Irfan Ahmed Rind
Sukkur IBA University, Pakistan
Extremism in Pakistan has been a major concern as it links to terrorism and religious fundamentalism. Historically, fundamentalist discourse promoted religious authority and fixity of knowledge, which was used by military dictators to legitimize their military coups. Politically motivated religious and government schools target young venerable minds;systematically shape their epistemology to the fixity of knowledge;provide them the knowledge that aligns with their political agendas, and encouraged them to violently react on anything or anyone that contradicts their fix knowledge. Teachers play a vital role in shaping students’ epistemology by transmitting the politically informed knowledge which is embedded in curricula. The effective shaping of students’ epistemology also depends on teachers’ epistemological beliefs, which they have developed during their teacher trainings and education.
Realizing the importance of teachers in challenging the extremist forces deeply embedded in social fabric of Pakistan, USAID has focused on reforming teacher education and spent around $75 million since 2009. Along with many other initiatives, the most significant is the replacement of old traditional teacher certificate courses with new four year B.Ed elementary and secondary degree programs for pre-service teachers. Although the USAID led teacher education reforms have been studied from different dimensions, i.e., aims & objectives of the reforms (Fazal, Khan, & Majoka, 2014) , teacher educators’ perception of reforms (Reba & Inamullah, 2014), impact of reforms on social status of teachers (Khalid 2014), sustainability of reforms (USAID 2008), the implications of such reforms on extremism have not been studied yet. This study specifically focuses on understanding the philosophy that drives these reform initiatives, (2) locates it in policies, curriculum, instruction, and assessments of new B.Ed (Hons) elementary program , and (3) exams the extent to which the new B.Ed (Hons) elementary program shapes student teachers’ epistemology, and their attitude towards the fixity of knowledge.