The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018, highlighted how Pakistan lags behind its regional peers in providing uniform and quality education across the country. The discrepancies in multiple education systems, inconsistency among public schools in terms of curriculum, textbooks, assessment methods, medium of instruction and caliber of teachers were some of the urgent issues that needed resolution. Being a signatory to Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs) by United Nations (UN), in 2018, Pakistan took significant steps for implementation of SDG-4. SDG-4 aims to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. With urgency to fulfil national and international commitments and challenge of bringing all federating units under one roof, Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training (MoFEPT) formed National Curriculum Committee (NCC) which in turn formulated the National Curriculum Framework (NCF). Here is all you need to know about National Curriculum Framework.
Rationale for Formulation of NCF
Pakistan has four main schooling systems: Private, public, non-formal education system and Deeni Madaris system. The further sub categories of these institutions are based on curriculum, quality of textbooks, assessment methods and medium of instruction. While overall performance of private sector is ahead of public sector, ASER’s surveys over the past few years show that performance of students in basic skills such as Numeracy and Language is disappointing across the board. International Common Assessment of Numeracy (ICAN) found that in survey of 2019 from a district in Punjab, only 32% of grade 2-3 can perform numeracy tasks. Table below shows a general school access across the country in both rural and urban areas.
|Access||Out of school %||Enrolled children %||Students in government schools %||Students in private schools %|
Despite availability of private schools in urban areas, the learning levels of both rural and urban areas lag behind regional peers.
|Learning Levels (Class 5)||Urdu/Sindhi/Pushto||English Sentences||Arithmetic Division|
With increasing urbanization, the inconsistency and disparity in quality of education is on the rise. This has raised alarms for governmental bodies. The economic prosperity of the country is highly dependent on human resource development. With more than 60% population as youth, social reconstruction is the imminent need of country. In order to align education-related policies of Pakistan with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-4) of UN, setting standards in education system across the board has been priority of Education division of Pakistan.
Formulation of National Curriculum Framework
Because of the devolution of education under 18th Amendment, Federal government took initial steps to consolidate all federating units. This included Federal and Provincial bodies under one roof for unification of education system. As a result, in 2018, a national coordinating body, National Curriculum Council (NCC) was formed. NCC comprises of three representatives from each province and capital. Under the NCC, National Curriculum Framework was developed using inputs from each province. The main aim for formulation of NCF is to have broad and documented guidelines for curriculum development. Curriculum that is in line with NCC plans and SDG-4 from UN. NCF goals include, creation of an updated national curriculum, revision of learning material and textbooks, teacher training, availability of learning resources and ICT.
NCF also aims at increasing coordination between public and private sector for smooth roll out of Single National Curriculum (SNC). Various educationists, private school associations, experts, Technical Committee, Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training (MoFEPT), and NCC Secretariat Team participated in preparation of NCF. The mission, vision and scheme of studies for National Curriculum Framework is demonstrated below.
Main Concerns addressed by NCF
NCF is formulated to address four main concerns at national level:
- Ideological Concerns: Inclusion of material which promotes harmony, national cohesion and religious acceptance while keeping Islamic integrity intact
- Academic Concerns: Develop curriculum that focuses on increasing learning abilities and inquisitive nature of students. Knowledge building to be prepared for 4th Industrial Revolution and initiate Early Childhood Education and Development across the country.
- Social and Cultural Concerns: Develop content that instills responsibility in students as citizens of country. Promote ethical and moral values through content, provide knowledge regarding geographical, political and religious aspects relevant to Pakistan.
- Emerging Trends: Update curriculum according to needs of modern world. Focus on Science, Mathematics, Technology and Research, Human rights, Climate change, Entrepreneurship, Democracy and Citizenship.
In addition, Pakistan’s International commitments including Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990, UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2011 and finally UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, all fall under the responsibilities of NCF.
Challenges in formulation of National Curriculum Framework
NCF has recognized various challenges that can create hurdles in successful implementation of uniform and quality curriculum across the country. Some of these challenges include the following:
- Challenges posed by 18th Amendment: Despite having representation from all provinces, SNC formulated under NCF can face unequal level of implementation in provinces. This can be due to several factors including financial constraint, quality of teachers, parental literacy and availability of resources.
- Understaffing and Relevance of Expertise: Successful implementation of NCF requires educational experts in all fields. There is a dearth of teaching resources and staff in areas like rural Sindh, Baluchistan, new Rural KPK, and even some districts of Punjab. The relevant authorities in provinces and federal state need to find relevant experts of subjects in schools or train them.
- Lack of mechanism for ongoing professional development: Under the new government, private sector in collaboration with public sector has been providing extensive trainings to teachers, administrations and technical staff. However, on larger scale, the gap can still disrupt effective implementation of uniform curriculum. Continuous professional development trainings will be required to keep mentors prepared for updated curriculum and new teaching methods in line with modern world.
