The relationships between school reforms and teacher professionalism in government primary schools in Karachi, Pakistan.
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AbstractThe government primary education system in Karachi, Pakistan, is faced with many problems and dilemmas and each dilemma justifies a reason, but perhaps no problem is as grave as the dejected professional status of the government primary school teachers in Karachi. Schools are only as good as their teachers, regardless of how high their standards, how up-to-date their technology, or how innovative their programs. With a large numbers of under-educated, under-trained, under-paid and, most importantly of all, undervalued government primary school teachers in Karachi, Pakistan (Hoodbhoy, 1998; Shaikh, 1997), only a low percentage of teachers can be effective. Whether the children in Pakistan will be the enlightened and the informed citizens of tomorrow or ignorant members of society will depend on teacher knowledge, teacher education and above all teacher professionalism. If teachers do matter the most, then a series of questions result. What is being done for this section of the society that matters so much? Are efforts being taken to find out what teachers in the government primary schools need to achieve their professional goals? Are these teachers given adequate opportunities to learn, to improve and to become effective teachers? How can these teachers meet the ever increasing demands placed upon them? How will these teachers successfully lead the students into the twenty-first century? Do the primary government school teachers believe that they can successfully lead children into the twenty-first century? Are school reforms geared towards enhancing teachers' professionalism? This research that focuses on the relationships between school reforms and teacher professionalism in government primary schools in Karachi, Pakistan, addresses such questions. In this thesis, I outline some of the measures that have been taken at the government, at the non-government and at the school sector level to restructure and reform primary government schools in Pakistan. A mixed methods research approach was undertaken to investigate the relationships between these reforms and teacher professionalism. Quantitative data were collected by means of questionnaire surveys and qualitative data were collected in the selected four case sites by means of interviews and field notes. In this research it was important to investigate teacher efficacy, teacher practice, teacher leadership and collaborative efforts as the different dimensions of professionalism and the relationships between these and the school reforms for enhanced teacher professionalism. Research was required which addressed the question of "What it actually means to be a professional teacher in government primary schools in Karachi, Pakistan, and how school reforms can actually develop teacher learning for improved teacher professionalism?" Contrary to the detached and noncommittal attitude with which the government primary school teachers are characterized in many contexts, the teachers in this study have indicated that they are confident and capable; they can articulate and communicate ideas; they can make decisions and undertake responsibilities; they understand that it is important to collaborate and learn from one another; and they are willing to undertake leadership roles if they have the opportunities. This has strong implications for policy makers to provide teachers with the opportunities to become active and reflective professionals. It is important to regard teachers as change agents capable of generating knowledge and of making change happen, rather than as passive recipients and users of knowledge. The data provided by the teachers have indicated that it is possible to enhance teacher professionalism within the existing government primary school structures. While the different teachers were at different levels or stages of professionalism, it was quite clear that they had all advanced in terms of their professionalism as a consequence of reform initiatives. These changes in the teachers' levels of professionalism defined the relationships between the school reforms and teacher professionalism. In other words, the school reforms have been able to develop teacher professionalism and take it to a higher level than where it was when the reforms were initiated in the schools. Based on the analysis of the findings, this research theorizes that teacher professionalism is developed when teachers are provided with both the professional knowledge and skills to improve their capabilities, and opportunities to translate professional knowledge and skills into classroom and school activities to make the most of their capabilities. The research proposes that the strength of these relationships between school reforms and teacher professionalism depends on the dynamism with which the reform managers take teachers through the stage of involving them in developmental process, the stage of initiating professional development programmes and the stage of developing schools into collaborative cultures and establishing networks with the help of enlightened principals and hybrid support structures. Based on this proposition a number of principles have been identified for sustaining and further developing teacher professionalism. The study acknowledges that the process of developing teacher professionalism is complex and that it will be the blend of different elements in the schools, the particular school context and political will that will decide how professionalism can best be fostered in the government primary schools. However, since the principles derived from this research are based on grounded research findings and are also supported by literature and other relevant research in the area of teacher development, they may be applicable to other primary schools where similar reforms are being implemented in Pakistan and other developing countries seeking to address similar problems. Policy makers and large private organizations may benefit from the principles of developing and fostering teacher professionalism.