“I used to think that teaching was just a job,” says Naheed Parween, a kindergarten teacher at the Baba-e-Urdu Maulvi Abdul Haq Boys Elementary School in Karachi. “I would go to work and I felt that as long as I showed up, it was enough. I never felt a responsibility towards the children.” Despite 10 years as a teacher, Parween had failed to recognise the potential in herself and in her students. The Teachers’ Resource Centre (TRC) changed that.
In 1997, Parween attended a TRC workshop and it transformed her approach to her profession. “Before the training I used to be impatient with the children and get angry at them,” she recalls. “I never thought of teaching from the child’s perspective, the child’s needs.” Parween, who went on to complete a diploma in Early Childhood Education, says TRC taught her to become a more effective teacher. “I learned to see things from the child’s perspective and to tailor my teaching to their needs,” she explains. This makes teaching more effective and leads to improved student behaviour and greater job satisfaction for the teacher.
Compare this to the traditional style of teaching in Pakistan and it becomes clear why TRC is transforming the education landscape. “Teaching in government schools hasn’t changed much,” says Seema Malik, Director TRC. “It is an environment of fear, where children are punished for making mistakes and teachers are authoritarian and disciplinarian figures. It is not just the students who are stifled by this environment but also the teachers.”
TRC promotes a cooperative system of learning that challenges the traditional role of teacher and student, making them partners in learning and discovery. “Children respond well because it offers autonomy, boosts confidence and provides opportunities for creativity,” says Malik. “They learn to work in groups, which teaches them life skills like sharing, negotiating and respecting diversity. They participate in decision making in the classroom, which makes them feel empowered.”
Not only does this method improve learning, it also gives teachers a greater sense of responsibility and involvement in the lives of their students. “I have a relationship with the parents, which I never had before,” says Parween. “I regularly speak to parents and ask them about their children’s needs, and parents tell me what they feel is lacking or working for their child. And it is reflected in the children, in their grades and in their attitudes.”
TRC was founded in 1986 by a group of educators who believed that every teacher has the power to make a difference. Their goal was to transform the country’s system of education by training its teachers. Starting with a single workshop for 120 teachers from 30 schools, TRC has grown to become the premier teacher training institution in Pakistan.
“We have organised over 15,000 trainings for more than 40,000 teachers and school personnel from both the public and private sector,” says Malik. “One of our most significant achievements is the development of the first National Curriculum on Early Childhood Education in 2002.” Over the years, TRC has expanded the scope of its work, offering a one-year diploma in Early Childhood Education, creating programmes for diverse training needs, conducting research and school assessments, and facilitating consultancies to support and develop education systems.
“Teachers lack support,” says Malik. “There is no mechanism to motivate them, creativity is not encouraged and they are penalised instead of being supported.” TRC is changing the way that teachers see themselves and their work. “TRC made me realise that this is not just an ordinary job,” says Parween. “I have seen the difference between children going to school in an environment of fear and those who go to a school where there is freedom to think and to learn. Properly trained teachers give children the freedom to explore, and that makes all the difference.”
In a country where teaching is often treated as a thankless job, TRC is quietly bringing about a revolution. By equipping educators with the skills they need to do their jobs more effectively, it is building a better future for this country one teacher at a time.