Elementary education

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Trends and needs

There has been much talk and debate regarding quality education in Pakistan. Ironically, they all revolve around mostly the types, sources and content of education instead of stages, particularly the most crucial and decisive stage i.e., elementary education.

There has been little progress in recent years in developing new and existing programmes for adolescent learners in government schools at elementary level. Exploratory programmes, counseling programmes and health and physical education programmes are being cut back in government schools. The education has been narrowed down to teaching of rote-skills and transmission of knowledge. This mere imitation and content-centred elementary education has shortchanged the area of personnel development of the learners. This fact of failure of government elementary education has been put in the back burner in the face of doing what is easier and less costly, but the negation of various ongoing sustained social changes experienced by the emerging learners has become the practice of the day. These social changes are:

  1. The family pattern of a mother at home and a father working is increasingly changing.
  2. The suicide rate in teenagers are increasing due to different pressures.
  3. It is estimated that pre and early adolescents spend one third of their waking hours in watching television, surfing social websites on internet and playing online games.
  4. 75 per cent of all advertising is aimed at promoting mobile brands, mobile networks and mobile packages.
  5. Lack of a stable home is a big contributor to delinquency.

The elementary level is comprised of the students with most impressionable age group where various social changes make indelible prints on their minds. These years represent the last chance for the students to master basic skills, lasting attitude towards learning and assertion of self and individualistic differences. Success at elementary school, or the future life, can be determined and predicted for this age group.

The associations such as The National Middle School Association, Pakistan Montessori Council, and Pakistan Elementary Teachers Association are striving for a balanced elementary curriculum by organising frequent conferences and workshops for the educators who are engaged in imparting basic education. However, the government should patronise the associations and educational organisations by allocating a large part of budget. Moreover, the government educationist and administrative authorities should make sure that the content is cognitive learning oriented.

It must be diversified and exploratory based on real life situations and indigenous experiences. Consequently, it could enhance the development of problem solving skills and reflective thinking process among the students. This would also help the students to acknowledge and appraise their own interests and talents. The areas of curriculum concerned with basic skills — logical, sequential and analytical — should be taught through an entertaining pedagogy. Other areas of curriculum like social, moral, emotional, and physical should be developed through integrative approach towards prevalent social issues and factors.

In short the elementary level education and knowledge must mirror the immediate culture, ethnicity, ideology and local socio-economic groups so that the students can relate themselves and concretise their knowledge coupled with critical sense. Besides, this will assist the student to comprehend what he is and help him realise his concepts, responsibilities, identities, abstractions and attitude towards society. Instead of departmentalisation of subjects there should be coordination and inter-disciplines trend among them.

Doubtlessly the teacher’s role is indispensible in modern pedagogy where the teacher is more a personal guide, a facilitator of learning, and a coordinator. The teachers should be trained to practice the methods of instruction which involve open and individual directed learning by accentuating modernly designed arrangements, collaborative work, and respecting individual differences among the students. The list of dos and don’ts is long. However, the ground reality demands more implementation than mere suggestions, planning, revising, and updating the aspects of elementary education.

For implementation the primary parameter is the following statement: “The elementary education should be projective.”

To have insightful understanding of this projective learning, some factors are inevitable. The very first is involvement. In Pakistan the planning regarding elementary education takes place without involving those who will be most directly affected by its activation: students, teachers, parents, and the community. Unluckily, the assumption which resists this involvement is that the member/actors of education are unaccustomed to the jargons related to educational policies and are unfamiliar with the trends in educational programs. But the fact is that the elementary education cannot be affectively implemented and maintained unless it involves the above mentioned strata. Their involvement in initial analysis of students needs (social, financial, emotional, physical), in drafting the documents and in providing rationale for effective elementary education is a must.

The second factor for ensuring implementation is commitment and dedication on the part of the teachers. Commitment can be interpreted as the tendency to adjust new roles (multirole) in the teachers instead of traditional designs. In this regard teachers’ sufficient and moral support should be maintained by the higher authorities. A problem witnessed in many schools is that teachers’ behaviours are prone to return to traditional patterns if sufficient attention from every perspective not maintained. Teachers’ enthusiasm and energy will understandably high if they receive such attention.

Thirdly, other important factors are budgeting/funding and resources. The observable phenomenon in elementary education is its failure due to absence of substantial finances. This stage of education, owning to the foundation, requires more energy and money to implement productively. For the low budget schools, the private school system could be the inspiration which partially run on funding by the rich families. If the community has the chance of involvement in the planning process, it definitely is going to participate in funding process.

Moreover, by doing this the allocation of vast resources could be ensured as the common pitfall in realising the implementation is exclusively relying upon the teacher made material, overlooking a consumable material budget and less updated material acquisition. Making no provision in this regard is in fact to doom the elementary education. These major factors if operated well can eliminate the causes of the failure of the elementary schools.