Climate change crisis is here unravelling its most monstrous devastation to the unexpecting peoples of Pakistan. It was on the cards for a long time, yet it received no serious commitment at both policy and political levels that it deserved. Was climate change as a topic ever made a part of the syllabus at out schools and universities? It was. But has it been introduced as a crucial topic to effectively prepare our young generations for what is to come? There are no quick answers to this. It is an issue that has to be taken up now more urgently; especially when we get to a position to finally move towards education recovery and rehabilitation after the waters recede.
In 2021, this writer was tasked with an assignment to review the Single National Curriculum standards set for Geography, which was carried out under an inclusivity framework devised to cover the following parameters:
- civic values imparted from content
- reflection of diversity of religions and cultures
- gender representation
- relevance and rationality of approach (for recommendation)
Besides these three parameters, this review also enquired after the local or regional reference points used, if any, for the learners.
The curriculum under review has aspired to develop skills for “effective inquiry and communications”, along with other values to help learners “broaden their perspectives” and application of scientific knowledge of geography in relation with the society while inculcating a strong sense of “citizenship” (both local and global).
Summary of the topics/Concepts provided Geography Curriculum for VI-VIII
Geography curriculum comprises of three domains as follows:
- Physical Geography with three standards (earth processes & patterns, weather & climate, and natural, capital & human resources)
- Human Geography with five standards (uses of land forms, settlements, scarcity vs. resources, cultures of settlements, role of science and technology in development)
- Environmental Geography with three standards (environmental changes, managing and changing environments and patterns of global economic interactions)
Total Units assigned to each class are six, which are divided into 160 SLOs ( Class VI has 53 SLOs, Class VII has 46 and Class VIII has 61 SLOs assigned)
Curriculum Review at a Glance
Out of a total 160 SLOs, 75, i.e. nearly 47% incur civic values (categories found are lifestyle and economic diversity, global citizenship, citizen/social responsibility, social development) as mentioned in Annexure A.
The class-wise distribution of the civic values reveals the following
- In class VI, 13 SLOs out of 53 promote civic education and values (24.5%).
- In Class VII, 22 SLOs out of 46 promote civic education and values (47.8%)
- In Class VIII, 40 SLOs out of 61 promote civic education and values (65.5%)
It must be noted here that no SLOs have been found in terms of religious and ethnic identities. Also, no SLO has indicated the necessity of gender parity in concepts introduced on human resources, human settlements or the economic and human development metrics.
53% of other SLOs relate to concepts on Physical and Environmental Geography which do not show any direct correlation with human or social activity.
Some Recommendations for Geography Curriculum
- Include a concept on population studies and demographics and how they change as per location and geography. A lack of understanding on human demography is the reason why no cultural and religious diversity and local orientation to different lifestyles could be identified in this curriculum.
- Include a topic People and Society within Pakistan and across the globe. Society’s behavior and its interplay with the environment in light of cultures is an important lesson. Although “Human Resource” has been mentioned many times in this curriculum, but it is left without an elaboration. Gender representation remains nil, although women as important contributors to economy and social development, is an important topic for human geography.
- There is very little discussion on human settlement, human migrations and adaptation to changing environments. This should be included as a concept under SLOs.
- There is no knowledge or civilizational overview provided on the seven continents of the world. A brief introduction to the land and places will open more avenues of global knowledge for children.
- The curriculum does not provide guidelines for textbook writers and the teachers on the ethnic and religious diversities existing within Pakistan. This subject is treated as merely a sub-topic, whereas it deserved mentioning of local geo-cultural dynamics that prevail across the many regions of Pakistan. A chapter or dedicated topic should have been included with more information on the indigenous cultural and ethnic as well as other religious groups of Pakistan including their lifestyles and associated commerce and trade.
- Diversity in Pakistan (cultural, ethnic and religious) must not be ignored. This knowledge is important to be imparted to our young learners so they are able to make sense of children coming from other ethnic or religious background. It will contribute positively towards inculcating vales for peace and empathy in our learning environments.
- The curriculum should provide clear guidelines for textbooks and the teachers. Very little instruction is provided on assessments, and a pedagogical framework to be adopted by teacher is almost non-existent.
- Domain of Human Geography should be integrated well in all units. It is more inclined towards economy and climate change, not people and places.
- SLOs must also be focused on neighboring countries, importance of regional cooperation for environment and development. Geo-politics is an important domain where learners should be able to understand the difference between border, line of control and geo-political significance of South Asian region.
