ISLAMABAD: The quality of teaching is directly linked to the way students learn and then perform in their achievement tests. Therefore, it is no mystery that the learning outcomes of students in Pakistan are below par.
So, the question to ponder over is how to improve the equality of teaching trainings, pre-service and in-service both; the starting point to improve the quality of teaching is to make the recruitment process transparent and selection merit based.
However, the state of teacher recruitment in Pakistan has not been encouraging in the past as political interference, nepotism, ghost teachers and nontransparent practices dominate the process. It is encouraging to note that recent efforts have been made in all the provinces to improve matters.
Currently, there are 150,243 public sector teachers in Sindh as per government statistics. As part of the reforms programme outlined in the Sindh Education Sector Plan 2014-18, the provincial government has committed to make the teacher recruitment process merit-based.
Although simple to explain, the recruitment process in the southern province is time consuming. According to the new recruitment policy enforced in 2012, teachers are now hired through a test held by the National Testing Service (NTS) after posts are advertised by the education department.
NTS was hired through competitive bidding in November 2012 to conduct tests of candidates for teaching posts at the school level. As per the set criteria, 60% or moremarks are required to pass the test. In order to promote more women teachers, female candidates with 60% or more marks awarded an additional 20 marks. After the NTS test is held , the results are made public through the display of a merit list.
The eligibility of successful candidates and their credentials is then verified by a District Recruitment Committee (DRC), headed by the District Coordination Officer (DCO) and includes the district education officer, district officers and educationists.
After verification, a report is submitted to the Reform Support Unit (RSU) which forwards it the donor, the World Bank, for vetting. After the donor endorses the results, the teachers are notified of their recruitment.
Although seemingly transparent, this mode of recruitment faces delays because of the involvement of many stakeholders. According to media sources, there is still a backlog of about 16, 000 letters for teaching posts advertised in 2012.
The issue of ghost teachers is also quite prevalent in Sindh where over 40, 000 such cases were identified in 2014. The government is aware of these issues, and with the reform programme focusing on ensuring transparency and merit based selection, perhaps these problems will also be ironed out in coming days.
Around 59, 581 teachers are currently working in public sector schools of Balochistan as per official statistics. In-line with the state of recruitment in Sindh, the hiring process in Balochistan has also not been void of political intervention in the past.
However, the teacher recruitment process in the process in the province is now heading towards transparency where lawmakers have surrendered their discretion in the selection process. Teachers are now hired through two testing services: the Balochistan Testing Service (BTS) for hiring of primary and middle school teachers and the National Testing Service (NTS) for the selection of high school teachers.
Under the new reforms related to teacher recruitment and selection, a two-year Associate Degree for Education (ADE) is compulsory for a position in public sector schools in Balochistan. For secondary school teachers, a Master's in Education (MEd) degree is also necessary, along with a Master's degree in his or her specialisation subject.
Recently, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) launched an enquiry against more than 600 teachers who were recruited based on fake documents and were serving in various public sector schools of the province for the last 10 years or more.
According to NAB sources, the teachers obtained fake education degrees from various institutions in Sindh. In order to avoid such issues in future, the government now only accepts professional degrees accredited by the University of Balochistan. In general, the recruitment process in Balochistan is also heading in the right direction.
Punjab currently has a teaching workforce of 323, 225 teachers serving in 53, 448 public sector schools. Punjab Education Sector Reform Programme (PESRP) was implemented in the province between 20014 and 2007 with support from the World Bank.
Although PESRP delivered systematic improvements in teacher recruitment and placement, there was visible changes in this regard. Under PESRP-II, with the support of UKaid, numerous steps have been taken to ensure transparency in the recruitment process.
The government of Punjab adopted a merit-based policy for hiring in 2013 when it approved the the Recruitment Policy for 29, 822 educators. In general, the district governments are responsible for the whole recruitment process.
Similar to what other provinces are practicing, a salient feature of the Recruitment Policy 2013 was the entry test conducted by NTS which merits a 10% weightage in the overall grading of the candidate.
Similarly, 85% weightage is for the academic qualification and 5% for the interview. After the results of NTS are out, candidates securing 45% marks ormore are notified and the vacant posts are advertised across the districts.
The notified candidates are then called in for an interview which primarily consists of document verification. After the 5% interview marks are assigned, a second and final merit list is displayed after which the postings are made.
Despite the efforts to make the recruitment process transparent, there have been reports in newspapers from various candidates who, despite having qualified on merit, were not considered because of issues like obtaining No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from the highest competent authority and clerical misconducts.
All-in-all, the recruitment process in Punjab has been majorly merit-based recently and is expected to be more transparent in future appointments.
There are currently 118,756 teachers working in 27,892 public schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Since early 2014, the provincial government has also started recruiting teachers bassed on test conducted by the NTS after rules were amended in 2012.
However, along with clearing the NTS test, the candidate must also possess a professional teaching degree. Like Punjab, these teachers are hired on a contractual basis and then regularised after a period of around three years in service.
Similar to the practice undertaken in Sindh, union council-based recruitment has been initiated in K-P for primary teachers as well in order to address the issue of shortages in rural areas.
In order to improve the standard of education in public schools, the government is also considering an option to conduct NTS examinations for the current teachers employed by the education department.
If they fail to achieve 50% or more marks, the teachers will be allowed to seek an honourable handshake policy. Media reports in the past have identified many teachers, including women, who had been recruited to perform their duties away from home.
However, the government now allows candidates to specify five nearby schools of their choice in the entry form. Overall, the teacher recruitment process in the province has now improved after the recent reforms.
The writer is a research fellow at the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS), Islamabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2015.