Parallel systems need to be better connected

Shagufta Gul

Pakistan currently has three parallel systems of education: the public (government) schools, madaris (seminaries) and private schools. Private schools are further bifurcated into subsystems. There are chains of Cambridge-affiliated schools and the mushrooming small home-based schools that are growing phenomenally they are considered to be a secure business providing a steady income stream.

The three systems are educating students as per their specific scheme of studies and curriculum. Apparently, there doesn’t seem any connectivity in the methods followed by the three systems as the public schools are mostly into traditional learning where the teacher is the total source of knowledge and transfers knowledge to the students, which is to be reproduced more or less in the same form.

The private schools (Cambridge affiliated) claim to be providing be activity-based learning, and conceptual learning, with the same human resource which is a product traditional teaching methodologies of public school system mostly. However, these systems do try to train the teachers on modern teaching methodologies.

Looking at the religious seminaries or madaris, the system of rote learning or memorisation of the content is followed. As mentioned earlier that each system is imparting education in isolation from the other with no apparent connectivity and commonalities. But of course there is one common denominator to all three: the teacher. In one shape or the other.

A teacher, it is said, can make or break a child and has to be the topmost consideration in any system. The first step towards quality education must be to train the teachers on modern activity based teaching methodologies, leading the students to critical thinking and questioning, rather than making them memorising machines.

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Although provincial governments do train public school teachers and so do private schools, a teachers training exchange between the teachers, or collaboration among the teachers, of the three systems can lead to the opening of new vistas for all involved in teaching and learning.

A set of reforms to provide opportunities for training, interactions, initially on the compulsory or common subjects like Urdu, Islamiat, can be beneficial, as all three systems use the textbooks of the respective textbook boards for these subjects. Later, need-based programmes can be devised as each system has its strengths as well.

Secondly, we have a well-documented national curriculum for the state-run schools, which is claimed to be activity-based, but unfortunately due to insufficient facilities, a large number of students in the classes and, most importantly, insufficient training and sensitisation of teachers, the objectives of certain lessons in the classrooms are hardly met. This is mainly because an activity-based lesson is imparted with a traditional teaching methodology.

Looking at the Madaris the situation is further closed-box type where certain books are to be memorised and interestingly after remembering the whole content, the learner is eligible to be a teacher.

I believe you can keep reforming the curriculum, keep making the textbooks attractive and colourful but, unless the human resource involved is not trained and well equipped with critical thinking themselves, all such reforms are in vain. Let teachers’ training be a priority of the next government as that is the actual area where we need to invest. And when I say teachers’ training, I mean the teachers of all three parallel streams which will definitely connect the disjointed for very positive outcomes. Let us give it a try.

Then, there needs to be a general unified criterion for the selection /appointment of the teachers initially and then a specific one as per the need of the subject. As it is observed that the one unable to qualify in any other field opts to be a teacher, let the ones come to this field who take this profession as a sacred responsibility. Effective teaching and learning involves one’s aptitude and spiritual involvement.

Measures in the selection of teachers must be taken to ensure the induction of the ones who want to be real teachers and have the potential to become one. The selection criterion must be strictly followed by the private schools as well. Since they are dealing with a different scheme of studies, madaris can be asked to design a selection standard of their own.

The writer is an educator

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