Reservations on SNC – Journal
I AM an educator with experience teaching in primary classes for over 20 years.
I have examined in detail the Unique National Curriculum and the relevant books of the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB). It makes me sad to think about the future of students now that most schools will be forced to study from the textbooks prescribed by the PCTB.
I wish to express my concerns about the PCTB manuals.
First, the sheer volume of material to be covered in an academic year which typically lasts seven and a half months is appalling.
For example, on average there are about 23 chapters in Urdu books for grades 2 to 6. If we include grammar units in each lesson’s review exercises, the number of chapters doubles to 46. Usually 40 minutes in a day is spent on languages. Five periods per week means the teacher gets 130 to 150 periods per year to cover the given content. This amounts to three periods for each chapter, which is obviously insufficient.
No one disputes that the SNC Islamiat program is massive, much larger than ever. Nazra, which begins with Noorani Qaida, expanded from a few siparas to the whole Quran, accompanied by the memorization of several suras, ahadith and many duas, in addition to the books of the Islam. The new Islamate curriculum is likely to put much more pressure on elementary school students than before.
Shafqat Mehmood and Murad Raas said private schools are free to use any material they choose. But are they?
Religion is a very delicate matter. How an “aalim” of a madressah system or a teacher approaches a subject concerns me. It remains to be seen whether guidance will be given to alims and teachers to ensure correct interpretation. However, credit must be given to the hierarchical and methodical compilation of the five books, as each book builds on the knowledge given in the previous one, unlike the random collection of subjects in science books.
Then, if we deepen the content of general culture, we see that it lacks creativity, is repetitive and does not encourage critical thinking. Given the average age of children at this level, they already know most of the topics covered in general culture books. They are curious little creatures. We give very little credit to children who by the age of five have already mastered a language, in many cases two or more with correct syntax without supervision.
While general culture textbooks are to serve as a foundation course for science in 4th year, they lack logic and ignore the mandatory principle of hierarchy which states that the introductory topic should serve as the basis for the next more complex topic. Missing links or mediating information is confusing and akin to climbing a ladder with missing rungs to the top of a tall building.
If, on the other hand, the intended outcome of general culture books was to create self-awareness and understanding of others, then content is lacking as well.
When studying a language, grammar provides knowledge of syntax and structure, and literature serves as a vehicle for a number of different things. Not only does it encourage students to appreciate words, but literature helps them grow as individuals and allows them to develop a deeper understanding of people and the world around them.
The Urdu textbooks for grades 1-5, however, lack depth and diversity. They do not encourage analytical thinking and individual perspectives. They lack the very aesthetic that makes Urdu the ornate language that it is.
Interestingly, all of the essays and stories in each book were written by the same author. For example, one writer wrote all content in grade 1 except poems, another in grade 2, and so on.
We do not understand why this was done. Obviously, single authorship does not guarantee diversity of perspectives.
For a rewarding reading experience, excerpts from the writings of well-known Pakistani writers like Kishwar Naheed, Maqbool Jahangir, Imtiaz Ali Taj, etc. could have been included. As educators, we all know that for any kind of learning to occur, students must first appreciate the material presented to them; the rest will flow smoothly. The inclusion of a diverse collection will not only enrich the language skills of the students, but also help them to have a more complete outlook on life.
A writer, a style, an agenda will inevitably become tedious and boring. No wonder repeated surveys by the National Education Assessment System (NEAS) as well as the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) and Alif-Ailan all show widespread poverty of language skills among students.
In addition, instead of enriching students’ Urdu, books in Urdu seem to complement Islamism in defiance of article 22-1 of the Constitution.
The inclusion of religious subjects in general knowledge, Urdu and English is also of concern. Excessive religious content can inadvertently instill a sense of self-righteousness and lead to prejudice. Is this really what we want?
The PCTB books may be perfect but the insistence that only those books or books with similar content be used by all schools reminds me of these (translated) lines from Hukamnama by Javed Akhtar sahib: âSomeone decreed , that the winds confirm their direction even before they start to blow.
Shafqat Mehmood and Murad Raas reaffirmed that private schools are free to use any material they choose. But are they?
Page 6 of the minutes of the PCTB meeting held on January 7, 2021 states otherwise: “No private or public school shall prescribe or suggest any type of book or reading material without obtaining its approval from the government or its authorized agents / departments. / organization and in case of violation, all kinds of legal proceedings will be initiated.
Most countries agree that the results of programs should be decided by the state, but they do not insist on using only state-prescribed books or the like designed by a single authority.
The writer is a teacher.
Posted in Dawn, June 21, 2021