Back in the days of my school life at public school in Mansehra, I often considered education equivalent to obedience, muteness, fear of teachers and following orders. I can recall clearly how I moved from class sixth to eighth, with not an iota of knowledge added into my educational arsenal. The teachers either did not know about the subjects they taught, or simply could not be bothered to care.
Besides having little knowledge of the art of teaching, the teachers I had the chance to be schooled by also knew little about emotional intelligence (EI). Not artificial Intelligence (AI); that would be too much to wish for. With most children in public schools already coming from distressed families, socially and economically, a teacher at school ought to be a relief from the realities. A seer who empathizes and enables children to see the positives and work towards betterment through the promise of education. Sadly, this is far from what was on offer. Many teachers in public schools were instead towering figures of fear and torture, either forcing children repulsive of schools, or lead them down the path of an uncertain future built on excessive punishment and scathing censorship. The development of EI in a child is the result of strong, persistent motivation and counselling. Even critical thinking is impossible without EI, and probably there is no AI without EI. But regrettably, EI is a non-existent concept in our schools.
Recently KPK unveiled the Teaching Content Knowledge Assessment Report 2018, revealing that 60% primary schoolteachers could not teach the syllabus. The report did not record a teacher’s ability to shape students’ EI, but it is not a hard guess. Especially not so when a large number of teachers come with limited training and sit-at-home degrees from Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) that contribute nothing to their skill.
A month ago, a father asked me whether I would send my son to a school or a madrassa. I was stunned and could not answer. I imagine no one can really answer the question but the country’s parliament, which has failed to build a national narrative on education. In fact the confusion of parents about whether to go for traditional, madrassa education or modern education for children is not new. It dates to pre-partition times. Modern schooling based on English and science was first introduced by the British and embraced eagerly by Hindus, but resisted by Muslims. That is why Muslims lagged behind than Hindus then. But after the becoming independent, our leaders should have decided what the Pakistani nation was to be taught. But nothing unanimous has come to realization on that front so far.
Education is far from being an absolute term. Its status remains relative and varies from year to year, decade to decade and from generation to generation. By keeping this reality in mind, our policymakers must devise a curriculum which is dynamic and adaptable per the changing needs of time.
Developed countries are taking concrete strides towards artificial intelligence, robotics and automation. Jobs performed today by janitors, lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, managers, bookkeepers, nurses, electricians, accountants, and salesperson are highly susceptible to being replaced by automation. Therefore, underdeveloped and developing countries like Pakistan should brace for the future and invest in teaching the so called the “Curriculum of the Future”.
Computational creativity, problem-solving skills and digital capabilities must be taught at the elementary level. Many countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Malaysia, Sweden, Thailand have embraced computer science as a core part of national curriculum.
It’s not too early, but just the right time to make reforms in curriculum according to the needs of the future. And the sooner it is done, the better.
The views and opinions expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views and policy of The Academia Magazine.