THERE has been and continues to be quite a debate over the single national curriculum (SNC) that aims at bringing about uniformity in various streams of education. But the SNC should not be limited only to books and their contents; it must also ensure equal academic time, facilities and infrastructure to students of all education systems prevalent in the country.

It so happens that private institutions, curtailing the stipulated academic year, promote the students of class VIII to class IX which is called the pre-ninth, in the first week of January when public schools continue with class VIII studies and move to class IX at the end of academic year in May-June.

It means students in the former category avail five to six months more than the students of the latter. Naturally, the students spend more time exposed to the syllabus of secondary classes, hence finding more opportunities to do well.

Teachers at private schools utilise this extra time in consolidating their students’ preparation for the terminal examinations. In public schools, where academic year remains already shrunken because of public holidays, pandemic-induced school closures, and teachers’ involvement in various ‘ultra-educational duties’, such as election duties, voter registration, census-taking, rallies and walks, the students are left with comparatively less time to prepare for the same examinations.

Private schools openly prescribe guide books and study materials, whereas in public schools, such things are banned. Public schools are bound to play by the book. Students and teachers already face scarcity of time, and are forced to do everything the hard way.

The owners of private schools prescribe books of private publishers which are easier and better compared to those prescribed for public schools. Books at public schools must be taught from A to Z, ignoring the availability of time and resources, while at private schools, time-consuming and irrelevant portions of textbooks are skipped.

Recreation at public schools is taboo. There are no ‘colour day’, ‘fruit day’, ‘water day’, ‘cultural day’, ‘sports day’, no book fair, no welcome and farewell parties; just bland and bleak days!

Moreover, multinational brands hold visits and festivals only in private institutions. I have often seen mobile bookshops and teams representing various brands visiting elite private schools.

The reasons here are obvious. Students at public schools can hardly afford these brands. Even book publishers and mobile libraries ignore such children. Yet, the same children have to compete with those in the elite schools.

Private schools provide healthy and learning-friendly ambience to their students. They have alternative power supplies to ensure uninterrupted learning process for the students. It is hard to imagine how learning takes place at public schools in poorly ventilated classrooms overflowing with students.

Students of public schools are made to attend walks, rallies and national day celebrations, to stand in queues in rain or sunshine to welcome public officials, dignitaries and politicians.

They perform the duties of boy scouts and girl guides at local and national celebrations. Their counterparts at private institutions just ‘study wholeheartedly’. How can one even begin to compare the two sets of students?

Because of financial constraints, the parents of students in public schools cannot take time out to attend meeting with teachers or to keep a vigilant eye on the progress of their children. The poor fellows study on their own, and still manage to prove their worth and get distinction at examinations every now and then.

They must not be looked down upon. Multinational brands should also visit public schools for the promotion of their products. At least the mobile bookshops and libraries should visit public schools. Such visits can lend them a sense of worth and inclusion.

Uniformity, as aimed by the SNC, must also include equal availability of time, space and resources to students of all social strata. In a level playing field, competition and comparison become befitting and productive.

M. Nadeem Nadir

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2022


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