The quality of learning of learners at school level is very dismal. One of the central premises here is best quality of curriculum which can ensure highest level of learning. In contrast, low standard curriculum inhabits low-level learning of the learners. As a rule, the learners always follow a framework and direction set by the curriculum. It is, therefore, essential to determine whether the curriculum is directing or instructing the learners in a right direction.
Now a pertinent question arises. What is the right direction? What are the criteria for a quality curriculum? It may vary from society to society, but there are some fundamental characteristics that can provide strong basis to high standard curriculum. These may pose the following characteristic questions. One, does the curriculum incorporate material and strategies that provoke critical and analytical thinking faculties of the learners? Two, does it enable the learners to apply the concepts learned in the classrooms? Last, does it completely discourage rote-learning?
Let us now determine whether the curriculum applied at the level of schools in Balochistan meets the criteria that have been emphasized above. Unfortunately, the answer, however, is a simple no. Studies and observations of experts show that due to low standard of curriculum, besides various other factors, learning and understanding of basics of a subject is rare among the learners at school and college levels. Besides, there is another angle of the issue. The higher passing ratio of students in schools and colleges can be a sign of success of the education system. But, paradoxically, when the same learners are exposed to situations demanding a reasonable level of conceptual understanding, they show pathetic responses. For example, it is often observed by the human resource experts and managers of organizations that the seemingly most qualified candidates show disappointing and mediocre responses during the testing process. It shows, besides other important factors, that poor learning can be directly related to poor curriculum taught in the educational institutions.
Here another noteworthy question arises? Why did we fail to build up best standard curriculum that fulfills the aforementioned criteria? One right answer can be that we simply lack competence and political will to transform the curriculum into modern framework and according to contemporary requirements. For example, in Balochistan the education department is running huge service delivery system without any education policy. Actually, the absence of policy is the key culprit. Curriculum is a byproduct of the policy, and the incompetence with respect to formulating an effective policy trickles down to the level of designing learning methodologies and assessing the quality of learning in the schools and higher levels of learning. Besides the characteristic incompetence, the lack of political vision and will, however, seems even a more complex obstacle before the fragile system of education in Balochistan. Rhetoric abounds by the political figures such as “education emergency”, “education for all”, and “educating all the children is a constitutional duty”, but the ground realities harshly deny the whole scheme of oratory. All the aforementioned rhetorical stuff in combination fails to transform the curriculum.
Quality of the teachers is an essential element of quality education. It may be stated that the learning process in the schools and colleges substantially involves the personality and competence of teachers. The teachers play a role model and the students under a fierce influence of the former emulate. Given the important role of the teachers in a classroom setting, a place where a considerable portion of learning interactions takes place, it must be underlined that quality of the teachers cannot be compromised at any cost. The stats indicating low level of learning can considerably be ascribed to the low quality of teaching resulting from a substandard system of recruitment of teachers and inadequate and old-fashioned in-service training arrangements. For example, according to the Alif Ailaan Pakistan District Education Rankings 2015 marks Balochistan at the lowest in the country in terms of learning score that is 40.50 percent. Moreover, it should be an eye-opener that FATA, a war torn and the most deprived region in the country, is above Balochistan in terms of learning score that is 46.70.
FATA is above Balochistan in terms of learning score
Failure with regard to building capacity of the teachers again reflects apathy on the part of the administrative apparatus and lack of political will by the successive governments. In Balochistan, it is perhaps the foreign funded NGOs that cater to most of the training needs of the teachers. Low spending and allocation of budget for teachers training component reveals the level and extent of commitment and interest of the government. Low investment in terms of teachers’ professional capacity building and training is only one aspect of the problem. Obsolete teacher training curriculum is another facet which needs immediate attention of the concerned authorities. It is mandatory to align the teacher training curriculum with the contemporary challenges of the field of teaching. In short, the rote-learners will probably promote the same. Thus, in order to promote quality learning among the learners, it is mandatory that the teachers must first be prepared to teach properly.
Like quality teaching and high standard curriculum, the assessment of learning is also one of the core elements of the education system. The assessment system plays an important role in gauging the output and outcome of the learning process, thus encompassing the whole domain of education system ranging from assessing the curriculum, the teacher, the learner, the administration and the overall environment prevailing around the system of learning. It is, therefore, necessary that the assessment system must be transparent and independent so that all the aspects of the learning could be better ascertained. But at the school level the process of assessment means only evaluating the grip of the learners on the symbols taught in the classrooms by the teachers. It is, therefore, the very process of assessment of the learners is conducted by the insiders; the principal and his aides, the class masters. They are actually the movers and shakers of the assessment system in the schools; they set and mark examination questions. Here a variety of questions arise. One, are they competent enough to set and mark examination questions? Is it suitable to make one person playing both a teacher and an examiner? Is it only an examination of the student or also an assessment of the teaching and administrative personnel of the school and that of the curriculum? Is examination of learners not an accountability event of the teachers and administrators of the schools? Does the assessment system competent enough to determine factors of failure or success that may stretch out beyond the premises of the schools?
In fact the assessment system conducted by the insiders in the schools is in vogue in the province as well as in the whole country serves no great objectives of the education sector. As a matter of fact, the assessment system must be immediately made independent and transparent by ending the role of school personnel in the domain of assessment of students at the end of the courses. A third party assessment system can be introduced to assess the level and quality of learning in the schools. The proposed system will truly and objectively provide the basis for further reforms in terms of quality of curriculum, teaching and school administration. Moreover, it may also strengthen governance in terms of administering the education by making the school administration and the faculty accountable too vis-a-vis the output of the learning demonstrated by the passing ratio.
Author works in Social Development Sector.
Published in The Balochistan Point on December 28, 2015
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author and The Balochistan Point not necessarily agrees with them.