There has been little change in learning levels among students in Pakistan over the past many years and educationists hold the quality of the national education system generally, and teachers’ competence, capability and efficiency particularly, responsible for it.
Though the list is not exhaustive, some of the key issues related to the quality of existing teachers in Pakistan stem from irrational teacher educators’ deployment in teacher education institutions; insufficient resources and professional development opportunities, and the absence of a robust quality assurance (QA) mechanism including accreditation of teacher education programmes.
Improving standards and sustainability of quality teacher education programmes in Pakistan, in fact, poses a challenge to the authorities concerned. Teacher education programmes, which focus on quality, are either short-lived or small scale. Long-term and large-scale programmes, on the other hand, do not address quality without coming up to the accreditation standards.
The National Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (NACTE) is playing a crucial role in enhancing standards of the teaching programmes in educational institutions for teachers, in the public and private sectors. Under the powers given in the Ordinance 2002, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) constituted the NACTE as an autonomous body on August 30, 2007, for ensuring the quality of teacher education programmes in the public and private institutions in the country.
According to NACTE Secretary Dr Irshad Ahmad Farrukh, the council has representation of the federal education ministry, provincial departments of education, public and private sector universities, Pakistani and foreign prominent teacher educators and experts, the HEC and the Planning Commission. He says that all existing teacher education degrees and postgraduate diploma programmes including BEd, MEd etc., fall within the jurisdiction of NACTE.
According to the HEC rules and regulations, accreditation is mandatory for all relevant education academic programmes, offered by the public and private sector institutions. The council assists and advises teacher education institutions in planning their academic programmes. It facilitates the intellectual development of prospective teachers (students) interested in pursuing the teaching profession and provides professional assistance to the institutions concerned.
Elaborating, the secretary says that while framing norms and criteria for accreditation of degree programmes in teacher education, the council considers the overall scope of the programme, curricula/ syllabi matching with the level of degree programmes, approval of the programme by competent authority of the institution, and the requisite infrastructure.
Other requirements include the faculty, their number and qualifications, level of compatibility with international standards and trends, level of skills to be developed by the programme, student support services, library facilities, internship/ practice teaching facilities for students and other amenities, financial assistance/ loan, and market needs etc.
About the jurisdiction of the council, the secretary says that teacher education degree programmes will be considered for accreditation if they are offered by an institution of higher learning in one of the following categories:-
a). Institutions chartered by the federal government or a provincial government in the relevant field.
b). Institutions affiliated by the chartered universities or degree awarding institutions through the respective universities/institutes.
c). Institutions offering degree programmes under affiliation/collaboration with foreign universities under the approval of the HEC.
d). When a multi-campus institution presents a programme for accreditation, each campus will be considered as a separate institution in the evaluation process.
The secretary says that accreditation has been made mandatory in Pakistan for all teacher education programmes leading to the award of degree by the public and private teacher education institutions.
Functions of the council, adds the secretary, include developing and reviewing policies and procedures for accreditation of teacher education programmes; laying down criteria on which teacher education programmes should be assessed and equated; approving a list of academic auditors for different programmes in accordance with the selection criteria to be framed by the council for this purpose; constituting an accreditation committee to evaluate teacher education programmes; considering the recommendations of the accreditation committee regarding accreditation of programmes; and to prepare an annual report on the activities of the council and submit it to the controlling authority.
The secretary says the mission of the council is to ensure the conduct of high quality teacher education programmes as an integral part of higher education through a sustained professional internal evaluation (self-evaluation) and external academic audit (accreditation visit). According to the secretary, NACTE draws all its powers from the HEC for quality assurance of teacher education programmes. It was given Rs4 million per annum for the first five years after its establishment in 2007.
Later, the HEC started gradually reducing funding for the council. In 2013, it was given Rs3 million, next year Rs2 million and last year, it was given only one million rupees.
The reason for the reduction in the NACTE funding is the perception that the council has enough resources to run on its own.
However, adds the NACTE secretary, it is a wrong perception as the council is facing hardships in visiting all educational institutions which have applied for accreditation of their programmes. So far, the council has accredited 175 teacher education programmes in the country and more than 100 applications are pending. Currently, the council is not visiting educational institutions for lack of manpower and resources, adds the NACTE secretary.
The main aims of the council are quality assurance, quality improvement and quality maintenance of teacher education programmes.
The secretary says that the council has the latest equipment and software for assessing the teacher education programmes for accreditation, thanks to Unesco, which provided all financial resources for the purpose.
The council assesses 52 indicators and awards one of the four levels – W, X, Y and Z – to any programme. The most appropriate programme is given ‘W’ level, while the lowest level is ‘Z’, and the accreditation is given for three years.
The council also issues warnings to students and parents about the quality of different teacher programmes, which have not been accredited and which do not meet the required standards. The secretary believes that more resources and manpower could help the council perform its functions more efficiently.