Pre-service Teacher Education inCovid-19 – Online Education Options in Pakistan?

Pre-service Teacher Education inCovid-19 – Online Education Options in Pakistan?

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Nauman Ahmed Abdullah

Department of Education, Virtual University of Pakistan, Pakistan
Impact of COVID – 19 on Education
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Content

ABSTRACTS

This chapter explains how different educational institutions have provided education in Pakistan in this pandemic. There are many divisions in school education system in Pakistan. Along with the public and private sector schools divide, the classification of private schools is also done on the basis of geographical area, social class, resources, school type, and type of education. The universities are categorized as public sector and private sector. The universities provide pre-service teacher education degree programs across Pakistan. These programs have mandatory course(s) of teaching practice for which the student-teachers have to do actual teaching at school level. Due to the unforeseen pandemic COVID-19, the whole education process was halted in Pakistan. Different universities opted for various options to continue education. The provision of teacher education in universities is also linked with schools especially in case of pre-service teacher education programmes. This chapter contributes in the online teaching practice options for universities linking with various school categories in Pakistan. Hence, this chapter focuses on the availability of an alternate model for the teaching practice modules in pre-service teacher education programmes for university students in Pakistan.

Keywords: pre-service teacher education, teaching practice, online education, teacher education institutions.

1. INTRODUCTION

Amidst the covid-19, the mode of education has shifted predominantly from conventional to online. Across the globe, the increasing trend of online education has been seen. Developed countries, having adequate resources, are in a far better position to provide online education than the developing countries with less resources.

Pakistan is a developing country that has not only budgetary constraints, but also many other educational indicators are not very supportive. Issues such as poverty, over population, social divide, and low literacy rates are also deeply rooted (Abdullah, 2020). Online and distance learning (ODL) institutions are considered a good option in this pandemic. In Pakistan, only two universities provide ODL opportunities (Abdullah & Mirza, 2019). Therefore, the resources required for providing equal opportunity for learning in this pandemic are very scarce to Pakistan. There are governing and regulatory bodies for different educational levels in Pakistan. For example, elementary, primary, secondary levels come under the School Education Department (SED), college levels classes, intermediate level and undergraduate level come under the Higher Education Department (HED), and all university level classes from undergraduate honors program up to doctoral studies come under the Higher Education Commission (HEC). As this pandemic was unforeseen, all the above mentioned three governing and regulatory bodies did not have any plan on hand to continue providing education facilities to the masses. The education process was halted altogether in Pakistan like many other countries of the world.

The education at all levels was stopped in all public and private sector schools, colleges, and universities in Pakistan. The number of positive cases was on a rise on day to day basis. The Government of Pakistan and all four provincial governments announced complete closure of educational institutions from March 16, 2020. Considering the global practices of Cambridge exams, facilitating the assessment of ordinary level (O-Level) and advance level (A-Level) students by using their classroom assignments/ sessional work and declaring the results on their predicting grades (Cambridge Assessment International Education, 2020), the educational governing and regulatory bodies in Pakistan also took similar steps to facilitate the large scale assessment process. In Pakistan, end of February through June, the examinations at provincial, state and division level are held, for example, matriculation, intermediate, graduation and masters’ level.

The Government of Pakistan through the Federal Ministry of Education urged the governing bodies to declare the results of the students on the basis of their previous board examination. The matriculation exams are taken in class 9th and 10th separately, similarly, intermediate examination are conducted in class 11th and 12th distinctly. The students who already took class 9th and class 11th examination in previous year were given the same percentage of marks in class 10th and 12th this year, without appearing in the board exams. This was done to save a precious year of the students. On top of it, the students who had failed in subject(s) in the board examination previously, were also declared as pass in those exams with the following policy.

The boards for secondary and intermediate education in Pakistan have come up with a promotion policy which states as:

All candidates of class 9th and class 11th have been promoted to class 10th and class 12th and when they appear in the board examination in the coming year, their marks in 10th and 12th board examination will be multiplied by two and that aggregate will suffice for their 9th and 11th marks as well. For the candidates who were presently giving board examinations of class 10th and 12th, their marks of class 9th and 11th will be same for the similar subjects, with an additional 3% marks of the 9th and 11th examination will be added. This is done with the assumption that students tend to prepare well for the final year and try to achieve more marks than previous year examination.

