Fostering Inclusive Education for Teachers in Pakistan

11/5/20 – 617 million children and adolescents, or six out of 10 globally – are not acquiring minimum levels in literacy and mathematics, with 81% of children and adolescents across central and southern regions of Asia (241 million) in particular not being proficient in reading (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Institute for Statistics, 2017). Disadvantaged children especially – poor, female, from minority ethnicities, with disabilities – are often excluded from meaningful learning processes in low- and middle-income countries. Pakistan — the world’s sixth largest country with a population of more than 180 million — has 7.3 million primary school-age children out of school, more than any other country in the region.

While designing the EEQAP Project, investigators gave a lot of thought to these Pakistan-related statistics and created robust inclusive education training sessions, especially for teachers belonging to rural areas. The training exclusively with teachers was designed as a three-day extensive workshop, but the real innovation was the idea to spend time with them as they replicated the training content with their students over the course of next three days, requiring rigorous monitoring from NRSP education facilitators and mentors.

Ms. Parveen Kousar, who serves as head teacher in GPS 281EB School, was one of the participants during a workshop conducted in a rural area. Ms. Kousar has a Master degree in Physical Education, five years of teaching experience and multiple training workshops to her credentials, yet when we asked where a child with disability should study, her answer, along with other participants, was ‘in a special school’, because she did not have the belief in her abilities to take the responsibility of a special child in her class and did know how the rest of the children would respond to such inclusion. It was this fallacy that needed urgent redressal in order to build the right narrative. EEQAP facilitators used contents related to ‘Empathy’, ‘Role Plays’, ‘Reading Circle’, ‘Knowledge hunt[1]’ and many other group work exercises to demonstrate how this level of inclusion can be accomplished. During a debriefing session, Ms. Kousar shared her plight with the workshop participants that ‘I always feel difficulty using the traditional teaching methods, especially in the case of slow learners.  I have to work extremely hard in order to manage them alongside the smart kids in class’.

A complete manual of Project/Activity based learning was handed over to all the teachers for their practice with easy to understand Urdu translations. Ms. Parveen too was excited to receive the reservoir of activities, including details of all the activities that she promised to teach her students using Project Based Learning and Activity Based Learning methods. After a few months passed, a team of EEQAP facilitators re-visited the school for monitoring and to their surprise, kids in the school were preparing for the forthcoming Quality Assurance Test (organized by Punjab Education Foundation – PEF) via the quiz activity ‘Knowledge Hunt’.[1] The element of competition among the students was quite evident as they wanted to perform better than the other team in the subjects of English, Urdu, Math & Science. Ms. Parveen seemed thrilled to see her trainers in the school and the confidence on her face was blossoming as she thanked them for making her job easier. She added that ‘all students take equal participation and the activities/projects make the difficult tasks converted into exercises easy to practice and understand. This teaching methodology not just elevates the interest level of children in learning but it also boosts up their confidence levels and creative skills’.

Ms. Asia is one of the many teachers who attended the Inclusive Education training sessions as part of the EEQAP project by NRSP in partnership with Washington University in St. Louis funded by ESRC-DFID. Ms. Asia’s story gives us the belief that if Inclusive Education trainings are organized, teachers are willing to make changes in their pedagogies and become more accepting of differences in their students, which is a necessary initial step for making classrooms and schools more inclusive.

Submitted by Munib Sohail, Aatif Baloch, Bakhtawer Pasha – EEQAP Project Coordinators

[1] Knowledge Hunt is a quiz activity that could be played with multiple teams. One team member of each teams come and thrown piece of stone on a sheet with different circle numbers. In case if the stone lands on number 1, the kid will go and pick the subject card and read the question out loud. If the child or his/her team member gives the correct answer, they get a point and then team member from next team comes and throws the stone.