Plan International Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), on Thursday presented its Early Childhood Education (ECE) syllabus to the Punjab government.
Developed after a year’s research, the syllabus focuses on six ‘learning areas’ and includes lessons about personal and social development, language, creative arts, health and hygiene, basic mathematical concepts and general knowledge regarding the world around the child.
The syllabus called Barhtay Huay Qadam has been prepared by Nasira Habib, the founder and director of Khoj, an NGO that focuses on education.
The curriculum has been developed for children between four and five years of age.
Lessons include Aao kuch banain (Let’s make something), Khel ka waqt (play time), Ghar ghar khailain (Playing house) and Kahani ka waqt (Story time).
During a presentation at the launch, Habib said that each ‘learning area’ had a list of expected outcomes, which could be measured with the help of a list of competencies.
Habib told The Express Tribune that after the final draft was submitted in October 2011, pilot projects were run at seven community centres in Chakwal, Vehari and Islamabad.
Habib described the teaching method prevalent in most schools across the province as “regimented”. “Deep down, our society is [still] under the impression that you can’t teach without being strict or [without] corporal punishment,” she said. “We have incorporated elements of our heritage – local stories and games – in the syllabus,” she said.
Habib said that ideally 15 children should make up a ‘learning group’. If there are more than 20 students, she said, it would be best to divide them into two groups. The syllabus can be covered in 32 weeks of ‘active teaching’, with each week following a particular theme. The last week prepares the child for school, with teachers focusing on making the child ready for organised schooling, said Habib.
Habib stressed the role ‘caregivers’ play in early stages of learning. ECE teaching requires expertise, she said, “We underestimate the expertise required to impart education to such young children.”
She also noted the lack of designated ECE centres in the Punjab, “There are only 32 centres in 36 districts.” She said that implementation of early education would be difficult because “70 per cent of rural primary schools in the Punjab are single classroom schools.”
Habib said that while developing the syllabus, budgetary constraints were kept in mind.
Nadeem Irshad Kayani of the Punjab Directorate of Staff Development said according to the directorate’s assessment, an ECE classroom would cost between Rs25,500 and Rs47, 000, depending on activity props, classroom furniture.
Aslam Kamboh, the School Education Department secretary, said that since ECE was ‘material-based learning’ (needed educational toys and space), appropriate budgetary allocations were necessary.
He promised to issue a notification, which would make ECE classrooms and playgroup area a valid charge under the ‘Farogh-i-Taleem’ budget ensuring that it becomes an integral part of schooling activity.
Sofia Aziz, the learning adviser for Plan International said that such initiatives would help standardise pre-primary schooling. She also hoped that the NGO would launch the syllabus in Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Sindh later this year.
Rashid Javed, country director of Plan International Pakistan, said that they were going to send out the syllabus developed to all government schools in the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2012.