Single National Curriculum and Challenges

Zeenat Shah 
Senior Instructor, AKU-IED
Professional Development Center North, Gilgit

Curriculum consists of everything that promotes learners’ intellectual, spiritual/moral, aesthetic, emotional, social and physical development including co-curricular and extracurricular activities that include approaches to teaching, learning and assessment, the quality of relationships within the school, and the values embodied in the way the education system and a school operates (Minimum Standards for Quality Education in Pakistan). The document further elaborates that curriculum refers to a document describing the aims and objectives, the scope and sequence of contents, learning activities, methods of delivery in the classroom, and evaluation and assessment techniques in accordance with the curriculum framework of a particular subject. Further, a curriculum enables teachers to plan their classroom lessons, examiners to create assessments according to the prescribed competencies, and textbook reviewers to review the textbooks according to contents and scope. Finally a curriculum also helps inform the general public about the wider aims of the educational objectives and processes planned for the students.

The national curriculum document although already exists in Pakistan, its implementation at classroom level has always remained a challenge due to lack of a uniform policy and determination at policy level. The current education is mainly based on textbooks and entirely dependent on teacher’s personal capacity and self-preference to deliver a lesson. The national curriculum is inaccessible for most of the teachers and those who have access, very few bother to consult the SLOs while making a lesson plan and assessing student learning outcomes. The education system does not achieve the national and global purpose unless teachers align the three intertwined processes i.e. teaching and learning, assessment and curriculum in routine classroom practices.

Moreover, there are numerous categories of schools from elite private schools to government regular schools, Basic Education Community Schools, National Commission for Human Development, Danish Schools, self-initiated community schools for middle and lower middle class, personal private schools and madrasa schools. These institutions are imparting education with their own priorities within their own resource limitations. Due to lack of uniform curriculum implementation policy and accountability mechanism most of the institutions are unable to achieve the holistic purpose of education. They mainly focus on rote memorization and grades but fail to impart values education and life skills. As a result, we commonly observe in the society that there is incompetence, intolerance, lack of civic sense, serious issues in obeying the law, environmental and gender awareness, integrity, accepting others with differences, unity, and loyalty to the state.  Therefore, the people of Pakistan so far in more than seven decades have not been able to become a unified nation. Despite teaching Pakistan Studies till graduation level, reciting National Anthem by all teachers and students every morning in schools, singing heart touching emotional national songs and delivering lessons on patriotism, the nation has only developed hatred for India but it is hard to see real patriots and loyal citizens in any stratum of the nation. Therefore, a uniform curriculum was a dire need of the time.

The present government of PTI is in the process of drafting a common curriculum for all education systems in Pakistan called Single National Curriculum to develop all school going students of Pakistan through the same course of studies and expecting the same learning outcomes. The uniform curriculum in other words is a vision of the present Prime Minister to lead and transform young generation into a unified nation in future. Although the document has yet to come out, google search revealed that the Single National Curriculum is being developed by focusing on 12 considerations that include; 1. Constitutional guidelines, 2. National policies and standards, 3. Emerging international trends, 4. Outcome-based approach, 5. Focus on values, life skills and inclusive education, 6. Promotion of intellectual, emotional, spiritual, aesthetic, Social and physical development, 7. Development of critical, analytical and creative thinking, 8. Application of knowledge with real life, 9. Move away from rote memorization, and focus on project, inquiry and activity-based learning, 10. Inclusion of modern teaching and assessment practices, 11. Use of information and communication technology, 12. Alignment with the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Although these considerations are well thought and sufficient to develop students as effective national and global citizens with needful knowledge, skills and values, the present government might face with numerous challenges in implementation of the single national curriculum as a shared and evenly benefiting roadmap in the prevailing diversified situation of education. The first challenge for the government is how to attract those more than 20 million out of school children to schools. It is a daunting task for the government to facilitate all children in an evenly manner where the textbooks are different, publishers are different, teaching and learning methods and assessment approaches are different and student success criteria, learning resources are different and more importantly there is huge gap in teachers’ capacity in different education systems. On one hand there are one room or two-room primary schools with only one or two teachers having inadequate qualifications and on the other hand there are schools equipped with rich human and financial resources providing a conducive learning and nurturing environment for students.

The government will require significant amount of financial input to less resourced schools to bring uniformity in diverse education systems at a certain level. Further the government has to shift its trends of investments in education and education must become the top priority of the state. We need to follow education models being applied in Finland, Singapore and Japan to become a knowledge economy instead of increasingly becoming a charity dependent society.

If the present government honestly owns and intends to bring reforms in school education, the Prime Minister and the President have to own this new curriculum and take the lead in formulation of an implementation policy and accountability mechanism in the country. They need to advise ministry of education and its concerned departments to put the single national curriculum into a change process that leads to quality inputs-quality processes and quality outcomes. There should be a scientific and systematic monitoring and evaluation system in place to continually inform stakeholders about the results and ensure their accountability at each level.

Quality Inputs

The quality inputs to increase access and improve students learning outcomes include; recruitment of adequate number of competent teachers especially in primary schools, introduce and distribute defined roles and accountability indicators to all stakeholders with timelines, preservice training,  teachers’ training on how to align teaching and learning, assessment and curriculum, adequate and proper infrastructure, availability of fresh drinking water and electricity, provision of learning materials to ensure activity-based learning in different subjects, orientation of parents, teachers and senior management on Single National Curriculum, provision of a hard and soft copy of the new curriculum to each school, school library with adequate number of reference books, story books, general knowledge books, science books, dictionaries, globes, maps, charts and internet access.  Above all, if the present government has good intentions to improve quality of education, it requires to allocate significant amount of financial resources from annual budget but it is nation’s misfortune the government has again followed the previous governments’ trends of ignoring education by allocating meagre amount. If the government continues to ignore education it will continue to produce ignorant and unmanageable people in the country.

Quality Processes

Quality processes may include; proper monitoring and evaluation of utilization of funds at each level, appointments of competent, visionary and change-oriented education officers from headteacher to  secretary education level, a strong accountability mechanism needs to be in place from ministry to school level, early retirement of underperforming teachers and headteachers with full monetary benefits in five phases. For this, a nationwide test could be conducted for all teachers in languages, ICT and the SLOs defined in the single national curriculum in the subjects they are teaching.  Special focus needs to be given to ICT, Science, mathematics English and values education. Separate budget and accountability mechanisms for preprimary, primary and secondary education are necessary to manage change-oriented processes in an efficient and effective manner.

The present government at least now should wake up and follow the guidelines of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan who considered education as a matter of life and death. Teacher as the heart of education should be given the exalted rank in the society similarly assign the highest responsibilities to ensure progress, peace and prosperity of the nation. So, invest on teachers if you want to improve quality of education and build the nation.

As Bill Gates signifies the role of teacher and mentioned in a letter to Gates Foundation. He wrote, “If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school.”

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