IN my younger days while studying at a missionary school in Karachi’s Saddar area, like most other students, I used to come to the school walking, cycling, using the school bus or commuting through public transport, carrying the schoolbag on my shoulders. This was despite the fact that my family had an official car. In those days, cars were rarely seen dropping children at school.

Now, after about 60 years, while dropping my grandchildren to school in F-7 Islamabad, I witness an entirely different scenario. Children are dropped and picked in private/official cars, with parents/chauffeurs carrying the schoolbag right inside the gate while parking and blocking the entrance to the school.

In Japan, schoolchildren walk to the school on their own, carrying their own schoolbags. The first thing they do on reaching the school is to clean up and mop the class. Can we expect such things from our schoolchildren?

In the United States, in order to integrate different segments of society, desegregation buses were introduced, where the children of African Americans and the white Americans travelled to their school in the same bus. Can we imagine schoolchildren of private and public schools in Pakistan travelling in the same bus?

Before embarking on the so-called Single National Curriculum (SNC), we should first create an environment of national cohesion, and plan how to integrate the children coming to schools from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.

Then we should groom our children to shoulder responsibilities from a young age by instilling in them the idea of carrying their own burden.

Our aim should be to turn our future generation into better human beings. This will not happen by prescribing a curriculum. This will happen by deliberately designing environments that stimulate the future generation to experiment and practise responsible and respectful behaviours so that those behaviours become values and habits with practice over time.

Muhammad K. Sufi
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2021

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