Issues in the curriculum at elementary level 16-21

16. Issues of Curriculum Understanding

The entire educational framework of our schools and colleges is obsessively and rigidly built around textbooks which are mostly prescribed. Textbooks are considered as the sole and legitimate source of knowledge both for students and teachers. Information presented in the textbooks plays a pivotal role in shaping up the process of classroom teaching and learning, designing of assessment system and evaluation with students’ memorizing and reproducing the information presented in textbooks.

One of the main reasons of this hegemony of textbooks is the non- availability of curriculum document itself. Unfortunately, the curriculum documents do not reach the hands of those who are responsible for their implementation.

Curriculum documents remain with the policy makers and textbook writers only. Implementers get textbooks only and build all the processes around them and start interpreting curriculum as a set of topics prescribed for a particular level.

They remain unaware of curricular framework and its main objectives. With this lack of understanding of the curriculum, classroom learning process is not designed to achieve the curricular objectives; rather it is organized to transfer textbook content to children thereby narrowing down the scope of learning process.

This issue gives rise to another major issue where curriculum is considered as a set of facts and information needed to be transferred to students step by step. People generally do not take learning environment, learning process and assessment of learning as aspects of curriculum and fail to see the connection among them.

Teachers are not exposed to the broader philosophy of the curriculum. They. are not facilitated to build links between curriculum. textbooks, teaching learning process and assessment. The training focuses more on the delivery of textbook content.

17. Intellectual Issues

If we look at the instructional objectives and learning outcomes mentioned in various subject specific curricula, they emphasize on defining, recalling, describing, naming, listing etc as the main learning process instead of focusing on understanding, analyzing, synthesizing, questioning, reflecting etc, which are the main processes involved in the process of constructing own meaning and bringing in a personal perspective to the various aspects of learning.

There is hardly any objective which focuses on students developing their own view points. Consequently, this contradiction can be observed in textbooks as well. The text and the teaching methodology do not encourage children to think differently, consider various perspectives and to look at things from different angles.

In the same way, there is a clear contradiction between curriculum frameworks and the examination policies also. The framework puts emphasis on children learning at their own pace but examination policies do not allow students to learn at their own pace. All the students have to be ready for examination and evaluation at the same time, all are assessed in the same way, all are evaluated using same criteria etc.

Public Examination requires students to reproduce what is written in the textbooks. Students are not asked to give their view point or perspective in any case. All these contradictions do not only show the low intellectual quality of the curriculum implementation which promotes rote learning and ignores the holistic perspective of a child’s development. It also highlights the intellectual and communication gaps in designing and implementing curriculum.

Another important angle of the intellectual issues of curriculum is the absence of the approach and thought for developing “Thinking Mind” i.e. mind that is free to ask questions, who can challenge wrong practices and ideas based on rational arguments, which can analyze issues and form their own opinions.

18.Issues of Diversity and Relevance

Two other major issues associated with the curriculum are the issues of diversity and relevance. If we look at the content of the curriculum, at many places it is not relevant to child’s immediate life and has no meaning for him. Though the Conceptual Framework of the curriculum puts strong emphasis on this aspect by highlighting “Development of concepts through children’s immediate context” as one of the basic learning principles, but it is not taken into consideration while developing the curriculum, especially for early classes.
The Conceptual Framework elaborates explicitly that, “When subject matter precedes or is unrelated to children’s experiences, it is not able to hold their attention. The subject matter gains meaning only when it is placed in the context of children’s own experiences, interest and curiosity”

Inspire of this clear guideline, the curriculum is full of meaningless topics for children. For example, children of age 5 to 8 years are expected to learn a plethora of terms in science and memorize different facts about plants and animals instead of getting opportunities to observe the living world around them and express themselves in their own language and style.

At this stage, more important aspect is to build relationships with all living beings and develop a caring and considerate attitude towards them instead of memorizing technical terms to express them.

This narrowness also creates the issues of diversity as well. The curriculum does not encourage pupil to use multiple sources for learning. It heavily emphasizes on structuring learning around textbooks and in the classroom.

There is no space in the curriculum to bring local resources in the learning process or to bring in local perspectives. If in some cases it is done, it is done as an activity once in a blue moon. The other important aspect is that official recognition and acceptance is given only to the ideas which are presented in the textbook and anything beyond the textbook is not accepted as a valid perspective.

19.Issues of Biases

Several political, religious, historical and ideological biases can be observed in the curricular objectives and in the textbooks developed for children. Likewise, the curriculum is not very sensitive to religious diversity also. The lessons for promoting tolerance among students for religious and cultural diversity are not very prominent and enough attention is not given to this aspect also.

20.Language issue

Currently, Pakistan’s elementary school classrooms use multi-lingual teaching. Students are taught their provincial language (i.e. Sindhi, Punjabi), the national language (Urdu) and English as an official non- indigenous language. Should Pakistani children attending elementary school leam in only one language or gain mastery over several languages? The parents and teachers of these students are facing this issue

21.Textbook issue

But the quality issue does not just affect the physical condition of books. Pakistani textbooks for primary school children are replete with factual errors, inappropriate illustrations and problems with readability.

The language used in textbooks also creates confusion for students rather than aiding them as textbooks should, differing greatly from one grade level to another, and even from subject to subject among books at the same level.

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