In 1974 a new curriculum for all schools was introduced in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This implemented the 1972 Education Policy which had two goals: to make education more widely available and relevant to all sections of the population (‘the masses’), and to bring about a large-scale reform of teaching methods to make the education provided more effective (Government of Pakistan, 1972, p. 7). The new curriculum aimed to ‘emphasise learning of concepts and skills and encourage observation, exploration, experimentation, practical work and creative expression’, (Government of Pakistan, 1972, p. 7), and to move significantly towards a more practical, technical and scientific education. This curriculum reform grew out of continuing concern about issues of quality and relevance at all levels of education.
Improved standards were to be achieved by ‘implementing revised curricula, properly training and retraining teachers, and providing suitable instructional materials’ (Government of Pakistan, 1976, p. 5). The reforms affected primary, middle and secondary schools as well as teacher education and were the first major changes in education in Pakistan since 1960. This case study describes how distance education was used to update serving primary teachers in the new modernised curriculum, as one of the first programmes of the Allama Iqbal Open University.
The task of providing a national in-service programme for teachers in Pakistan within a short time-scale is illuminated by a brief glimpse at the context. Pakistan is a large country of 796,000 km2 and widely varying physical features. The total population was 73.43 million in 1976, and 106 million in 1988, a population growth rate over this period of about 3.0 per cent per annum (Zaman and Qayyum, 1978, p. 57; World Bank, 1990, p. 228). Approximately 45 per cent of the population in 1976 was then, as now, under 15 years of age (World Bank, 1990, p. 228). The population is unevenly distributed between the heavily populated Indus Plains of the