As far as supplementary exam is concerned in class 9th and 11th, the policy stated that if a person has supplies in class 9th and class 11th, up to 40% of the subjects of class 10th and 12th then those students will be considered as pass in those courses, with minimum passing criteria marks. Students having supplies in more than 40% subjects will not be declared pass in those subjects and have to reappear in the coming year (Government of the Punjab, 2020). A special examination is announced between September and November 2020 for the students who are not satisfied with their marks in grade 11, or who were taking composite exams of class 11 and 12, or who have failed in more than 40% exams (Inter Provincial Education Ministers Conference, 2020).

For the examinations conducted by the universities, the policy of the HEC stated that universities will halt the examination and try to find online assessment mechanism for their students. It was further stressed that no university shall skip the examination (Higher Education Commission, 2020).

In these conditions, schools, colleges, and universities have tried on their own to manage online education. There are a variety of ways in which all levels of education have utilized the online resources, which are discussed at length in this chapter.

This chapter explains how different educational institutions have provided education in Pakistan in this pandemic. There are many divisions in school education system in Pakistan. Along with the public and private sector schools divide, the classification of private schools is also done on the basis of geographical area, social class, resources, school type, and type of education.  

2. DIFFERENT WAYS OF PROVISION OF EDUCATION IN COVID-19 IN PAKISTAN

In Pakistan, different levels of education explored different ways of providing education. The following sections explain each level separately.  

2.1. Provision of education by schools

As expressed earlier, the public sector schools were closed and private sector schools strived on their own to provide the education.

Pakistan is a diverse country and by population it is the fifth thickly populated country in the world (Worldometers, 2020). The population of Pakistan is youth-driven (UNDP Pakistan 2017). Due to demographic distribution of Pakistan in terms of rural-urban divide and issues such as socio-economic, poverty, over population, low per capita income, the private education is also multi-layered. The private schools are providing education in English language. There are schools for every segment of the society; each school category has its own target market.

The division and categories in private schools are listed below.

  1. Schools which take admissions in September
  2. Schools which take admissions in March
  3. Chain school systems
  4. Elite schools
  5. Individual small schools

 2.1.1. Schools which take admissions in September

Schools which take admissions in September are mostly those schools that offer syllabus of Cambridge or Oxford. They usually target the elite class of the society. A few examples of these schools are Lahore Grammar School, American National School, The International School of Choueifat, LACAS, and Beacon House School System etc. The schools were closed on March 16, 2020. These schools usually take summer vacation from May through August. They promoted their students on the basis of their previous terminal exams and sessional work.

These schools started taking online classes for students enrolled in every class. The classes were usually taken through google classroom, zoom, google meet and other similar free software. A few schools developed their own online setup using any of these platforms (such as LACAS, 2020). According to Beacon House (2020) through their uninterrupted education system 103,298 students got enrolled with 4,801 online classrooms and 8,536 teachers. These schools had resources to acquire and utilize online education mode, similarly, the student enrolled in such schools had requisites for online education such as a laptop/tab and internet connectivity. Therefore, the online education went smoothly in these schools. The fee was taken by the schools as per schedule. As per the policy of the Government of Punjab, the private schools were directed to provide a 20% deduction in the students’ fee (Gabol, 2020, April 07).  

 2.1.1. Schools which take admissions in March

Schools which take admissions in March and are either chain schools or economically better schools having adequate infrastructure. The chain schools are an increasing trend in Pakistan as established schools offer franchise offer for school opening. To mention a few chain schools are: Allied School, The Trust School, American Lycetuff School, The Lyceum School, Dar-e-Arqam Schools etc.

