MSU scholars to help reform Pakistanís teacher-education system
EAST LANSING, Mich. — A team of education experts from Michigan State University will play a key role in a $75 million, U.S.-funded effort to improve basic education in Pakistan by improving teachers’ training and skills over the next five years.
Starting this month, MSU researchers will support the Pakistan Higher Education Commission’s initiative to create a standard curriculum for a four-year baccalaureate of education degree at Pakistan universities. Currently, teacher education programs in Pakistan vary widely and are often subpar, said Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela, associate professor in MSU’s College of Education and the project’s principal investigator.
“It’s unfortunate, but in Pakistan teaching is one of the least-respected professions,” Mabokela said. “And so the level of training and the quality of students that enter the profession is considered to be on the lower end of the spectrum.”
MSU will collaborate with 15 universities from Pakistan’s four provinces to improve their training and certification programs for instructors who will teach at the high-school level. In addition, Michigan State will be a key player in a program that will bring about 60 doctoral-level candidates and 45 master’s-level candidates from Pakistan to train as teachers at MSU and other U.S. universities.
The $6.9 million initiative led by MSU is part of the broader initiative called Pre-Service Teacher Education Program for Pakistan, or Pre-STEP. It’s funded by the United States Agency for International Development.
MSU is one of three partners that will implement the initiative. The other two are nonprofit organizations – the Academy for Educational Development, or AED, and the Education Development Center Inc., or EDC.
The AED will use a significant portion of the $75 million to make infrastructure improvements to Pakistan colleges and universities, while EDC will work with Pakistan’s government colleges, which train primary, or elementary, school teachers.
MSU’s College of Education brings a wealth of experience and distinction to the initiative. The college programs that train elementary- and secondary-level teachers have each ranked No. 1 in the nation for 14 years in a row, according to U.S. News & World Report. For her part, Mabokela has worked on education reform in several countries including her native South Africa and Egypt.
Mabokela will lead two small teams of scholars and administrative staffers – one based at MSU and one in Islamabad, Pakistan. The first task is collecting data and determining the needs to create the curriculum for secondary-level teachers. Eventually Mabokela plans to tap College of Education faculty members in math, science and other subjects to help shape the curriculum. Mabokela and her team also will conduct research stemming from the initiative.
Safety issues are being addressed by an in-country security coordinator who makes sure the team members know which areas in Pakistan are considered safe for foreigners, Mabokela said. MSU’s Julie Friend, a travel security analyst, also is providing guidance.
“It is challenging in that we are working in an environment that socially and culturally is not particularly hospitable to U.S. foreign policy,” Mabokela said. “But I think people, without being hysterical, are being very prudent in making sure the security details are being attended to.”
Mabokela said Pakistan’s poor teacher training is reflected in the country’s literacy rates: Only 46 percent of the population is literate, while only 26 percent of females are literate, according to Pakistan’s Ministry of Education.
She acknowledges that Pakistan’s teacher salaries are very low compared to other professions within the country, and that overcoming the negative perception of teaching as a career could be difficult. But she’s hopeful the Pakistan government’s recent actions indicate a desire for education reform – including its new policy that increases teaching standards from a one-year diploma to the four-year baccalaureate.
“One has to be able to provide a teacher who is at least minimally qualified,” Mabokela said. “We cannot have teachers who are completely unqualified, underprepared and expect them to do miracles.”
Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.