A national-level debate has been doing the rounds since the PTI government introduced the Single National Curriculum (SNC), which has been implemented in both private and public schools in Punjab. Although controversial and experimental, the SNC promises positive outcomes through providing an education system based on equality and equity, where every student will have the opportunity to receive high standard education regardless of their social and financial status. The SNC aims to promote the national language by allowing Urdu only as the medium of classroom instruction. Though the focus on Urdu and amalgamation of religion into different subjects like Physics or Social Studies aims to promote moral values and righteousness in the new generation, the curriculum miss out on a number of much needed and equally important concepts and skills that need to be introduced and integrated with the main curriculum starting from as early as primary school. These life skills and concepts will not only widen the mental horizons of the children, they also will raise a generation that will be much ahead of our times, self sufficient, inquisitive, innovative, competent, ready to compete and excel globally, tolerant, humane and progressive.
Critical Thinking should be part of the curriculum starting from grade 5 onwards. It will help students understand and appreciate arguments of other people. They will be able to identify, analyse and evaluate arguments by others. They will also be able to construct arguments of their own in order to convince others. This will help them think beyond horizons, question things and search for their answers, and detect and avoid fallacies.
Time and Stress Management are the key to a healthy mind and success in both academics as well as personal life. Most students are unable to reach their full potential due to the inability to manage time and deal with stress. There should be stress management tutorials to help students understand the nature of stress and its impact on health and behaviour. Coping techniques and time management skills will help the children develop confidence in school as well as personal lives and use their potential to the maximum.
Educational and Career Guidance is a forgotten area that holds an important place in shaping a child’s future. Most students are uncertain or clueless about their aptitude and fail to recognise their own potential by choosing the wrong field of study and career that results in barring them from being successful and fulfilled.
Educational and career counsellors can help the students choose the right course of study and pursuing their ambitions by entering those fields of education and jobs that best suit their aptitude and capabilities.
Mental Health is a topic still considered as a taboo in most parts of the world even in the 21st century. Mental health problems can affect many areas of student’s lives by reducing quality of life, negatively impacting relationships and academic life. Addressing mental health needs in schools is critically important because one in five children and teens have a diagnosable emotional, behavioural or mental health disorder and one in ten young people have a mental health challenge that can impair them from functioning properly at home or schools. Mental health services for students will help them feel safe both physically and emotionally by allowing them to share their feelings and recognising symptoms of mental health problems. This will promote social and emotional competency and build resilience in students and also help and ensure a positive and safe school environment. Interfaith Studies is crucial for a peaceful and tolerant society. Most developed and successful societies have one thing in common; acceptance, tolerance and inclusiveness of people from different faiths. While religious studies (Islamiat) help students gain knowledge of Islam and make them capable of shaping their lives according to teachings and principles of our religion, basic knowledge of teachings and rituals of other religions, specially the ones present in minority in our country, will help the young ones develop respect, tolerance towards people of other religions and build mutual respect that respect will ultimately promote peace, pluralism and a better society.
Coexistence is the key to end violence and hate crimes and build a peaceful and prosperous society. Fiscal Literacy and Financial Management should be a compulsory part of curriculum specifically for high school students. They will be able to learn financial terms, processing monetary issues, banking basics, budgeting, ways to earn, manage and use monetary assets, thus building an understanding of how financial institutions work and how to use them. This course will help them make wise financial decisions to promote financial well being in their future practical lives.
Self-defence is becoming a crucial need in today’s world. With the increase is violence and harassment cases against children and teens, self-defence training is the need of time. A regular training program in self-defence will not only equip the students with the knowledge and skills to defend and protect themselves, it will also make them be consciously aware of their surroundings, gauging the potential hazards around them, identifying potential abusers and criminals and dealing with unwanted situations. Basic training will make them confident and develop self discipline, street awareness and also improve their physical condition. It will also teach them to respect others and ensure safety of people around them by overcoming their arrogance and controlling their beastly instincts.
First Aid and Emergency Response though should be mandatory for teachers and school staff, it also should be taught to students as a part of health education. Students should learn how to react and act in case of an accident or emergency and how to deal with them. Making emergency calls, dealing with head injuries, basic first aid, basic first aid kit information and use should be taught. Procedures like CPR, Heimlich manoeuvre, cleaning and dressing wounds and stopping bleeding will help make school environments safer for students. Apart from these basic but extremely significant skill and knowledge based courses, many other topics and courses can be integrated into the curriculum. Human Rights, Sex Education, Performing Arts, General Courtesy and Etiquette, Current Affairs, Personal Hygiene, Professional Sports to name a few, which will revive our education system and drastically develop the skills and intellectual capacity of our new generation, making Pakistan more progressive, prosperous and ready for global challenges and victories.
However – unless I missed it -views of people like Pervez Hoodbhoy should also be given space. Even if his views don’t agree with those of this writer. Or specially so because of differences.
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