Education is the wholistic development of an individual. Intellectual, moral and emotional knowledge are crucial to achieve the end wherein a pupil becomes a socially responsible, compassionate and functional member of a society. Education is more than what any school can provide to a child, and the learning does not, cannot and should not stop once a child steps out school boundaries.
In most parts of the world, parents are encouraged to become every bit a part of a child’s educational journey and become key stakeholders in turning children into the finest specimens of humanity. But unfortunately in Pakistan, a peculiar and worrying trend is emerging; keeping curriculum a secret from the parents/families.
School teachers are handed out curriculum guidelines as set by various international examination boards, however, parents are increasingly not being allowed to review the syllabus under the pretext that sharing the curriculum feeds into the parental competition, causes unnecessary stress to the students as they are enrolled in extra tuition to get ahead and reduces the effectiveness of the teachers at school.
Not only are all these excuses merely trying to treat the symptoms, they also take away the ability of providing a more all-round learning experience as children cannot be engaged at home for reinforcement of any concepts that are under discussion at the school. The curriculum, resources, reference books, activities are now seen as the competitive advantage one school might have over another, leading to a very unhealthy trend and a race that neither serves the interests of students nor parents.
Monotony Rules The Roost
Besides the increasing safeguarding and concealment of these ‘strategic’ resources, the curriculum guidelines laid out are itself confusing and have unrealistic expectations of school managements. Someone who has never met the teachers or a class of students, can hardly gauge the calibre of either; but still gets to decide how long each topic should take and how soon a class – of 2nd graders for example – should master the art of multiplying. At the same time, the guidelines conclude that the concept of division is beyond the cognitive capacity of a 7 year old.
The curriculum followed by most schools do not take into account the varying capabilities and learning curves of individual children. There is no regard for differing interests and inclinations. Students remain spectators that have no control over the flow of the game. Though the “One Size Fits All” approach serves administrative objectives of running a school, it in no way caters to individualized needs, requirements and progress of students.
Our schools still go with the “just listen, don’t question” approach. Children are coerced into an acceptable behavioural model; a model that requires them to suppress their natural sense of wonder and curiosity and remain attentive like a subservient solider on a front.
Teachers: Friends Or Nemesis
The guidelines also restrain teachers as such that they have to follow predetermined and non-flexible paths to teaching. A didactic approach is usually employed, where instructors are only keen on cramming as much information into the students’ mind as possible in limited time to keep track with the guidelines. Resultantly, there is little room for the children to interact, to discuss, to inquire and to explore. Our schools still go with the “just listen, don’t question” approach. Children are coerced into an acceptable behavioural model; a model that requires them to suppress their natural sense of wonder and curiosity and remain attentive like a subservient solider on a front. While the approach can be a good aid for non-experienced beginners, the tool should not become the leader in the classroom.
A student should be able to move on from one concept as soon as they grasp it, and master it, without having to spend needless hours of labor and strenuous uninterested listening exercise that are the lectures. They should also be able to pick and choose, which topics they wish to do first as per their interest, personal preference and academic expertise. The teacher’s role should be that of a guide that lets students drive their own learning and lead their own journey of discovery. This practice can be the key to producing students who are initiators and life-long learners.
Contrary to what Pakistani schools are beginning to do, Harvard Family Engagement Program for parents and schools says a child’s success is largely governed by how parents engage them in after-school activities. Parents and other family members are equally responsible to teach children how to learn and become life-long learners on their own. As the Japanese saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. Without involving the parents and families in the deliverance of the curriculum, the art of teaching cannot transform into that of a pedagogue, as each teacher only has limited time and cannot possibly do justice with each child’s myriad of questions.
Solution: Dynamic Organic Curriculum
The solution to this problem of our stagnant and didactic curriculum approach is two-pronged. First, the power to create, curate and adapt the curriculum needs to be shifted to the people who are closest to students and have a deep understanding of their learning styles, capabilities and cognitive boundaries. These include teachers, principals, and families [whoever is in a position to contribute owing to their own expertise and passion], and last but not the least, students themselves.
The other part of the solution is ensuring that the curriculum itself is flexible and can be personalised to the needs of each student. Individually. The one-size-fits all approach to education is now losing ground. We need to give way to students and allow them to author their own learning, at their own pace and according to their own interests. Apart from the core skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, the children need to be empowered with the ability to learn how they want to, and where they want to and when they want to.
We need an dynamic organic curriculum that grows and adapts as per the teacher and the student’s idiosyncratic requirements. One way to diversify the curriculum and successfully meet the diversified needs of the teachers and the students, is to incorporate technology in the process. Once computerised, the process of delivery, assessments, evaluations can help student take control of their own learning, learn at their own pace and make use of flexible timings. The teacher can monitor the progress on their own computers and only intervene in areas where students appear to be approaching a stone wall. This kind of attention to detail can actually save time for both the teachers and students by focusing their time and energy where needed most.
Hopefully, the schools in Pakistan can step up, take the initiative and incorporate modern techniques into their existing practices. The need of the time is to re-imagine and re-invent the 200 years old obsolete curriculum, the monological methods and the one-size-fit-all mind-set.
The views and opinions expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views and policy of The Academia Magazine .