Single National Curriculum and Our Traditional Trap

By Sharifullah Baig

The first draft of the single national curriculum document disseminated to stakeholders for their opinion and contributions seems to be the continuation of developing another master piece of document that we usually create in the educational history of our country.  This first draft   for grade 1 to grade 5 aims to stimulate students’ curiosity and develop their interest in learning, believing that young children are naturally inquisitive. Furthermore, this draft considers the psychological and social readiness of students because it focuses on providing experience with concepts that students can explore and understand in depth to lay the foundation for future learning experience. In addition, this document promises to focus direct sensory involvement of the children with their environment that are personally meaningful and interesting. At the teacher’s level, this draft aims to be Inquiry-Based and Outcome-Focused. The teachers are expected to follow a process of exploring the natural or material world that leads to asking questions and making discoveries in the search for new understandings. Teachers are expected to provide   experiences that help students acquire concepts, skills, abilities and understanding. At the assessment level, it aims to follow the assessment for learning, using variety of methods such as questioning, observing, using checklists, portfolios, student journals, student work samples and hands-on assessments.

We must appreciate and congratulate for developing yet another outstanding draft document. In our educational history, we had always developed such fascinating curriculum documents impressing and moving the stakeholders at this planning stage. We have proved ourselves in   devising an enthralling “Planned Curriculum”, but had faced challenges when this “Planned Curriculum” reached to the levels of “Taught and Learned Curriculum.” We had developed new curriculum documents, but our teaching and teaching environment did not change, our learning styles and patterns did not change and our assessment of learning did not change at our schools. This has been a traditional trap in our educational history where we had designed excellent curriculum documents, but we remained silent on how to ensure that this planned curriculum is implemented in a way that the document does not lose its essence at the taught and learned curriculum levels.  If the present government is really interested in a paradigm shift in education, they must focus beyond the development of a curriculum document. They should thoroughly study the ground realities in our public-sector educational milieu in order create the conditions and environment in which the new curriculum does not lose its spirit when it reaches to the educational institutions where teaching, learning and assessments are taking place. In order to move toward this direction, the present government has to find answers to the following critical questions.

First of all, do we have the needed material resources at the grass-root level in order to teach and assess in the promised way mentioned in the curriculum document? A thorough analysis of the existing infrastructure and resources at the institutional level and their distribution mechanism is imperative. Based on this analysis it is important to improve the infrastructures, provision of materials resources and its equitable distribution is needed if we are really serious about seeing the teaching, learning and assessments in a way that is promised in the curriculum document.

Secondly, do we have the willingness and courage to change the existing processes of teaching and learning which are being promised in the curriculum document? The psycho-social and educational environment at the grass-root level is tamed for many decades to follow an automatized and compliance oriented system. Everyone is aware of the events and activities with time frame to be completed in an academic year following the golden guide of “doing the things the ways others did in the past.”  How to create an environment where people at every level are ready to come out of the comfort zone and test and taste new things? There is always a fear of being unsuccessful while testing a new model of doing things. How can people at different level will be provided autonomy and protection if their adopted new change in line with the new curriculum document fails? These are some of the aspects that are needed to study if we are really intended to see the curriculum document being implemented at the teaching and learning level with its true spirit.

Third, do we have the capacity at the grass-root level to really implement the promises that we are making in the curriculum document? New models and new ways of actions need improved capacities therefore, beefing up of human capacities to implement the curriculum is imperative. This will be a very big ask to expect people to change their decade long course of action overnight and adopt an improved version without working on human capacities.

Finally, do we have the required attitude and commitment to transform in accordance with the aims of the curriculum document? The commitment and attitude of people working down the ladder are equally important to make a history by making tangible changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices at the grass-root level portraying the promises made in the curriculum document. Therefore, the policy makers have to keep an eye on this aspect also, and find creative ways to invest in attitudinal and commitment aspect of the implementation if they are really committed to bring visible changes at teaching, learning and assessment practices at the institutional level.

Without addressing these aspects, the single national curriculum may achieve other purposes but will not change the teaching, learning and assessment practices at the grass-root level.  However, I am optimistic that policy makers and the new government is serious about change in education and will not only focus on planned curriculum but also consider these critical conditions and aspects of the taught and learned curriculum.

The author is a member of teaching faculty at the Professional Development Center North (PDCN) of Institute for Educational Development (IED) Aga Khan University Pakistan.

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