- Standard of Textbooks and Supplementary Material: There is already a debate on various aspects of SNC including Religious Studies, Islamic Studies, Ideology of Pakistan, use of mother-tongue for SNC and new material added in textbooks. NCF needs to collaborate further with private and public sector experts on these issues to avoid any confrontation from participating federating units.
Significance of Teachers’ Training and Professional Development
NCF has highlighted that success of SNC is highly dependent on teachers who would be imparting the education to students. During past decades, there is underinvestment in Education sector in Pakistan. There is a grave concern among NCF members that these major hurdles related to teaching will impair the effectiveness of Single National Curriculum:
- Teacher Qualification and Standards
- Ignoring Continuous Professional Development
- Older and Rigid Assessment Methods
- Lack of knowledge of use of ICT for learning in classrooms
- Teaching English as a formal language
Challenge of Medium of Instruction for Teachers
It is a globally recognized fact that early learning in mother-tongue language is highly effective in enhancing learning process. Several studies by Global Partnership for Education (GPE), UN and British Council assert that developing economies that adopt mother-tongue as medium of instruction for early years have more success rates of increased literacy and human development. Pakistan has around 77% of children from rural areas in schools. In rural areas, use of English language at homes is not possible. Keeping in view the aim of imparting quality education, NCF suggested adopting English as a separate subject and keeping other subjects in Urdu language for primary grades. Federal Minister of Education, Shafqat Mahmood has asserted in his latest press conference that private schools have an option to select English as medium of instruction. Government schools will follow Urdu as medium of instruction for benefit of masses.
NCF recognizes the limitations of majority of teachers to use English as second language. Therefore, NCF has come up with Teacher’s guide for each subject in SNC. This is to provide them guidelines in order to fulfil the objectives of effective implementation of national curriculum. Moreover, country wide teacher training sessions by private and public sector collaborations are underway to fill the gap left by lack of expertise of current teachers.
Teaching Strategies under National Curriculum Framework
Several strategies for teaching methodology are introduced under NCF to support the curriculum developed. These strategies are currently used by many private schools. However, due to individual and independent nature of curriculum and resources, the implementation is not uniform across the board. NCF has emphasized on three main strategies for teachers to use in classrooms for effective communication of curriculum.
- Interactive Lectures and Discussion through use of ICT, presentations and class discussions.
- Promotion of Group Learning to increase coordination among students.
- Instilling Inquisitive methods of learning through research projects.
Emphasis on Educational Environment under NCF
NCF places high emphasis on Educational Environment which include various aspects such as:
Physical facilities: Adequate school premises, school furniture, lights, water, washrooms, library and play areas.
Psychological facilities: Understanding the general school environment in Pakistan, NCF aims to improve the teacher-student relationship by providing teachers with workshops and material to understand how treatment and understanding of students helps in positive results.
Sanitation: Availability of washrooms, hand wash, dustbins and Covid-supplies to be maintained.
Visual Comfort: Each government school is to be inspected for ventilated spaces and new schools are to be formed in places with open spaces around. Using the funds available for schools, premises should be aimed to optimize student learning experience.
Assessment Methods under NCF
In order to understand the learning and development of students, NCF suggests four types of assessments for school teachers. These assessment can help teachers understand the success rate of curriculum and teaching methodology in catering to students’ need. Three main types of assessments to be implemented across the country include the following:
Formative Assessment: An ongoing assessment where teachers, on continuous basis, should assess the learning success of students,, challenges they are facing and factors they lag behind in class. After gaining knowledge of where students are lagging, teachers can focus on particular areas of improvement.
Summative Assessment: An end of term assessment, commonly referred to as final exams, are to be conducted in each class to assess how much have students understood, absorbed from the curriculum using standard benchmarks.
Large-Scale Assessment: These refer to out of school assessments conducted by government under National Education Assessment System (NEAS) as well as other international assessments. Recently, under an initiative to improve Mathematics and Science skills of students across the country, Pakistan has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) Amsterdam. Pakistan will be participating in Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and other international assessment challenges to achieve a broader view of educational lags in Pakistan.
These assessments will help policy making in Education sector for experts, governmental bodies and participants for better revision of current curriculum and to bring education standard of Pakistan at par with international standards.
Information Sharing among Federating Units, Public and Private Schools
Under NCF, NCC acts as the central unit with equal representation from all federating units and experts. NCF declared education as a collective responsibility of all institutions and increased coordination among all stakeholders. Following are the areas of coordination for information sharing under NCC:
- Revision, review and effective implementation of curriculum
- Review of textbooks and any required alterations according to government education policy
- Professional training and development of teachers
- School resources and learning environment
Harmonization of SNC and Deeni Madaris curriculum
With over 25,000 Madrassahs running in the country, a large segment of youth is at risk of losing out on advanced curriculum and equal opportunities in economic setting. Under NCF, authorized representatives from Wafaqi Board and Boards of Madrassah Education are included in a separate committee with private and public sector representatives to develop a harmonized curriculum for Islamic schools which is aligned with national curriculum while keeping the religious integrity from Madrassah education intact.