Nature of engagement of secondary school leaders in curriculum planning and decision making in the mountainous rural areas of Pakistan

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Professional Development Centre, Karachi


Teachers and students in Pakistan are perceived as consumers of the 'given' curriculum and have little role in the development of it. As a result, policy directives and actions to improve quality of education in Pakistan have been mainly 'top-down' and geared towards improving the ‘given knowledge’ transfer capability of teachers. Blind to teachers' agency to develop powerful curriculum in school, these efforts from outside school have mostly failed in achieving the aims of students' meaningful learning as espoused in the national curriculum of Pakistan. The quality of education, thus, can significantly be improved if change is initiated from within school. Be it the case, a series of questions needs to be answered. Who are in school that are so important for students' meaningful learning? How are they important for students' meaningful learning? What do they do to achieve that end? How and why do they do what they do to reach that end? How could they be helped to do better what they currently do in schools in order to facilitate students' meaningful learning? These are some of the questions that this research study with its focus on engagement of secondary school teachers and students in Chitral district in curriculum planning and decision making has attempted to answer. Hence, adopting a mixed methods research approach, this thesis outlines the nature (what, how, and why) of engagement of secondary school teachers and students (school leaders) in the four dimensions of curriculum planning and decision making at school level and provides a framework to improve their engagement for enhanced students' meaningful learning. These dimensions are (a) objectives of teaching and learning, (b) content to be taught, (c) learning opportunities, and (d) mode of presentation and response. Quantitative data were collected from 401 teachers in 89 secondary schools through a questionnaire survey and qualitative data were generated in the selected two case study schools through interviews, focus group discussions, observations, and field notes. The findings of this study are important with respect to the notion of school leaders as curriculum planners and decision makers at school level. The results show that school leaders are not just implementers of curriculum through teaching textbooks in the classroom. Rather, empirical findings have illustrated that school leaders exercise their personal agency to adapt and enrich nationally developed curriculum in order to serve the meaningful learning purpose of the students. All findings of data analysis are in contrast with the way teachers and students in schools are viewed as mere consumers of textbook knowledge. Though school leaders are not engaged in developing curriculum at the national level (at least those who participated in this study), data showed that they build upon the national curriculum in many ways making them, in their own right, developers of curriculum that serves the learning requirements of students well. To achieve the longstanding aim of enhancing quality of education, national curriculum policy makers need to acknowledge and provide due space for school leaders to engage creatively in planning curriculum at the local level. Recognizing school as primary unit of change, this research theorizes that the goals of students' meaningful learning can be achieved when school leaders build and re-build visions for the overall education in the school and respective subject areas including co-curriculum in the school. Central to the success of achieving these visions is relationships developed mirroring those visions. To further strengthen these relationships and to achieve enhanced students' meaningful learning, it is also important that resources and school-based professional development opportunities are provided to the teachers. Equally important for enriching these relationships is institutionalization of student-led co-curriculum in the school. To coordinate these processes and to create further engagement opportunities for teachers and students, the role of principal / head teacher is of utmost importance. The above theorization is rooted in empirical data collected through reliable tools. Hence, it is contextual and relevant yet applicable to other contexts in Pakistan and developing countries in the world. It challenges the educational status quo in Pakistan produced due to non-serious on-ground reform initiatives of successive governments in Pakistan by empowering school leaders, particularly students, to initiate change with whatever resources they have from within schools.

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