Single National Curriculum: Review of Model Textbooks – Part-VIII

Arguments over the model textbooks accompanying the Single National Curriculum (SNC) have generated more heat than light.

[Introduction to Series: Dr. Anjum Altaf, former Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS, is writing a page-by-page review of the model textbooks (Pre-I to Grade 5) accompanying the recently implemented Single National Curriculum. These detailed reviews intended to involve parents in the education of their children will appear as a series in Sindh Courier. Parents would benefit by having a copy of the primer under discussion in front of them while reading the review.]

SNC Model Textbooks: Pre-I English Primer — IV

By Dr. Anjum Altaf

Pages 16 to 18 belong to “Bb,” the first to the text and the last two to tracing, colouring, and writing the letter 31 times. The accompanying verse is as follows:

“b” letter, “b” letter, ball, ball, ball

“b” letter, “b” letter, do not fall

The picture shows Babar and Basit surrounded by a bag, a banana, and a ball. The accompanying story is about the brothers who played with a ball and got tired and hungry at which time Babar took out a banana from the bag and shared it with Basit.

The teacher’s first instruction is to “Talk about the health benefits of eating banana (sic). Also, give concept of sharing (sharing is caring).”

The second instruction is somewhat unclear: “Game: Letter sorting activity with children through Aa to Zz letters (cutouts / flashcards, shoe box).” Given that the children are barely up to Bb, this could be intended to familiarize them with the shapes of all the letters to follow but there are too many of them for this exercise to yield much.

The third instruction is “To teach vocabulary as sight words: bag, banana, ball, boy, balloon, butterfly, bat.” The takeaway message is to “Ask what other things start with the letter “b.” The ‘Trace and Write’ page (p. 18) asks children to encircle “Bb” in a set of letters that has a ‘B’ and a ‘b’ but no ‘Bb.’

The pairing exercise is a ditto copy of the one illustrated for Aa on page 15. It seems there is some importance attached to it that is not explained via the instructions for the teacher.

There is a break in the sequence at this point and page 19 is about ‘Parts of the Body.’ The picture shows the parts and the teacher’s instruction is to “Name the body parts. Sing the body parts poem with children (head, shoulders, knees, and toes). Discuss with children how to keep their body clean (clipping nails, taking bath, brushing teeth, and checking head louse (sic), etc.).”

The second instruction is to “Explain to children what is good and bad touch. If someone tries to grab or hold them, they shout and seek adult help.” Finally, “Make the body part cut outs with chart-paper / newspaper and ask children to match and paste them.” If the intent is to reinforce these hygiene messages, they would be much more effective in a familiar language rather than in English. If they are being used only as a tool to teach English, I can’t see them being very effective.

We return to the alphabet with the letter “Cc” (pp. 20-22). The accompanying verse is:

“c” letter, “c” letter, cat, cat, cat

“c” letter, “c” letter, sit on the mat

It is not clear who is being asked to sit on the mat — the letter “c” or the cat. Underneath, there is a picture which includes Catherine, a cat, a car, a carrot, and a cottage. The takeaway balloon message is “Tell health benefits of eating carrots.”

There is no accompanying story. The teacher’s instructions are: “Discuss the picture with children and ask them to name the given “c” words.” I am not sure how this is supposed to work — since the children don’t know these words in English, they would have to be named by the teacher first; or are they being asked to name them in their own languages? The instruction continues: “Tell children about pet animals, e.g. cat, rabbit, dog, etc.” The children could well lose focus on the letter Cc while all this discussion about pet animals is taking place.

Vocabulary is to be taught with the following sight words: “cat, car, carrot, cottage, corn, cup, candle, can, cabbage, cookie.”

There is a break again with page 23 devoted to ‘Courtesy Words’ — thank you, sorry, excuse me, and please. Teacher’s instructions: “Discuss the given pictures with children. Explain when and how to use courtesy words. Encourage children to accept their mistake, say sorry, appreciate and compliment each others (sic) work.” “Display courtesy words in class. Do situational role play with courtesy words.” “Remind your children to use courtesy words in their daily routine.”

The alphabet resumes with “Dd” on pages 24 to 26. The verse is as follows:

“d” letter, “d” letter, drum, drum, drum

“d” letter, “d” letter, give me a plum

The picture shows a girl named Dolly sitting on a stone, a bunch of trees with dates, a duck, and two ducklings. The takeaway message in the balloon is “Duck babies are called ducklings.” Asides from the standard instructions, the teacher is asked to “Explain to children that dates are good for health. Talk to children about taking care of animals and their babies.” The sight words are duck, ducklings, date, donut, dog, donkey, dolphin, dentist, deer.

Page 26 has the standard task to Encircle “Dd” and the same pairing game but with new characters — a duck, a hen, and a horse connected (this time by a sine wave instead of a straight line) to a pond, a sophisticated hen-house on stilts, and an unrecognizable hump-shaped object.

The following page (p. 27) is on the days of the week with the verse: “Days of the week, Days of the week / Let’s sing together, Days of the week / Monday Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday / Friday, Saturday / Sunday / Days of the week, Days of the week / Let’s sing together, Days of the week.”

Teacher’s instructions: “Sing days of the week poem along with children. Tell children that there are seven days in a week. Generate discussion on what children do on each day” and “make a caterpillar showing days of the week with recycled material.”

We will resume with “Ee” in the next part of this review. It comes with an improbable story.

Dr. Anjum Altaf

Dr. Anjum Altaf is the former Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS. He is the author of Plain Truths About Early Childhood Education: Letters to Parents (available as an e-book from Little Books) and of Critical Reflections on the Single National Curriculum and the Medium of Instruction (forthcoming).

Click here for Part-I Part-IIPart-IIIPart-IVPart-VPart-VI, Part-VII


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