National educational policy – a change on the way?
September 14, 2009 § 12 Comments
The present take by the government, if carried out as put in the writing, would be a grand influence in changing the trends of academia.
The National Educational Policy is finally out amid lot of anticipations and after many delays. The cabinet approved it on September 9, 2009 after a rigorous effort from many quarters to ensure the participation of all the concerned parties. And the policy encompasses many such features which had been looked forward to for the past many years.
The budget, for one, of the educational sector has been raised from an earlier 2 percent to a now 7 percent which is a welcome move. In the past, educationalists have consistently bemoaned the lack of resources for the education sector and have also, in parallel, criticized a hefty spending on defense in face of such negligence to education. However, the present take by the government, if carried out as put in the writing, would be a grand influence in changing the trends of academia.
Coming to the other parts of the policy, we may first discern certain domains which are the chief issues of the present-day education in Pakistan. These mainly are the syllabi, the teaching methodologies, and the madressah system.
The debate over the credibility of the government-decided curricula has been raging for quite some time now. And the educationalists have expressively cited their concern and dissatisfaction over the textbook syllabus. The objections run along two parallels. One is that the syllabus takes on a tone of prejudice towards certain countries, factions or societies by necessarily involving a religious or falsely patriotic view of things, hence growing up individuals who have been ingrained already with the sentiments of resentment towards, say, India or Hindus. Such a biased view of things for the young students is highly undesirable. The need for involving religion in certain subjects has also been questioned and it has been stressed that such subjects may make entirely optional.
The other objection is that the curriculum devised lacks the basic traits needed to actively involve a student in creative thinking. Such objections stand quite valid in face of repeated instances where students in the present educational structure are found to grossly lack any concepts of a certain subject at hand and adopt the technique of rot-learning to fly through the exams.
And that, now, brings us to the second issue, namely that of the flawed teaching methodologies prevailing currently in a wide majority of institutions ran under local educational boards. The list starts with teachers who adopt such teaching methodologies which are aimed solely at making students learn the content rather than understand it. And it ends in such examinations where students are tested, nonetheless, for the very same rot-learning and accorded grades on the basis of how good they are at it.
The good thing about the present policy is that it at least goes on to explicitly acknowledge the flaws in the current teaching methodologies and aims at removing them with time. According to the NEP, the future appointments of the teachers will be based upon higher qualifications and the teachers will also be trained to deal with the challenges of a concept-based teaching system.
However, the NEP falls short of taking a go at the examination system hosted by the local government-operated educational boards which have been displaying inefficient functionality and redundant techniques both for preparing exams and their checking. The absence of a good accountability method to overlook the tasks carried out by board officials has resulted, year after year, in corruption, scandals, altering of results and trading out of board papers pre-handedly, on fee of few thousands of rupees. The current policy entirely neglects the need to immediately look to the conditions of these boards and a reform program for them, bringing them under the umbrella of stricter accountability and making the procedure of exams’ devising and checking much more transparent.
Moving on, the third major issue in our academe is that of madressahs. While the governmental jurisdiction on their affairs is detoured through the Wafaq-ul-Madaris, their sheer number and the large enrollment demands a serious consideration of their functionality in a national context. To neglect them would be neglect the millions of students enrolled in them, leaving them to the hands of syllabi customizable at the whim of anyone running a madressah. It is well-known that the current standards prevalent, even in Wafaq-ran madaris strictly rule out the inclusion of any modern tools, techniques and subjects. And such hard-core traditionalism has often resulted in fundamentalist tendencies in students at these madaris. And so such an intolerant approach towards modernism may prove very difficult to contain in the coming years.
The NEP, apparently, has this considered and the federal Education Minister Mir Hizar Khan cited in the press conference that efforts were being made to introduce the contemporary subjects into the curricula of madressahs. And although Wafaqul Madaris has been resisting the reforms, he posed a hope that Rehman Malik will be able to settle some feasible negotiation with them over the matter. One can hope that the issue will not be left to a non-conclusion and in regard of its immediate importance, shall be attended to asap.
Another important part of the NEP 2009 is the vesting of implementation powers of the policy with the provincial governments. This is particularly important since only the provincial government could more clearly address the wants of local structures and devise effective strategies to implement the policy through them.
The objections over curricula also stay largely unanswered, more so with the introduction of an ‘Islamic Education’ chapter which is looked upon as a move to further ideologically define education in Pakistan. Such a trend must be shunned and the curricula should be a neutral content of such education which may shape individuals who can actively learn, recreate, think and be a dynamic ingredient of the society, choosing their own choices rather than fed with them educationally.
All in all, the NEP is a document well-drawn-out. It has taken a step forward from earlier documents of similar nature in that it has at least recognized many issues, if not all, plaguing the educational sector of Pakistan at present. There certainly is room for a lot of improvement and many domains stay seriously neglected as cited above. However, realization is the forbearer of change and one can only hope that the higher-ups are finally feeling the need to address seriously these issues and are ready to think out-of-the-box.
Published at Chowk.com: http://www.chowk.com/articles/national-educational-policy-a-change-on-the-way-salman-latif.htm