A harmful standardisation

November 7, 2021

We ask Ameena Saiyid her views about the Single National Curriculum in practic

A harmful standardisation

There is, clearly, a crisis of education in Pakistan. There are serious issues of inequality, inequity and deprivation. We need to address these challenges urgently and provide equal access to good education to all. However, the Single National Curriculum (SNC) has not done that. On the contrary, it has succeeded in lowering the quality and standards of education in sectors where they were high, indeed world-class. It has also ignored almost 25 million out-of-school children.

In Pakistan, where teachers have largely not had the benefit of professional development, books become an important tool in their hands. However, the SNC has grossly limited access to a variety of high-quality books by insisting on getting official approval at a high cost to publishers for every book used in schools. This has caused the publishing industry to become stunted and suffer enormously to the extent that it is unable to invest in developing and publishing creative and effective books for schools.

The SNC has been an infringement on students, teachers and school managements as it has straitjacketed them in an iron curriculum, which has left no room for creativity, passion or motivation.

We need an open environment of learning recognising the different ways in which children learn. This is a prerequisite for effective engagement. Of course, every student should be on the path of learning but how they traverse that path varies greatly. Some pupils may not be ready for an assigned curriculum or standardised books and will fall behind while others may be ahead of it and will get bored and lose interest. This will limit progress for all. Students are also disadvantaged by socioeconomic backgrounds and cannot be expected to perform equally with regard to the curriculum. Learning takes place when students are given learning opportunities appropriate to their needs and capabilities. Students progress in their own way and time. They do not reach the same point of attainment at the same time or at the same rate or in the same way.

The SNC takes no account of this and treats students like robots, and schools as machines that have to deliver the same curriculum in the same way and at the same time. This standardisation approach is convenient administratively but can be superficial and harmful.

We need to maximise every student’s learning by ensuring that learning resources such as books are not too difficult or too easy for them, and they are able to move on the path of learning based on teachers’ assessment of their readiness and not on the prescribed path or elapsed time. There is no identical solution for educational needs. We must accept and respect the difference between equality and equity. The SNC ignores these.

The author is the founder and managing director, Lightstone Publishers

A harmful standardisation