These schools go by the board examination which start from the end of February. The main focus of these schools is their secondary section. These schools survive on the basis of good grades/marks by their students in board examinations. Their admissions highly depend on the marks, therefore, they also explored certain ways of providing online classes especially for their secondary sections. As, they are not as well equipped in terms of the resources as compared to the Elite schools mention in point 1, they find other easier and common methods for online classes. Their teachers’ recorded video lectures and send to students through WhatsApp groups. A few schools also used zoom or google meet, but due to the spread across country and in smaller cities the target market of these schools are middle classes segment of the society that does not readily have a laptop for every child. Moreover, the internet connectivity is also not sound in some of the areas these schools are located. As a result, the more convenient way to provide online education was to use WhatsApp for sending video lectures. In these schools, the involvement of parents was enhanced for video lectures, assignments/ homework, and assessment.

The teacher used to record the lecture into shorter videos and the students of secondary section are shared those videos on the WhatsApp number they provided for this purpose. There are some ethical issues related with this online education such as interaction of male and female students and teachers over the mobile number and parents and teachers as well. All schools prepared their own standard operating procedures (SOPs) to cope with these. As online education is offered the first time at this magnitude in Pakistan, the SOPs were developed and modified with time and experience. For instance, a few school prohibited personal messages of any type, some schools added a coordinator in the loop who approved the video content and then it was shared, others set a one hour duration for question/answer session after sharing the video and the teacher is only present for that one hour in that class/lecture.

The parent-teacher interaction is the key in such schools. In these schools, the concession in the fee was also 20% but the parents negotiated with the school owners/directors and took further discounts on case to case basis. These schools also deducted a certain percentage of salaries of the teachers.  

2.1.3. Individual small schools

The last category in the private schools is the individual small schools with less budgets and resources. These are random schools in the societies, streets, and small towns in Pakistan. Unfortunately, these schools could neither afford the online resources nor their students could bear the cost of online education. These schools usually cater the lower class segment of the society. Some of these schools had to shut their setups because of the building rents and other overhead expenditures such as electricity and security bills- how minimal they might be. Other schools remained close for the lockdown period and might resume their educational activities after the reopening of schools.  

2.2. Public sector schools and Education

The government of Pakistan after closing the educational institutions provided a means to engage students in some sort of educational process. For that purpose, a television channel was launched ‘TeleSchool Television Channel’ by the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training (Government of Pakistan, 2020). This tele school provision was for all school going age students. It had a comprehensive time table from 08:00 am PST to 18:00 pm PST and covered classes from KG to grade 12.  

2.3. Provision of Education by private colleges

The college level education at public sector institutions was totally closed. However, the private colleges utilized the online resources. There are also categories in private colleges:

  1. Chain college system
  2. Individual colleges

The colleges belonging to a chain college system have the basic requisites and adequate resources for providing online education. Colleges such as: Punjab group of colleges, Superior College, Concordia colleges, Aspire colleges etc. They have branches all over Punjab. Majority of these colleges used online platforms such as zoom, google meet, Microsoft teams etc. A few, however, utilized their own specialized software such as Learning Management System (LMS) (see e.g. Concordia Colleges, 2020).

The individual colleges that have less resources and they take only affiliated degree programmes from the universities were closed in this pandemic. As all large scale assessments were halted, therefore, there were no operations in these colleges.  

2.4. Provision of Education in universities

The university education in public and private sector was halted immediately with the lockdown but the HEC urged the universities to find and create means for online education.

The students who were in passing years of their degree programmes must not suffer in terms of the duration of the degree programmes. The students after the university degrees go in the job market to earn a living and choose a career for themselves. There are only two distance education universities in Pakistan (Higher Education Commission, 2020b).

  1. Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU)
  2. Virtual University of Pakistan (VU)

AIOU is the first distance education university and it has its spread all over Pakistan. It is the biggest university of Pakistan with more than 1.2 million student enrolment per year (AIOU, 2020). Virtual University of Pakistan (VU) is the first online university of Pakistan that provides all its educational programmes in online setting. It has used the modern information communication technologies to reach national and international students (Virtual University of Pakistan, 2020).

