The curriculum issue- a situational analysis

The curriculum issue
TAHIR ALI

WEEKEND MAGAZINE (May 01 2010): As curriculum forms an important part of the strategy to achieve national cohesion, it needs to be reviewed and revived so that it may help achieve the desired objectives. Following a careful examination of the situation in Pakistan, the educational institutions can be easily divided into two main categories.

Religious institutions called Madaris (seminaries) and the mainstream educational institutions. Seminaries: These are further divided into many other sub-categories. For example, there are at least five separate independent religious boards functioning in the country representing the Deobandi, Brailvi, Ahlehadith and Shiite sects and one being run by the Jamat-e-Islami (JI). Many seminaries are not even affiliated with any religious board- they are financed and administered by individuals with affiliations with Tablighi and some other sub-sects within the above mentioned five schools of thought.

Of the approximately 20,000 seminaries countywide, only a small portion are registered with the government. Almost all of them are run independently. The teachers in each of these institutions are from their respective sects. Students are imparted knowledge from the perspective of their sects.

Most of the institutions register students from very childhood. Although in some seminaries students are enrolled after they have passed their middle or secondary examinations but, as they are also detached from practical world and imparted only theoretical knowledge, they become a separate class within themselves quite distinct from the mainstream population. Students are cut-off from rest of the world, kept in isolation from their environment and exposed to a highly prejudiced education. Since they have no knowledge of the modern day techniques and expertise, they cannot get job in any public department or private enterprise because they are not capable to do so. They have to adapt teaching at a seminary as a profession or open a new one or else live as unemployed youth who can be an easy prey to terrorists who are always on the search for disgruntled and disillusioned youngsters.

All the students educated in these seminaries have strong dissimilarities of thought. They are antagonistic to each other. When these “prejudices-incarnate” enter life and society with their stereo types, tensions, division and conflicts and emotionalism and reactionary psyche are but natural to grow.

Mainstream educational institutions: These are further divided in public and private schools.

Public schools: These are run by federal and provincial governments. They include both Urdu and English medium institutions scattered across the country. Children of the poor majority read in the former. The standard of education is low there. Majority have no facilities. Children sit on the ground in overcrowded classrooms. The curriculum here is outdated, teacher-centred, and irrelevant to the outside world. Students are exposed to corporal punishment. Teachers are overburdened and low paid. Experimentation with the curriculum is the norm. Political interference in the administration of the department is on the rise making the smooth functioning of the department difficult if not impossible. Teachers here also do extra duties such as election related duties, examination duties and electoral rolls are also prepared by them. They also undergo unnecessary and useless in-service training every now and then. As they face financial burdens due to their low pays, they have to do side business. The result is that the students have ultimately to suffer. Their future is darkened. A mentally unsound teacher cannot inculcate good habits in students to nurture them into balanced personalities. When these students grow up, they find the outside world extremely discouraging and see that they are looked down upon and neglected.

What is more astonishing is that even the curriculum in these state-run schools is different in each of the provinces.

Private schools: Now we come to the private category of schools. On the bases of their administration and source of funding, these schools are further divisible into individually owned, parties’ managed, foreign affiliated, semi-governmental but autonomous schools and military run schools.

Majority of these schools are low standard so-called English medium schools and colleges founded purely on financial considerations these may be called money minting machines. No importance, attention and resources are allocated to build a sound moral character of the students. Many of these schools select their curricula prepared by private firms only on the basis of how much profit they can get. The number of private schools has surged up to hundreds of thousands according to an estimate, a mushroomed growth of private publishers of text books is also being witnessed these days in Pakistan to cater to their academic needs.

Some schools are administered by independent networks. Awami National Party (ANP) has also started its network of schools recently. Some school systems in the country are being run by religious groups. Pakistan Army runs a vast network of cadet schools throughout the country besides many other schools in the cantonment areas under its indirect supervision. Other security forces have also opened schools for children of their in-service and retired personnel. Some other schools like the Fazle Haq College Mardan and AQ Khan institute of science and technology Swabi etc are financed by government though these enjoy autonomy in their affairs.

Foreign schools: Some other schools and colleges are academically related with foreign universities. These elite institutions offer high-standard expensive education to the children of minority affluent class with all facilities and excellent learning environment from the very childhood. If the children reading in the public schools develop inferiority complex, the students studying in the elite schools are ‘gifted with’ superiority complex.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2010

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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