachers are teaching all sciences and english subjects. Since there is only one class for Arabic at the beginner’s level, Arabic and physical education teachers give computer classes in their free time. She believes the lack of qualified computer teachers is compromising the quality of education for students at government schools.
She said she laments the state of affairs in the school, where roles for requiered teachers often remain vacant for a long time. She said there are no certified teachers available due to a staff shortage so three teachers have been managing the entire school. She is responsible for teaching general science, mathematics, English and computer science to all three elementary classes, which she said is incredibly stressful. “Under such circumstances only the students suffer,” she said.
Professor Salauddin Ayubi, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Higher Education Department Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, who designed the computer science curriculum for the province said such courses require a specialised instructor to be taught effectively. He said that teachers from other backgrounds are unfamiliar with information technology, which can make it difficult for them to teach. “If teachers are not familiar with use of Microsoft Office and basics of internet it is almost impossible for them to educate the students,” Ayubi said.
Even if they are dealing with outdated technology or materials, Ayubi said trained IT experts are able to explain to students what they are learning about in an understandable way. Ayubi said the curriculum was created in 2007 and has been reviewed twice. Computer Science was an optional subject from 2006 to 2010, and when the syllabus mosty covered the history of computers. Now, he said, it is a compulsory subject for elementary classes, so obsolete topics have been removed. He said the Single National Curriculum, instituted in KP last month, will be helpful in this regard, and will be in place from the 2022-2023 academic year onward.
Ayubi said in today’s highly technological world, computers provides insight into other subjects and how they can be presented using computers, which is why grades six, seven and eight are emphasizing the subject. Further chapters cover methods to prevent viruses on computers and other helpful information. Ayubi emphasizes the need for specialized teachers for these subjects. “Being an educationist myself, I find a major difference in teaching computer science as this subject requires active learning from the expert or professional teacher instead of conventional rote learning from ordinary teacher of different backgrounds,” he said.
Dilshad Begum, Abbottabad district education officer for the female wing said that the lack of computer teachers is affecting the studies of children studying in middle schools, and she is trying to address it. “We have written to the high ups on this issue numerous times,” Begum said. She said they have also held meetings with the government’s education department requesting teachers for this post “so the students could get quality education which is their universal right enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan”.
Sarmad Faraz Abbasi and Sardar Shah Nawaz Khan, Abbottabad based litigators who worked extensively on education problems in the province told The Express Tribune that the government wants to bring students of public schools on a par with those of private educational institutions, but yet they have not taken the right steps to do so. They said it is unfortunate that despite introducing computer science classes in schools a decade ago, the government hasn’t appointed teachers for this posted nor nor established computer laboratories.
They argue the Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) department of KP is under a constitutional obligation to provide free and quality education to all such students. Under Article 25-A of the Constitution, 1973, all students have a right to free education, which imposes an obligation on the government to take legislative, financial and administrative measures to ensure no student remains denied of this fundamental right. Abbasi and Khan said they find the absense of computer science instructors to be a failure of the government to provide quality education to the students of elementary classes.
To remedy this, the advocates suggest the government establish a body, comprising on well-reputed members of civil society and government officials, to check and supervise the quality of education being given to students as a constitutional obligation of the state. They are planning to seek intervention from the court so the provincial government department could be directed to ensure appropriate teachers are appointed.
Maliha Ali Asghar Khan, a member provincial assembly from the ruling party in KP and a standing committee member in the elementary and second education department says she agrees computer and information technology is a subject of vital importance. She said the PTI-led government of the province has given attention to the education sector, but said she was not aware of the full extend of the issue related to computer instructors. “I will raise the issue with the chief minister and also take up the matter in standing committee of [the] provincial assembly to resolve it as soon as possible,” she said.
Meanwhile, Amer Afaq, special secretary of the elementary and education department in KP, said the promotion of information technology is the need of the hour, something the incumbent government is focused on. He said they have created a comprehensive strategy to set up computer laboratories in government schools and also plan on hiring IT teachers so that information technology would be made available in all schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.