- Geography lessons become dull and boring if interactive fun activities are not suggested. The style of writing geography textbooks also matters for the recipients of this important knowledge. For this, we suggest characterization and using storytelling based on different geographical features of human settlements. For example, a story of a woman’s day routine in the mountains and the commerce that her hard work is associated with may bring a more humanistic understanding of lifestyles and geographical impacts on human settlements. Moreover, the suggested activities against SLOs should have been more open to discussions and debates with learners with a focus on their finding solutions to problems.
- The topic on Human Settlements must include information on types of populations, along with an introduction to the idea of nomadic or gypsy settlements that keep moving from one area to another for various reasons (for e.g. the Gujjer tribes move down from high pastures to lower plains during winters, and can mostly be seen in urban upper or central Punjab). This will bring addition to local knowledge on population dynamics along with the different types of settlements that emerge as a result of such mobility and migrations.
|Civic and Peace Education||To promote values of global citizenship, there is inadequate information on human settlements that could provide a civilizational overview of each continent.||Include more chapters/topics or sub-themes that can exhibit variation in lifestyles and commerce from other regions of the world. For example, lessons on lifestyles in African continent, or the challenges of living in polar region, or the hardships of rural mountain life need to be narrated to sensitize the learner of different global experiences.|
|Social sensitization on the impact of natural calamities on human settlements should be talked about in Pakistan’s lived-experiences. The melting of Himalayan Glaciers, the global warming, Attabad Lake formation must be talked about in light of their consequence on human settlements. It is important to indicate towards the reasons for internal human migrations and displacement because of such events.||Lessons from impacts on human life from Attabad Lake incident of 2010, the catastrophic floods of 2010 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, South Punjab and Sindh and the life-shattering earthquake of 2005, including other natural disasters as a result of global warming or deforestation should be included, with a stress on human coping mechanism during emergencies. This will make a learner more socially aware to protect environment and to be able to reduce or prevent damages during emergencies.|
|No information is provided on lifestyles and commerce of Pakistan’s immediate neighboring countries. An important value of imparting regional-consciousness about neighboring countries and identifying familiar environmental concerns, such as smog, global warming, and internal human displacements, is missing from Human Geography section||Topics or themes need to be included on neighboring countries, with an emphasis laid on the economic and environmental potential of cooperation among them. This should mention not just inclusion of Afghanistan, China, Iran and India, but also all SAARC countries in the region. This will help the learner become more aware of the positive potential of regional cooperation.|
|Suggested activities against SLOs need to be more participative and creative. Learners are subjected to mere research with little opportunity of expressing opinions||Guideline for teaching techniques and suggested activities should allow for more conversation and group work followed by a lesson. The participation should focus on generating analytical approaches and improvising problem-solving strategies.|
|Diversity of Religion and Cultures||No information is provided on the diversity of religions and cultures in global context. The brief mentioning of this theme is made specific to three countries only.||An overview of human geography in all continents should be given, where sense of society in relation to geography can be developed. Religious and cultural diversity across the globe should be included as a separate theme or topic in this curriculum|
|Religious and Ethnic groups in Pakistan are not mentioned.||More topics should be dedicated to Pakistan’s region-wise religious and ethnic groups. This should also relate with the guidelines provided for teachers and textbook authors for ensuring the topic is relevant and rationally imparted.|
|Gender Representation||Women are not portrayed in any of the topics or sub-themes in the curriculum.
|Women as a population group, their ratio to men and also their role in economy, commerce and trade industry should be embedded in the curriculum.|
|Women and Transgender persons have no representation.||The concept of gender parity in different dynamics of population studies should be introduced to the learners. This will be important in inculcating values of appreciation for the presence of the marginalized gender as equal citizens of Pakistan should be ensured through curriculum.|
It is important to impart social consciousness on the dynamics of populations and geography not just in our local and global context, but also in our immediate South Asian region as well. It is crucial for our learners because many changes in the climate, the geo-political and economic trends along with resource-scarcity issues are familiar, and this can be used as an opportunity to introduce more relatable case- studies and region-specific examples that can develop an interest for the subject more effectively.
A disaster has hit us hard, and more is expected in the coming years with far more intensity than what we witnessed today. It is now time to sober up and get off with our national obsession with defining religious morals through education. We needed a science-orientated education instead, that could have given us the capacity to deal with calamities that we are today facing. Perhaps it is still not too late to wake up; perhaps a sincere resolve to reform our education in light of current realities can save Pakistan from major disasters in future. It is time to reform our education to address climate change crisis in Pakistan.