Questioning the Status Quo

Do you still remember being in class and listening to a lecture for an hour at a time? Wasn’t it a little difficult to maintain focus? Surely you found it easier to stay engaged when a teacher incorporated games, music and other participatory techniques into the daily agenda.

Traditionally, lecturing is the style of teaching in Pakistan, even for teachers, like ours, who are trained as educators in formal Teacher Training Institutes. Students repeatedly memorize what they are taught, and fail to retain knowledge once the examination is over. At Barakat, we want to move our teachers away from this simple but ultimately counter-effective teaching/learning strategy, which focuses rigorously on memory-based examinations.

While in Afghanistan, Barakat incorporates interactive teaching methodologies as part and parcel of the annual Teacher Training for Human Rights; in Pakistan, this is the first in a series of planned teacher trainings that will lead our schools in this direction over the coming years. Furthermore, it will be supplemented by more comprehensive grading systems that include exams but are also cognizant of class participation and attendance.

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With this long-term goal in mind, Barakat ran a four-day workshop on interactive teaching/learning techniques for all teaching staff at schools in Pakistan during the month of July. Schools are closed in July for the long summer vacation, so teachers were able to congregate at Barakat Elementary School for intensive day-long sessions run by an experienced, local, female teacher trainer, Gulfam Naqvi, who has led teacher training workshops in government and private schools across Pakistan.

Trained by the Intel Teach Program and having won the award for Best Teacher in Attock District of Punjab several times, Gulfam began the process by first conducting a needs assessment with the teachers and principals who were to be her participants in order to better understand their needs, interests and area of maximum learning potential. She then tailored training agenda to meet her participants’ requirements.

“Students can learn more in a student-friendly environment, through group work and interaction – where they feel confident,” Gulfam spoke passionately about the importance of integrating question-answer based methodologies, among others, that bring teachers and students into a closer relationship.

In response, Humera Sharif, 8th grade teacher at one of our schools in Pakistan, said, “When we apply these activities like (class opening) warm-ups and action songs, it will make a huge difference and students will enjoy learning.” “It was an amazing experience which we should continue regularly to keep us updated,” added 4th grade teacher Anila Tabassum who took part in the workshop as well. The consensus among participating teachers was that these workshops will enhance their efficiency in the classroom and will “improve the classroom environment.”