In the heavy, hefty, nagging and dragging school bag the primary school child carries on his frail back a burden not worse than what child laborers endure. It is where seeing, observing, analyzing and realizing is believing. If it is not so, discover it yourself from home to school and back by carrying loads of bag up and down stair cases through lobbies and corridors and across streets, footpaths, driveways and buildings. This tough and tedious exercise maybe justified and accepted if it is worth the pains and pangs for our little ones. But it is a parrot-like cramming majority merely focused on the rat race for certificates and degrees through spoon-feeding parents, grade-saving tutors and career-supporting uncles of influence.
The net result is psychological, social and economic instability, uncertainty and bankruptcy even after over six decades of our existence as an independent nation. The less said the better. The burden that a primary school child carries is enormous and purposeless. Despite daily timetable, teachers expect children to pack their bags with all books and copies. For example, English prose, poetry, grammar and composition copies; this may also be true of several Urdu copies a child is asked to carry on a daily basis.
Let us not forget hard cover heavy journals of science, history, geography and computers. Test copies are separate. And forced in many a tearing school bag is calculators, cooler pencils and geometry boxes. It is quite a thought-provoking scene when a child dangles through all twists and turns and ups and downs to the class or embarks and disembarks on a packed-to-capacity irresponsibly driven school bus.
Is this not an exercise in futility if it leads to what the social and economic conditions of our majority are like, how our men at the helm of affairs think, plan and manage and where we stand after 60 years of independence? It is neither a question of raising the budget for education, nor opening neither of more schools nor for raising levels of literacy. It is simply a matter of a three-pronged strategy: simplifying education, making it more purposeful and offering it at affordable cost. There is nothing spectacular about this simple, objective-oriented and cost-effective education for our budding generation. But the point is to break away from the stereotype, straight and narrow educational system by thinking and acting anew and rising over and above self-interests and lop-sided priorities.
What can be the strategy?
-If education remains a complicated fashion for kids with needless, confusing and mounting books, copies and paraphernalia, it shall continue to produce stereotype products untutored, untrained and unprepared for life excellence. The point to ponder for our educational intelligentsia is to be courageous enough to break away from unnecessary, overburdening and overtaxing practices and devising a simpler, meaningful and rewarding system for students, teachers and parents.
-As deep-rooted traditional and so-called modern practices need a lot of vision to modify, it will be in the fitness of things to promote a primary curriculum according to our objective conditions and contemporary needs. It means simple, interesting and activity-based three subjects, three books and three copies: A harmonious blend of positive, pertinent and practical concepts in three subjects: Morals and ethics; general knowledge; maths and science with IT as a tool of study. Later at the secondary level this combination of courses may be added with aptitude assessed and oriented vocational or professional training in various fields or trades.
-While it depends on the sense of direction and level of commitment of our educational intelligentsia to devise such a bold, innovative and rewarding curriculum for our primary assets, it is a challenging task for our educational managers to formulate, organize and promote an appealing package of graceful and purposeful education for the young nation at affordable cost — a matter of scientific economizing and cutting down on non-development expenditure. Such cherished objectives of junior schooling can best be achieved when primary children blossom into adolescence with a sense of direction in positive thinking, pleasing manners and healthy habits and with study and career vision and commitment so instrumental in future personality and professional development and so crucial for their own well-being and that of their institution, family and society. It is a question of will on the part of our trend-setters to think and act simply and foster such education with grace and dignity both for the opulent and the impoverished.
It is where education becomes appealing, affordable and accommodating, according to the objective conditions of our own society and in close consonance with current and contemporary trends in industrial, economic and technological transformation. It is when fashionable study options replace with aptitude-oriented and rewarding knowledge and bursting school bags transform into simpler and inspiring package of cost-effective, graceful and purposeful education…if there is a will there is a way!