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Lahore

June 5, 2016

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Initiative to improve content knowledge of teachers

Initiative to improve content knowledge of teachers

LAHORE

Society for the Advancement of Education (SAHE) partnered with Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (IDEAS) and the apex Punjab government teacher training body, the Directorate of Staff Development (DSD), to pilot changes to the existing model of teacher professional development in the Punjab for improving in-service teacher training through the use of tablets and standardized high quality training videos to improve content knowledge of grade-4 math and science teachers.

A key determinant of student learning levels is teacher quality. Student learning levels are low and teachers vary in competence across public schools in the Punjab. While DSD has established a cluster-based training model to cater to in-service teacher training of primary school teachers, it is constrained by the heterogeneous quality of District Teacher Educators (DTEs) and resource persons available at the district level to train teachers as well as logistical challenges in organizing trainings for such a large teaching workforce more than once a quarter. This project aimed to overcome both of these constraints by deploying and providing technology i.e. standardized high quality training videos uploaded on digital tablets to DTEs to train teachers every month. The use of such technology ensured uniform quality of trainings delivered as well as directly took the training to the teacher within the school.

In a project that sought to develop high quality video clips for teacher training in mathematics and science, over 1000 government teachers in approximately 750 schools in Bahwalnagar, Hafizabad and Sahiwal    were assisted in addressing topics such as fractions and magnetism in the two subjects. The Society for the Advancement of Education (SAHE) and Institute of Development and Education Alternatives (IDEAS) developed a comprehensive training program around the video clips with a field component of over four months. This intervention, titled “Learning While You Teach”, was piloted as part of the Sub National Governance (SNG) supported District Delivery Challenge Fund (DDCF) on a large scale in Bahawalnagar, Hafizabad and Sahiwal. DTEs and primary school teachers in these three districts were divided into treatment and control groups. The treatment group contained 156 DTEs, 755 schools and 1058 grade-4 teachers. Workshops were held to train DTEs on the use of tablets and on the training videos. Baseline survey and end-line surveys and tests were conducted to measure the impact of the intervention on teacher knowledge.

The project’s achievements and findings were disseminated at an event held in Avari Hotel, Lahore on the 2nd of June. 84 percent of the target teachers were trained using this technology-mediated training model. Moreover, 85 percent of teachers surveyed and 78 percent of DTEs surveyed reported the piloted model to be ‘very useful’ and effective as a training method indicating high acceptance and interest across both groups. The impact was strongest on weaker and less qualified teachers. Test score gains were noted to be remarkable given the minimal training exposure (teachers were only able to view training videos on the tablets for a total of 8 hours across 5 months).

A panel discussion was held after findings had been presented. Panelists included a mix of policy makers, academics and development partners. The panel comprised of Azmat Siddique, Course Coordinator at the DSD, Ali Cheema, Associate Professor of Economics at LUMS, Javed Malik, Education Adviser at DFID and Usman Khan, Challenge Fund Manager at SNG.  Azmat Siddique noted that the DSD had received very positive feedback regarding the “Learning while you teach” project from stakeholders in the three districts. He pointed out that teacher training involved significant travel and daily allowance costs and this is where the use of technology creates an opportunity for lowering costs of delivery. Professor Ali Cheema of LUMS noted that the exercise was not simply a Random Controlled Trial (RCT) aimed at precise measurement of impact but a lot of effort appeared to have gone into ensuring the quality of the materials developed. He commented that the tablet (or any technology) is only as valuable as the content, therefore, that is loaded on it. He appreciated that a key success of this project had been identifying high quality content that is remedial in nature.

Javed Malik of Dfid said that the research from the project was significant and could inform the debate on the issue of quality in education in Pakistan. He noted, however, that the capacity of the DSD, while a unique organization, needs to be strengthened in order to implement the intervention moving forward. The question and answer session that followed concluded with some useful insights to the effect that the private sector could be usefully engaged by the DSD in future to help develop training materials and digital media since it is a challenging task for which animation and gaming expertise is needed to excite and spark the interest of viewers. It was also noted that there are endless possibilities with using digital media to enhance teacher and student learning since it offers the option to individualize learning that caters to slow learners. It was considered very encouraging that the intervention had an impact even though it had been a `light-touch’ intervention. 

Key stakeholders from the education sector attended the event. Jamil Najam, former director of Directorate of Public Instruction, was in attendance, along with Waqar Qureshi from Punjab Information Technology Board and Zahra Zaheer from the Punjab Education Sector Project II team. Development partners in attendance included Sobia Nusrat from the British Council, Farheen Hussain from Cambridge International Education, Omar Mukhtar from Dfid, Hamed Sheikh from SNG and Ahmad Jawad Asghar from Adam Smith International amongst others. The district governments were represented by the Executive District Officers (Education) of Bahawalnagar and Sahiwal. Other representatives from the districts included DTEs and Teacher Educators.

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