August 23, 2020

 By: Rehan Piracha 


Lahore;

The implementation of the Single National Curriculum across the country’s primary schools in April next year will cause mayhem for children, parents, and teachers already in trauma during COVID pandemic, educationist Baela Raza warns of in a talk with Voicenet.pk. The educationist says federal and provincial governments should delay the implementation by four months in order to give more time to children, parents, and teachers.

Speaking to Voicenet.pk, the educationist says debate on the national curriculum is good but warns that implementing the curriculum across the country from April will add to the emotional and physical strain on children, teachers, and parents amid the COVID pandemic. She fears that the rush to implement the single national curriculum will overshadow other pressing issues affecting the country’s entire education system that presently is in its worst crisis due to the closure of schools for six months.

“The children are undergoing a great crisis in the shape of the COVID pandemic. We don’t know if they will be able to go to schools after six months or not. Many of the children might not be able to attend schools at all due to social distancing.”

In her opinion, the most important feature of the single national curriculum is the national debate but the government must not lose sight of issues in the education system that are directly linked to the wellbeing and mental health of the children. The debate should continue and all stakeholders including children, parents, and teachers given time to recover from the impact of the COVID pandemic.

Appealing to the federal and provincial governments to begin the new academic from August instead of the announced date of April Ist, Baela Raza says the four months will give teachers time to prepare children for the new syllabus. She adds that having a national syllabus alone is not enough. The curriculum’s implementation is a gargantuan exercise that involves the training of teachers, preparation of assessment systems, and input from headteachers.

“This would give time to children and teachers to catch up. When schools reopen, the first three to four weeks will go in assessing the loss in the learning of the children,” the educationist says. The teachers then will gradually familiarise students with the new national syllabus, as she explains the rationale behind delaying the implementation of the national curriculum. The children are traumatized and need foundational learning, she adds.

Talking about issues in the country’s education system, she says that 40 percent of students in class five do not know the syllabus of class two, saying that class five students are not able to read a simple paragraph of the class two Urdu textbooks.  In most provinces, there are only one or two teachers in primary schools. The shortage of teachers, content-heavy syllabus, and children not being able to learn properly are issues that need more focus and efforts from the government rather than a hurried implementation of the single national curriculum. “It will not be a remarkable feat but an irresponsible act,” she warns.

However, Muhammad Rafiq Tahir, a joint educational advisor of the Single National Curriculum, does not share the concerns expressed by Baela Raza. He says the federal government is not rushing the implementation of the curriculum, adding that the process took about two years ago to complete.

The advisor says it will be the first time that the country will have a single national curriculum, crediting the present federal government for the huge exercise and efforts that have gone in making the national curriculum. He says all stakeholders gave their consensus on the single national curriculum. The provincial governments, Aga Khan Education Department, madrassas, minorities’ representatives, private school chains were consulted and gave their input, he adds. “A list of 400 experts and representatives is on the federal education ministry’s website for all to see.”

Rafiq Tahir says the implementation of the national curriculum is on track.  The final syllabus for class one to five is on the ministry’s website, he adds. In the coming weeks, the ministry will give out advertisements to publishers for the preparation of textbooks based on the curriculum for approval. Talking about teachers’ training, he says the ministry has completed 80 percent of work on the manuals and all teacher manuals will be ready by November 15. The training of teachers will be conducted in February and March, ahead of the single national curriculum’s implementation from the new academic year on April Ist.

On the other hand, Baela Raza says she will write to the federal and provincial governments to appeal for a delay in the implementation of the single national curriculum in order to give more time to children, teachers, and parents to recover from the COVID pandemic.

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