Curriculum is one of the most important tools through which a state or a society tries to enhance the learning abilities of the students. It is because; the curriculum is thought to be the milestone of teaching and learning process. The curriculum is introduced to educational institutions in the form of textbooks. These textbooks, therefore, are considered as the sole source of instruction in most schools.
In almost all of the public schools of Gilgit-Baltistan, the textbooks of Punjab Textbook Board are used as a primary source of teaching and learning. These textbooks have been revised at least annually to enrich the content as well as layout and other material of the books. Recently, there have been made some revolutionary changes (addition) in the content of the English textbooks of grade-IV-X as compared to a few previous years. When the newly endorsed textbooks were analyzed, it was found that the textbooks are enriched in different aspects especially in content. When the content of the textbooks was analyzed deeply, it was found that many new concepts have been introduced in the textbooks from primary education. These concepts are taught in detail in graduate and post graduate levels. For instance, in the section of Phonics in the textbooks of grade-IV and V, the concepts of sounds (soft/hard, long/short and syllable) are introduced. Similarly, in grade-VI and VII, the concepts of consonant and vowels sounds have been introduced. Likewise, in grade-IX and X, other concepts of higher cognitive and content levels have been presented.
Now let us have a look at the current circumstances of instruction in public schools of Gilgit-Baltistan. In most of the primary schools, there are three to four (in some cases there is only one) teachers and these teachers teach all subjects of primary level including the newly enriched textbooks. In other words, the teachers are like Jack of all trades master of none. Moving ahead, in high schools (secondary grade level education), almost all the subjects (except the science subjects) are taught by the teachers who are not different in any aspect (for instance academic and professional qualification) from the primary school teachers. In other way round, the number of teachers who have master in English is like a cumin seed in a camel’s mouth. In short, the unqualified teachers have been teaching the improved textbooks of English from primary to secondary level. As these concepts are quite new for the teachers themselves, therefore, it is a challenge for them. Further, it is very difficult to teach the concepts without understanding the chemistry of the concepts. In other words, for a teacher who has not studied these concepts at graduate or post graduate, it is quite not possible to help students to internalize the concepts. It is a common observation that teachers and students mostly rely on guides available in the market to understand these concepts as a short cut to teach and learn these concepts. Unfortunately, these guides do not satisfy the real thirst of the need of the students.
The enrichment of the textbooks is a positive step towards raising the standards of education especially English, however, the existing condition of the schools and the teachers does not suit for it. When the policy of education at district level was tried to explore, it was found that the new enriched textbooks have been implemented without considering the existing circumstances. The most terrible aspect here is that there is no such proper recruitment of English subject specialists who have at least master’s degree in the relevant subject. Such situation then might lead towards the poor teaching and learning process. In such a desperate situation the only hope was with the Education colleges to improve the content and pedagogical knowledge of English teachers as part of their in-service professional development, but unfortunately; almost all the said colleges of Gilgit-Baltistan do not provide such specialized faculties.
The need of the time and the only possibility is to recruit teachers as English subject specialists like science subject teachers. Such English teachers can only address the gap in real senses. In this regard, Government Education Department Gilgit-Baltistan should take help from Karakoram International University Gilgit and Skardu Campus. KIU has been generating hundreds of graduates in different departments especially in English department. The government Education Department and KIU both can work together for it and recruit English subject teachers from the toppers of the KIU. This step will not only help the Education Department of Gilgit-Baltistan to address the need immediately but also help to improve the standards of education especially of English subject. Last, but not the least, the other possibility to address the need, related to grade-IV-X English Subjects teaching, is to upgrade the curricula of Education colleges especially of English faculty. This development of curricula might lead the teachers to upgrade their content knowledge as a part of their continuous professional growth. Though these steps, we can hope for desired teaching and learning process.
The contributor is a student of English Linguistics at the KIU Skardu Campus.