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Teachers and Learning

Leena Abraham

Edited by John Retallick and Iffat Farah
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2005, pp. xix 250, Rs. 395.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 10 October 2005

This edited volume comprising eleven chapters has emerged out of a series of research and intervention projects initiated and undertaken by The Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) in various Pakistani schools since the late 1990s. These doctoral and action research projects emerged out of a concern to understand and develop ways to improve the ‘quality’ of schooling in Pakistan. The contributors, with a couple of exceptions, are current or former faculty members at the Institute. The focus of this volume is almost exclusively on teachers and their professional development. Although there is a chapter on parents, the emphasis is on how they can act as a support group to teachers in enhancing learning in schools.   All contributions in this volume share a common perspective to schooling and also share the concerns and debates within educational research that views ‘school as a learning community’. This view stresses ‘learning’, which is at the heart of the idea of a (good) school, and conceptualizes school as a community of learners where not only the students but all participants such as teachers, head teachers, administrators and even parents are visualized as learners. Thus, learning is to take place in the context of a sharing and caring communitarian environment. The conceptualization of schools as learning communities also assumes that all participants are placed in mutual and reciprocal relationships devoid of any hierarchies. They are equals united by a common goal of learning. It is operationalized in the introduction as ‘capacity building at the personal, interpersonal and organizational levels to improve the internal conditions of teaching, learning and leadership in the schools’ (xiv). The contributions in this volume that address issues associated with the teaching and learning of subjects such as science, mathematics and English language especially exemplify this approach.   The chapter by John Retallick and Al-Karim Datoo provides a brief sketch of what ails school education in Pakistan and pins the problem down on the quality of teaching and learning. To remedy the situation they have a new vision for education in Pakistan drawing theoretical and practical insights from literature on ‘learning organisation’, ‘community of practice’ and ‘learning community’. The change process includes transforming schools from a bureaucratic organization to a learning community by building capacities of individual teachers and by involving the larger community of teachers, parents etc. Thus, the authors suggest a fundamental shift in the approach to learning in ...

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