Peshawar: Lack of skilled IT teachers is setting back efforts to institutionalize e-learning through digital training at the school level in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
Teachers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa schools are pleased with their government for making IT tools available in its schools at the primary and secondary level. But they are concerned about the lack of necessary training required to teach the students. In addition to skills, many schools also lack proper IT classrooms or labs where students could use computers. This, they say, makes expensive equipment prone to damage.
Rasul Jan, a teacher in a government school that has received IT equipment, said the education authorities were not serious about putting to proper use the latest, expensive IT equipment provided to government schools.
“There is no proper lab or room for computers and due to lack of expert IT teachers, equipment worth millions of rupees is rusting in storerooms of schools,” said Jan. “The government should take notice of this. It should direct staff at schools to care for the IT equipment and use it properly.”
Official documents of the KP Elementary and Secondary Education Department (ESED), obtained by News Lens Pakistan, claim that 839 IT labs were established in 2013-14 and 500 more with interactive smart-screens would be established by the end of 2016.
The official document states that the IT labs are equipped with the latest IT technology i.e., interactive learning tools, virtual/distance learning tools and smart connected-classroom tools necessary for e-learning. It adds that 700 IT teachers and lab assistants have been hired by October 2016, and more are expected to join after skills assessments through the National Testing Service (NTS). The NTS conducts tests and assessments for admissions, scholarships, recruitment and promotion in the education sector.
But as things stand, according to teachers at government schools, the number of IT staff dwarfs in comparison the need. Moreover, said Ibrahim Khan, a teacher and subject specialist in the Government High School district Mardan, the newly hired teachers are good at IT while the old teachers need skill enhancement.
“The problem is further compounded by the fact that the e-leaning initiative focuses largely on urban ignoring the rural areas,” said Khan. “In urban locales, the students are more aware of IT tools and internet but in the rural districts, don’t know the basics such as operating a computer.”
Although Pakistan has remained in a state of technological-isolation, especially in the public education system, this has been changing rapidly, says Zunash Abbasi , an IT and communications expert, who works in the development sector.
Given the challenge thrown up this change, said Abbasi, the provincial governments should make proper use of educational technologies. She said of late, the government, international development partners and social entrepreneurs have shown a growing interest in ICT-based solutions to myriad problems related to access and quality of education in the public sector.
“The development sector, educationists, government officials and teachers pushing for these technologies believe that equipping public schools with IT tools could actually reverse the gap that exists in learning and education between the students of public and private schools,” she said.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education Muhammad Atif Khan told News Lens Pakistan that the government’s e-learning initiative would facilitate teaching and learning by making it interesting and challenging for students and the school faculty. He hoped such an initiative would decrease the drop-out rate by providing the students the skills that are practical and in-tune with the needs of the job-market.
Khan claimed that by the end of 2016, the provincial government would provide e-learning tools to schools in all the districts of KPK and hire skilled teachers for the purpose.
On their part, students seem to appreciate access to IT tools for e-learning. Abdul Aziz, a student of the Government Higher Secondary School in Peshawar, said computer classes have started in his school this year, and students take interest by regularly attending them.
“However, there is a tendency to use computers for surfing useless websites,” said Aziz. “Teachers should keep a check on students by limiting access to websites that waste our time.”