The uphill task for the universities after the lockdown was to continue the education process for the students. Public sector universities used zoom and google meet links for online classes, with a determination to come up with an alternate plan for online education of their own, with no ready funding by the HEC. Whereas the private universities also utilized these open educational resources (OERs) and built their own online learning portals for the students. The teaching-learning process went well in all universities through OERs but the assessment of students proved to be a difficult task under such circumstances. A few public sector universities also take private students for some degree programs that do not require regular classes. Those universities adopted online examination system for the first time with a proctored examination mode and utilized human and technical resources for that (e.g. University of the Punjab, 2020).  

2.5. Teacher Education Institutions

There are 3771 public and private institutions across Pakistan that offer teacher training programmes with 724,050 students enrolled in them (Pakistan Education Statistics, 2016-17). The universities that offer teacher education programmes have to follow HEC approved scheme of studies. There is one essential module of teaching practice in all HEC approved teacher education programmes (Higher Education Commission, 2020c). The duration of teaching practice and credits depend on the degree programme. According to HEC (2020c), the following teacher education programmes are functional in different universities of Pakistan.

  1. Associate degree for in-service teachers (1 year duration)
  2. Associate degree/ B.Ed. (hons) Elementary (2 years duration)
  3. Ed. (Hons) Secondary/ Elementary (4 years programme)
  4. Ed. (Hons) Science education (4 years programme)
  5. Ed. Secondary 1.5 years.
  6. Ed. Elementary 2.5 years.
  7. Ed. 1 year.

All these programmes have teaching practice as an essential module for degree requirements. In usual teaching practice, students go to schools in real settings and perform actual teaching in classrooms. A university supervisor and the cooperating teacher are available for the student-teachers during this teaching practice activity (Abdullah & Mirza, 2020). The students select the schools and perform 6 weeks to 16 weeks teaching practice depending upon the degree programme.

In this pandemic, where the schools were closed, the universities were facing problem of conducting teaching practice for the initial teacher education programmes. As discussed earlier, only private schools were offering classes- that too- online. In this scenario, different universities adopted different options for conducting teaching practice hence completing the degree programmes in due course of time. Following are the few options that were utilized for teaching practice during the lockdown period.  

2.6. Online Teaching Practice

As discussed, the public sector schools were completely closed and only private sector schools were working online. There were mainly two options that were followed by the universities in Pakistan.

  1. To take assignments in lieu of teaching practice
  2. To conduct microteaching sessions

2.6.1. Taking assignments in lieu of teaching practice

A few universities have functioned this course by offering assignments to students. The assignments of lesson plans on the selected grades and subjects as per degree requirements, were given to students and they had to provide the assignments to qualify the course.  

2.6.2. Conducting microteaching

Microteaching was the second option for the students to continue teaching practice and complete the degree. The students were allocated to the university supervisors. The supervisors then made groups of 15-20 students each. Those 15-20 students were assumed as a class. Each student of that group was required to give online teaching to the rest of the group assuming the batch fellows as a class. In this way, every student had to take 2-5 lectures online. The university supervisor assessed the teaching of the student-teachers in this way. These sessions along with assignments of lesson plans are taken as an assessment scheme for this type of teaching practice.  

2.6.3. Opening of schools in Pakistan

The Government of Pakistan and National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) planned the reopening of schools after the analysis of covid-19 situation in Pakistan. They directed that students of universities, colleges and schools of secondary level shall resume classes from September 15 onwards. The classes from grade six to eight will open from September 23 onwards and pre-primary and primary level classes will reopen from Sep 30th across Pakistan (Ali, 2020, September).  

2.7. Model for Online Teaching Practice during COVID-19 and Thereafter

The author suggests an alternative teaching practice plan for all public and private sector universities offering teacher education programmes. The teaching practice can be conducted by following all the basic requirements of the module. The universities can ask student-teachers to select classes and subjects as per degree requirements and the following model of alternate assignments can be used.

There are so many Open Educational Resources (OERs), Open Course Wares (OCW) and open access learning platforms and such as Moodle, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), edX, Khan Academy etc. having numerous online courses recorded that are free of cost for all.

