Uncertainty and Teacher Education: An AKUIED-ian perspective
By Dr. Nusrat Fatima Rizvi
'Constancy is not possible in nature
Only change is permanent in life'
The pre-Socratic thinker, Heraclitus, commented, ‘No man steps in the same river twice’. Uncertainty, with all its challenges, keeps our curiosity alive and leads to innovations. Yet, despite the unpredictability all around us, certain patterns can be discerned through careful study. In this article, I will attempt to identify a few patterns in the changing landscape of education with relevance to capacities and teacher education.
My first observation is about the role of technology in the lives of young children. The other day my niece and her three-year-old daughter visited me. My niece asked me for the Wi-Fi password. Upon seeing the look of disapproval on my face, as if she preferred the Internet over my company, she said the password was for her daughter.” The three-year-old wanted to use a digital device. Our children are digital natives, we are not. This may seem just one factor that differentiates us, but it births many other differences.
Our children are ambitious because their intellectual space is much wider than ours, partly because of the access to communication technology. It is allowing them to explore new domains and push boundaries.
Participants in teacher education courses, with whom we deal in IED, keep tpace with today’s children: digital natives who spend most of their time in cyberspace. I was reminded of this when teaching my Foundations of Education to my MPhil students, discussing how social and emotional dimensions influence learning.
Some course participants asked how they could assess their students’ emotions ' as they are intangible entities. I was perplexed about how to respond. I asked a colleague of mine from the human development programme, Dr Batool Fatima, a psychologist, to conduct a session on social and emotional learning for my students. Our students are intellectually adventurous, pushing boundaries, wanting to know more. My point is that as teachers and educators, we now need to engage more in collaborations on a much wider scale than we did previously because our students now seek a multidisciplinary understanding of the phenomena they experience.
My second point is that our students are making their career choices far more purposefully than we did. Many from my generations became teachers accidentally. However, for many of our students, this is an informed decision. They come here to make a difference in their lives, in their schools and in their communities. They wish to learn how to become change agents. They ask questions about their own positionality as students of education in this university. They raise bigger questions about the status of teachers in the wider contexts.
This purposefulness is leading them to be concerned about not just the classrooms but also about the wider issues of inclusion, power and structure. A few years ago, for instance, students at the IED staged a play through which they portrayed their vision of tomorrow’s curriculum and school. They presented their vision for a new curriculum which addresses issues of hatred, terrorism, ethnic and religious intolerance and environmental change etc. On another occasion, the students organized a multicultural mushaira where they, through the display of cultures, talked about power dynamics in cultural practices, tension between nationalism and their own cultural identity. They did a historical analysis of the colonial period through poetry; they talked about how the culture of silence exists as a norm in Pakistani society.
They celebrated diversity and culture but not as per theusual ‘fashion dress show’, which previous cohorts have tended to favour. Rather theyquestion chose to engage in a deep exploration of the meaning of cultural practices and social norms. For example, through singing in their local language, students from Gilgit-Baltistan portrayed a she-goat's encounter with armed men when she was grazing in the field with her children. The mother goat’s struggles to boost her children’s courage by denying that she was in danger was, in fact, a profound expression of anger against war because of military occupation.
The third point is our students bring new values. And this is the most fascinating thing to deal with. In the eighteenth century Meer Taqi Meer said:
Meer Sahib! zamana nazuk hey
Dono hatho sey thameay dastar
Translation: The poet Meer says to himself that the 'time' is in the state of flux, so you need to carefully hold your 'Turban' (Turban here symbolizes traditional values in this changing time).
Today's students rightfully do not see teachers as sole authorities. They see teachers as their partners in knowledge production. Accordingly, they want their experiences to be integrated in the powerful narratives coming from foreign contexts. They want to rewrite the old narratives. And they will become frustrated if they are denied what they feel is their rightful place in knowledge production. This puts the onus on of teachers of my generation to learn new ways of thinking and doing. Unlearning is not an easy process. It is emotionally and psychologically challenging.
For a nations ‘existence, there are two challenging milestones: one is to overcome the fear of new social order and other is to detach from outdated mindset.
For unlearning, we have to emerge from our comfort zones. We have to be brave enough to try and do what we have not done before.
Navigating the Changing Educational Landscape
How should we engage with the students, keeping their changing profile in mind? It is our job to teach them to deal with the changes arising because of digitization, urbanization, globalization, and commercialization. Implementation of neoliberal policies and worldwide religious intolerance are prevalent in local, national and global contexts.
We need to explore how teachers’ lived experiences of becoming university scholars are shaped within and against local and globalised forces. Echoing scholarly work in gender studies, we should understand the complexities of the teachers’ experiences, as teachers, students, wives and mothers of young children, and their interplay with the social context and gendered relations in an urban university environment.
We should understand that new identities of teachers have emerged through negotiation of their new roles in a context where global meets glocal.
We as teacher educators have huge responsibility to keep the novice teachers’ passion and curiosity ignited. One way is through boosting teachers’ status via teachers’ professionalisation, as well as trying to explore indigenous models of teacher professional development. Pedagogies of teacher education also need to be revamped. They traditionally promote the status quo but contemporary pedagogies need to focus on enabling teachers how to initiate and manage change; how to bring innovation in teaching and learning.
The changed experiences of today’s teachers and teacher educators have implications for broader educational and social settings and we,as teacher educators, need to become more cognizant of and responsive to this altered reality.