I have six years teaching experience in secondary, higher secondary and degree level. I found that in the current curriculum the major focus is on the cognitive development. There are no separate sections for affective and psychomotor domain in the SLOs (Students’ Learning Outcomes) in the curriculum document. In my opinion quality education equally focuses the cognitive, behavior and psychomotor development of an individual. In other words education means the overall development of an individual e.g. physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual development.
Another thing in our current curriculum is the division of knowledge into subjects, units and lessons. Because of this segregation students often do not see the relationship between these subjects, the relationship between facts within a subject or the relevance of the subjects to their own lives.
The current curriculum facilitates learning to some extent, but to my view it does not fulfill the needs of learners of 21st century. The learner of today needs a 21st century world view. We need a learner centered curriculum drawn on the explicit assumptions of connectedness with the world and satisfying the needs of life as a whole. Therefore, integrated curriculum need to be introduced to enable learners as global citizen.
Keeping in mind the above facts and the limitations of current curriculum, I think there should be a type of curriculum where there is a balance between cognitive, affective and psychomotor development and which fulfill the needs of the students of Pakistan in 21st century. This curriculum is the “holistic curriculum”. This type of curriculum allows the students’ development in holistic manner which is the need of this era. The word “holistic” comes from the Greek “holos” which means whole, holy, and connected. The holistic curriculum therefore seeks to acquire and develop a “complete or integral” view of human nature, of the world, of life and of their interrelations. Therefore, what I emphasize on is the integration of various disciplines and subjects into a whole. The reason is that life is not segregated and compartmentalized; hence segregation of subjects does not serve the learners’ life as a whole entity rather than fragmented parts.
‘Holistic curriculum’ attempts to bring education into alignment with the fundamental realities of the nature, and its core is interrelated. We can see this dynamism and connectedness in the atom, organic systems, the biosphere and the universe itself. Unfortunately, the human world since the industrial revolution has stressed on compartmentalization and standardization of knowledge. The result has been fragmentation. Another form of fragmentation is within ourselves. Emerson (1990) wrote the reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is because man is disunited with himself. We find ourselves disconnected from our bodies and our hearts. Education specifically has done much to separate the relationship between head and heart.
The aim of ‘holistic curriculum’ is the development of a whole individual. The students are not limited to a set of learning competencies or thinking skills but are seen as a whole being. Certainly when we look the student as less than a whole person, we diminish the opportunity for authentic learning. A teacher having holistic perspective of knowledge and learners will use strategies, such as creative problem solving, cooperative learning and arts which encourage students to make various types of connections with the real world problems and practical life. These connections make learning personally and socially meaningful for students.
The focus of ‘holistic curriculum’ is on relationship between linear thinking and intuition, between mind and body, and there is relationship among various domains of knowledge. This curriculum helps in developing a relationship between the individual and community, to the earth, and our relationship to our souls.
‘Holistic curriculum’ then views the school as an organism, and change as organic (Peter Senge, 1990). Instead of seeing the school as a factory where people believe as if they are working on an assembly line, the school can be seen, as a complex living organism that is evolving or changing through a sense of purpose, collaboration and a deep sense of inner direction.
In ‘holistic curriculum’ teachers also care about how students think and in particular teachers tries to encourage creative thinking. Teachers also want the students to be able to solve problems and use both analytical and intuitive thinking in the process. ‘Holistic curriculum’ also cares about the physical development of students, and there is room for activities that foster healthy bodies and positive self-image (Miller, J. P. 2001). In ‘holistic curriculum’ teachers care about how students relate to others and to the community at large. Teachers also focus on communication skills, and as the students develop, teachers encourage them to use these skills in a variety of community settings. At the same time we encourage the community to come into the school, particularly artists who can inspire the students’ aesthetic sense.
Most of all, the ‘holistic curriculum’ focuses on students well being. Teachers realize that the final contribution that learners make to this planet is from the deepest part of their being and not just from the skills we teach them. We can try to foster the spiritual growth of the students by working on ourselves as teachers to become more conscious and caring. By working on ourselves, we hope to foster in our students a deep sense of connectedness within themselves and other beings on this planet.
Although there are some challenges to implement the ‘holistic curriculum’ in our schools but these challenges can be overcome with commitment. One challenge is that holistic curriculum in the hands of the transmission oriented teacher will become a transmission curriculum. So, first of all we have to train our teachers to teach the curriculum in such a way that the objectives of the ‘holistic curriculum’ can be achieved. For curriculum implementation school leaderships must be aware of the importance of the curriculum. They must realize that change is inherent in the life of the school. Schools must know that change is an organic part of life. From holistic point of view we simply try to be in harmony with this change, this perspective focuses on alignment.
Another challenge is for the teachers in school contexts where ‘holistic curriculum’ is implemented, teachers need to care for students. They need to be concerned about them and care about their academic work. Teachers also need to be knowledgeable and committed in order to help students’ develop all the three domains of education. Teachers also need to let students see how subjects relate to one another, and to the students themselves. To teach this type of curriculum there should be such teachers who have knowledge about the integration of different subjects.
The basic goal of education, in the 21st century, is not only to enable learner to function in society and to increase production. But s/he has also to learn how to live consciously rather than to continue existing unconsciously, learn how to live in a responsible fashion and be responsible. To days, learner needs to learn how to become independent and stand upon one’s own feet rather than be dependant on others. ‘Holistic Curriculum’ is the potential curriculum to facilitate such learning which can meet the needs of learners today and in the time to come as well.
The contributor is a student of Aga Khan University – Institute for Educational Development, Karachi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org