In place of assignments related to school, the assignments can be:

  1. Evaluate video lectures of any course of their choice from any of the OERs. This evaluation can include a checklist (which can be specially designed) to evaluate the resource person, his/her lecture, and content. The students can evaluate as many lectures as required depending upon the credits and this can be termed as an assignment.
  2. That resource person and his/her video can be a replacement of the cooperating teacher. This will be beneficial to the students as well, as this would give them an international approach of learning and they can learn different methods of teaching as per international standards. Virtual University of Pakistan also has an OCW that shares all its programmes contents, videos and all related material for students around the world.
  3. The student-teachers can record an alternate model lecture for the video they have evaluated in the previous step. This can makeup as another assignment.
  4. The student-teachers can design lesson plans of the video lectures they have just evaluated of their selected course. This will be the replacement of lesson plan assignments. As many lesson plans can be asked as required for the degree requirements.
  5. The student-teachers send the university supervisors at least one video lecture recording per week as an alternate of actual classroom teaching. They can follow the video pattern of any OER and send to the supervisors. This will be replaced with their teaching practice assignment.
  6. The supervisors can evaluate their video lectures along with evaluating their lesson plans.
  7. The universities intend to evaluate the live teaching of the students to measure their content delivery, confidence, communication skills, classroom engagement, and response to the questions, a group of student-teachers can be formed. Each of them give their lecture to the group and the supervisors evaluate them live. This can be done on either of the free video/ content sharing platforms such as adobe connect, google meet, zoom or Microsoft teams.
  8. For duties other than the classroom teaching, which the student-teachers has to perform while doing teaching practice in schools and are taken as assignments in teaching practice modules an alternate written assignment(s) can be given such as: a literature review assignment on ‘qualities of a good teacher’, ‘maintaining discipline in classroom’, ‘how to write assessment questions’, ‘how to mark assignments or papers’, ‘how to be objective while marking’, ‘communication skills of a teacher’ or ‘using online resources for teaching’.

This model can be summed up in the table below. The assessment marks are also allotted against each activity. The number of activities may vary subject to the teaching practice duration in the different degree programmes.  

Table 1.

Activities and Assessment Scheme for Online Teaching Practice Model

Activity Description No. of Activities Marks (100)
Evaluating Video Lecture Evaluate video lectures of any course of student’s choice from any of the OERs, preferably related to their previous academic qualification. 02 10
Recording a Model Lecture The student-teachers is required to record an alternate model lecture for the video they have evaluated from the OERs. 02 15
Lesson plans of the video lecture The student-teachers need to design the lesson plans of the video lectures they have evaluated of their selected course. 20-48* 20
Recoding video lecture The student-teachers send the university supervisors at least one video lecture recording per week as an alternate of actual classroom teaching. 6-16** 15
Evaluating live teaching Evaluating live teaching sessions in the groups 02 30
Written assignments Alternative assignments relating to classroom teaching-learning process. 02 10
*/**depends upon the credit hours of teaching practice and the degree program

This model can be made productive further by adding a minimum number of sessions to be attended by the student-teachers and allotting marks for their attendance and participation in live sessions. These are administrative measures and vary from university to university therefore, these are subject to the assessment scheme of each university.  

3. CONCLUSION

This chapter serves as a threshold in discussing how educational activities have been conducted in Pakistan in this unforeseen pandemic. The comparison of COVID-19 situation with other countries and the educational activities carried out by them could be compared for a global policy perspective and internationalization of the pandemic response. The situation of COVID-19 is much in control in Pakistan due to the smart lockdown policy of the Government. The situation in the neighboring countries especially in India and Bangladesh is not under control as yet. The online education options especially in the field of teacher education and more specifically the teaching practice module can be replicated in these countries for the safety of student, teachers and society at large. This model can be initiated in any of the university and the outcomes can be evaluated after one semester. The alternate options through online education mode is the need of the time now more than ever. There are scientific predictions of a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, utilizing the model for the preparation of prospective teachers can occupy the gap of the face-to-face learning.

References

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