Curriculum & innovations  

Karim Muhammad Khan

The successful launching of Russian Sputnik (an artificial satellite) into space on 4th October 1957 shocked the American government and its citizens. However, the then government deliberated and recalibrated its national curriculum thoroughly in order to catch up with the Russian Sputnik achievement in space exploration.

Initially, in 1960s, faults in Science and Mathematics curriculum were not only surfaced but comprehensive reforms were also initiated especially in instructional methods and strategies as earlier classroom practices were manly based on traditional approach. In this regard, the 1965 Act of Elementary and Secondary Education remained very critical and proved to be the spring board for the then government to improve quality education.

More importantly the foundation of the reform was based on the educational theory developed by the then Cognitive Psychologist and an eloquent orator Mr. Jerome Bruner. His theory provided conceptual frame work for the educational reforms in American schools and his approach to pedagogical content knowledge was called as process oriented education.

 For instance, in process oriented education, the purpose of school was not only to impart education but to promote the tool sets of skills i.e. thinking; problem solving; reasoning, logical thinking; computing and writing skills. In addition, the reform also  emphasized in meaning making from learning experiences which paved the way for further research and development.  Furthermore, John Dewey’s growth and development theory was also taken as philosophical orientation for the curriculum reform movement during the period.

Subsequently, this innovative education reforms established a strong base for further research, explorations and discoveries that paved the path for the American astronauts landed on the moon with the artificial satellite Apollo-II and caught up the Russian in space exploration.

Likewise, successive governments continued to bring innovations in its curriculum at school and tertiary levels and have maintained its supremacy in Science and technology all over the world till today. Their supremacy shows that majority of the Nobel Prizes in different disciplines i.e. Chemistry, Medicine, Physics, Biology, Economics, Literature and Peace were given to the Americans. Statistics revealed that out of total 975 Nobel Prize recipients from all over the world 406 went to the USA.  Even the immigrants’ kept winning of this prestigious award owing to the opportunity the country has been providing to them to exploit potentials of individuals at their fullest in different discipline.

On the other hand, numerous curriculum reforms were carried out by successive governments in Pakistan remained unimplemented in its true spirit. Not to mention of curriculum innovation and creativity practiced in classrooms even the literacy rate of the country is still lingering around 60% with 23.8 million children out of schools. The education sector remained neglected area during the past seventy five years as the  curriculum is outdated with overstuffed content; classroom pedagogy is ineffective; system of examination revolves around lower order thinking skills and students get indulge in unfair means to pass the exam.  In addition, children are forced to memorize subject matter by heart in order to retrieve them in tests and exam to secure high marks and grades. Review of studies revealed several maladies found in curriculum development and implementation such as outdated, irrelevant and overstuffed subject matters; authoritative and orthodoxy classroom pedagogy; lack of merit based induction and promotion; poor school governance and management and dearth of continuous professional development of teachers and managers. Resultantly students’ creativity and potential remained dormant and stagnant and remained less productive for themselves as well as for the society.

However, the way forward is to rethinking of school curriculum in line with the reforms brought in American schools through which students are facilitated in a way that can boost up their imaginative, creative and problem solving skills as per their level of cognitive abilities and interest. The teacher’s task is to mediate classroom environment; structure the problems and guide them towards appropriate solutions.

 In addition, the teacher presents a set of concepts as a whole and then involves students to break them down as relevant parts and ask to compare, contrast, analyze, reflect and finally synthesize the parts into a whole for gaining deeper understanding of the concept. Moreover, integrating STEM in school curriculum; incorporating entrepreneurship ideas and computer skills are equally significant to develop innovative and creative ideas and skills in students.

Furthermore, in constructivist curriculum, it is vital to seek students’ point of views and value them in order to gauge their level of knowledge and skills. This would help them to guide and build on their existing knowledge and will provide students a window for reasoning to construct and reconstruct concepts and analyzing while keeping multiple perspectives of the concept in view. Adding to that, through constructivist approach, teacher’s guidance and feedback is always available to address students’ questions, confusions, self-doubts and misconceptions and mismatch the relationships between two constructs and entity.

 Finally, the ongoing assessment dimension which is actually a verification of the current state of understanding of children’s knowledge is equally significant; so that more valid and more suitable learning experiences can be presented to bridge the learning gaps. Assessment is not merely a device to be used for grading purpose but rather it is helpful tool to bridge the learning gaps by applying variety of instructional techniques and strategies.

The contributor is the Principal at Boys Higher Secondary School, Nomal, Gilgit.

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