Who cares about the SNC?

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Conversations around the Unique National Curriculum (SNC) keep intensifying. From a curriculum reform conceived in bureaucratic offices, the SNC has become a subject of heated debate in the salons of our country. But why?

One would imagine that in a country where the state of public education has long been abysmal – a situation which has led practitioners on the ground to label Pakistan as a “graveyard of educational reform” – our concerns about the school curriculum would not begin and end with questions of whether female characters in textbooks are portrayed with hijabs; what is the religious agenda behind these reforms; what will be the implications for elite private schools, et al.

These are compelling questions, of course, and tell us about the political shift of our time. However, many of these concerns arise because ultimately they concern us and our children. That is, concerns are greater now about the implications that elite schools and children will face given the vicissitudes of a political regime that cares deeply about appeasing conservative forces across the board. country. The truth, however, is that children in our public schools have not only long faced school environments that promote memorization, low expectations, corporal punishment, assessment systems that do not prepare them for true learning. and language challenges that limit comprehension, but the average Pakistani student enrolled in public school has long consumed deeply religious and nationalist propaganda.

The middle public school environment is not only deeply authoritarian, with little room for questioning or doubt, but a zealous hatred of a certain neighboring country, inaccurate stories about our political and religious roots, a tendency to using violence to discipline, and poorly concealed an overly visible animosity towards women has been the hallmark of public schools. Things have been bad for some time now, and it is a tragedy that what little talk we have about education in Pakistan is separated from the historical workings of the typical public school classroom and from reality. that an education policy reform like the SNC – one that is so politically aligned with the government of the day – tends not to last when regime change occurs.

When you walk into an average Pakistani classroom, one of the first things you notice is that the teachers are writing things on the board and the students are copying them. The dynamics of this process may vary from school to school; with some where discipline through violence is more common than others. The content of what is actually taught is a bigger issue in contexts where students are empowered and encouraged to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. Without an environment that prompts teachers to actually explain what is otherwise gibberish on a board and ask students to make connections between the topics and their lived realities, learning cannot happen. . Critics who obsessively focus on the content of what is or is not taught in our schools miss the point: the things that are taught are hardly taught. They are put in writing for future reproduction. The real crisis is not in the content, but in the classroom.

Our students in public schools are not learning, and they have not been learning for a very long time. We need to stop being distracted by superficial critiques of any most recent reform of our time and dig deeper to understand why students don’t learn in the first place. At the very least, public education shouldn’t just matter when we think it will impact elite schools and elite children, and debates about the future of education for all. countries should really come out of our living rooms and into our less privileged classrooms. .

Posted in The Express Tribune, November 9e, 2021.

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