Education is the holistic development of an individual. Intellectual, moral and emotional knowledge are important for a pupil to become a socially responsible, and functional member of a society. Education is more than what any school can provide to a child, and the learning does not, cannot and should not stop once a child steps out of the school boundaries.
In most parts of the world, parents are encouraged to become a huge part of their child’s educational journey and putting in effort to turn them into fine human beings. But unfortunately in Pakistan, a worrying trend is emerging; keeping the choice of curriculum confusing and incomprehensible for the parents!
As an educator, I have been asked this question almost every single day – by students, parents and sometimes even teachers themselves. Being a parent in Lahore is not easy – with the myriad options of curricula and schools, we are spoilt for choice.
But here at The Million Shades of Life, we will break it down for YOUR convenience! Let us review the three main education systems that are currently available to our students in Pakistan which lead to their undergraduate degrees here or abroad.
1. The CIE:
Cambridge International Examination (O & A-Levels) the second most popular education system in Pakistan has seen a sharp rise in the past two decades and is offered by almost all English medium elite schools and groups. It offers a wide range of subjects to be covered separately in O levels and A levels. The British Council conducts the Cambridge examinations twice a year which is graded by an international examination board. The system offers broad knowledge based on learning skills, recall of knowledge, problem solving, and finally preparation for employment. Even though, the system claims to be an effective teaching methodology, the sight of large number of tuition centres with booming business is appalling. These centers boast to provide tuition to the students and get them “guaranteed A*s.” Sadly, now the same system is being perceived as the act of studying enough decent grades in order to get into a reputable university rather than broaden a student’s vision and ability to learn.
2. The American curriculum:
It focuses on helping students discover their aptitudes and make the most of their talents. The year group go till k- 12 and are divided in primary, secondary and high school. The completion grants one an American high school diploma which has a higher success rate when applying to universities in the US. Following the American high school curriculum it also places emphasis on creativity and social interaction and is designed to prepare students for college and careers. This system has been able to get enough importance to still exist in the country (as it promises an international degree) but again has been too complicated for parents to comprehend.
3. IB (International Baccalaureate) diploma:
Founded in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland it is a system that aims at providing uniformity for the children of expats that are on the move, living and working abroad. The IB learner philosophy claims to develop internationally minded people who recognise their common humanity and share the mentality of helping to create a better and more peaceful world.
The IB framework offers programs for three distinctive age gatherings: the Primary Year Program (PYP) that is intended for the young years up to the fifth grade, the Middle Year Program (MYP) for understudies between 11 to 16 years old and the Diploma Program (DP) for the 16 to 19 years age section. As the stages advance, the substance develops, educating and learning strategies become progressively refined and evaluation turns out to be increasingly thorough. However, most schools in Pakistan do not award certifications for separate levels of the program like it is being carried out internationally. The teaching methodology aims IB learners to be inquirers and open minded while boasting about teaching through experience. This curriculum has an external examination schedule just like the CIEs but of course vary in their nature. The program has left many to believe in the myth that it is only suitable for those wanting to study abroad whereas it clearly indicates that it is a global system which tends to inculcate all cultures. Over 150 countries accept the IB diploma all around the world.
Which one should you choose for your child?
The answer will vary from child to child and depends on how the child will respond to the classroom behavior, ability to remember and recall, thinking and problem solving skills and above all whether he wants to study in Pakistan or wish to proceed abroad. Among this ever growing debate, we feel that parents have lost the ability to be able to turn their young ones into humanitarians first and “trophies to brag about” later.
There is a dire need to focus on aspects such as tolerance, wellbeing and happiness, to develop a well-rounded individual. The solution to this problem of our stagnant curriculum approach is more than just coming up with new curricula every other year. Computational creativity, problem-solving skills and digital capabilities must be well incorporated in every aspect of learning irrespective of the curriculum it follows. Many countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Malaysia, Sweden, Thailand have embraced computer science as a core part of national curriculum. We as a nation should have the power to create, curate and adapt the curriculum according to our people’s needs rather than following an international system blindly. Similarly, the curriculum itself should be flexible so that it can be personalized to the needs of each student no matter what background it comes from or wherever he/she plans to go in the future.
The one-size-fits all approach to education is now losing ground. We need to give way to students and allow them to learn at their own pace and according to their own interests. Hopefully, the schools in Pakistan can step up, take the initiative by reaching a middle ground and incorporating modern techniques into their already existing practices. The need of the time is to reimagine and reinvent the obsolete ideas and come up with something global, effective yet simple. All schools in Pakistan by now should have found common ground in which they ensure the holistic development of a child and prepare him/her for life irrespective of wherever they choose to exist!