Improving educators

December 10, 2023

There is a need to reassess the teacher recruitment policies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Improving educators


lliot Aronson, a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is the only psychologist in the history of the American Psychological Association to have won all three of its major awards: for distinguished writing in 1973; for distinguished teacher in 1980; and for distinguished research in 1999. He is also listed among the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th Century.

Now widely known for bestselling textbooks on psychology, the development of the cognitive dissonance theory (along with his teacher Leon Festinger at Stanford), and for inventing the jigsaw classroom - a cooperative teaching technique that facilitates learning while reducing inter-ethnic hostility and prejudice, Elliot Aronson had not chosen psychology as his major at college. He decided to study the subject because of an inspiring encounter with a good teacher.

When Elliot was admitted to Brandeis in the early 1950s, he had chosen economics as his major. One day, he went to an introductory psychology lecture, not because he was interested in psychology, but because he wanted to sit near the girl he liked and hold her hand. He reminisced in an interview recently that the young Elliot was holding the hand of his beloved in his hand and was looking at her; however, the words of a young lecturer moved his attention away from the girl and to the board. He slowly let go of his beloved’s hand, grabbed a pen and paper and started taking notes. When the lecture was finished, he asked the girl the name of the young lecturer, Abraham Maslow, she replied.

Elliot went straight to the concerned office and changed his major from economics to psychology, primarily because of an inspiring teacher who snatched him from not only a girl that he loved but also a subject that he had intended to study.

This story is a reminder that great teachers can make a subject interesting comprehensible and stir curiosity among students.

In Pakistan, the profession has fallen to a level where anyone with a degree can become a teacher. To improve the teaching quality in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the requirement of professional degrees or certificates like BEd and PTC, which were previously mandatory for anyone entering the teaching profession, has been dropped. Thus, from primary to tertiary level in the public and private sector, there is no requirement for entering the teaching profession except for an academic degree.

Teachers are the bedrock of our education system. To restore the dignity of this profession, everyone, from policy-makers to educationists, must champion the cause of teaching quality and standards.

It is not uncommon for low- and middle-income private schools to hire teachers at shockingly low salaries.

In collaboration with the UNESCO and the USAID, the Policy and Planning Wing of the Ministry of Education had developed a comprehensive framework called Strengthening Teacher Education in Pakistan in 2008-9. The STEP project focused mainly on developing National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPSTs) in Pakistan. These standards were meant to guide all the pre-service and in-service programmes of teacher education, training, policies and procedures, including the teacher recruitment system.

The NPSTs include subject knowledge, human growth and development, knowledge of Islamic and social values, instructional planning and strategies, assessment, learning environment, effective communication, proficient use of information and communication technologies, collaboration and partnerships, continuous professional development and the teaching of English as a second/ foreign language (ESL/ EFL). Each standard comprises three elements: a. knowledge (what the teacher knows), b. disposition (behaviour, values and attitudes), c. performance (what the teacher can and should be able to do).

Despite the precious effort put into designing the STEP framework, it is yet to be implemented in letter and spirit. Ironically, the professional educational diplomas have been made redundant, at least in the KP. The teacher recruitment system is now based on tricky multiple choice questions that enable rote learners to pass the tests due to their knack for memorisation while highly qualified, users of the high order thinking skills, struggle with flipping the Blooms pyramid to replace creativity with memorisation.

Teachers are the bedrock of our education system. To restore the dignity of this profession, everyone, from policy-makers to educationists, must champion the cause of teaching quality and standard. The first step in this direction is to breathe life into the STEP framework.

The writer, a Peshawar-based student, has a background in English literature, history and politics. He can be reached at

Improving educators