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

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 — VI

By Dr. Anjum Altaf

We continue rhyming our way through the alphabet.

Mm: “m” letter, “m” letter, moon, moon, moon / “m” letter, “m” letter, give me a spoon

I don’t know what a spoon has to do with Mm but the takeaway message is informative enough: “Do you know mango is our national fruit?”

Page 61 is titled ‘Map’ but doesn’t look like one in any way. The picture has a bunch of kids, one with a national flag, following a curved path to a treasure chest. A baby ram with razor-sharp horns and a startled fish are on two sides of the path, a puzzled man in a boat is behind them on a river, and a compass is at the bottom of the picture across from the chest.

The teacher is asked to “Help children make a story with the given picture and word bank (pirate, ship, people, travel, island, water, trees). Encourage children to predict what happens next in the story. Explain to children that maps are used to find places. They tell locations and ways.” And, “Help children identify provinces and regions on the map.”

Explaining the notion of a pirate might pose a problem unless he is reduced merely to a bad man. Such a characterization is generally avoided in the primer and children have been taught early on (p. 6) that “Your people are brave / Courageous and kind.” I am quite sure the children will write a story which ends with the pirate using the courtesy word “sorry.” (The only bad individuals in the primer are strangers who attempt to touch children inappropriately for which reason the difference between good touch and bad touch is hinted at.) The flag in the child’s hand takes away the option of declaring the scene to be from some other nasty country where pirates abound. There are also no regions or provinces on the map so the reference must be to a different one available in the class.

Pages 62-63 depict the story of ‘Muniza and the flying carpet.’ The carpet in Muniza’s room turns out be magical and offers to take her anywhere she wants. “First, they flew to the community where people had no food to eat. Muniza provided them food.” “Then they flew high up in the sky and saw that there was an old woman who was not able to cross the road. Muniza helped her to cross the road safely.” Then “She thanked the magic carpet and flew back home.”

Teacher’s instructions: “Read the story aloud with full gestures, tones and expressions. Encourage children to participate in the story and predict what will happen next. Ask children what they learnt from the story. Ask children to share their experiences of helping others.”

I wonder how the teacher would respond to the child who says the story didn’t make much sense or was excessively dull with a very unimaginative use of a magic carpet. There are no instructions to deal with unapproved answers.

Nn: “n” letter, “n” letter, nine, nine, nine / “n” letter, “n” letter, nuts are mine

A notebook is one of the images on the page. The teacher is asked to “Help children make paper note book in class with low cost / no cost material.” The takeaway message is “Do you know paper is made from tree (sic)?

Page 68 is about ‘Natural and Man-made Resources’ with illustrative pictures. The teacher is asked to “Discuss with children natural and man-made resources. Explain to children how natural resources are converted into man-made resources.”

Oo: “o” letter, “o” letter, ox, ox, ox / “o” letter, “o” letter, give me a box

The four images on the page are ocean, ostrich, owl, and orange. The teacher is asked to “Discuss jobs related to ocean, e.g. (fisherman, oceanographer, marine biologist, etc.)” He is also asked to “Make aquarium in classroom with reusable material.” The takeaway message is “Do you know owl is a night bird?” and the sight words include octopus.

Pp: “p” letter, “p” letter, pen, pen, pen / “p” letter, “p” letter, count till ten

Takeaway message: “Do you know parrot is a pet bird?” The sight words include penguin.

Page 75 is an introduction to ‘Professions” showing one female (a school teacher) and two males (a pilot and a chef). They are to be matched to a blackboard, a full roasted hen, and an airplane. The teacher is asked to “Discuss with children that every Profession is respectable (nurse, teacher, pilot, doctor), etc. Ask children what they want to be when they grow up.” Teaching dignity of work would have been more meaningful by including a street sweeper or a milkman in the images. Children don’t learn this lesson even when they become adults, which is perhaps a result of the evasion of realty in model textbooks.

Page 76 is about the ‘Plant life cycle’ and the teacher is asked to “Explain the seed germination process, how sun light, air and soil are important for the plants.” And “Conduct watering a plant activity in class and how to take care of plants.”

Qq: “q” letter, “q” letter, queue, queue, queue / “q” letter, “q” letter, my dress is blue

Teacher’s instructions: “Highlight the importance of being patient and waiting for a turn. Guide children to exhibit good manners by giving turn and offering a seat to elderly, sick, and differently able (sic) people.” “Help students to make a queue in the classroom and show how we stand in a queue to wait for something. Take children outside class and let them wait for their turn on swings.” Takeaway message: “Ask children why making a queue is important?” Sight words include quilt and quail.

Rr: “r” letter, “r” letter, run, run, run / “r” letter, “r” letter, have some fun

Takeaway message: “Do you know that rabbit lives in burrow?” Sight words include rocket and robot.

Page 83 is devoted to the ‘Responsible Citizen’ with illustrated messages to ‘plant trees,’ ‘save trees,’ ‘throw litter in bin,’ and ‘save water.’ The teacher is to “Guide children not to waste water and throw litter around. Keep the environment clean. Discuss with children various ways of being responsible children, e.g. not to cut trees, follow traffic rules, not to damage things, etc.” And, “Do plantation activity in school.”

Ss: “s” letter, “s” letter, star, star, star / “s” letter, “s” letter, get in the car

The four images on the page are star, squash (the game), strawberry, and sunflower. The teacher is asked to “Explain how sports bring discipline to our life. Highlight the importance of physical activity and sports for our overall well-being (balance, mobility, strength, speed etc.).” And, “Play games, cocla chapati (sic), hide and seek, chengo, ludo, scrabel (sic), etc.” I can understand the indigenization of Scrabble but don’t know how anyone can mangle an indigenous game like kokla chhapaki and turn it into a mix of coca-cola and roti. The takeaway message is “Do you know hockey is our national game?”

Tt: “t” letter, “t” letter, tap, tap, tap / “t” letter, “t” letter, clap, clap, clap

The images on the page show a television, a telephone, a tablet, and a table. The teacher’s instruction is to “Discuss advantages of technology.” The takeaway message is “Do you know the different types of technology?” The sight words include turtle.

Page 91 is a about ‘Transport’ elucidated with a poem: “It floats on water / It takes you away / It’s fun to see / The water spray / What could it be? / Yes it is a boat. / It flies in the air / It takes you away / Across the sky / to lands far away / What could it be / Yes, it is an aeroplane. / It moves on the road / It takes you away / With all you friends / to school every day / What could it be? / Yes, it is a school bus.”

Teacher’s instructions: “Sing the transport poem aloud with children. Teacher to explain different modes of transportation (land, air, water). Encourage children to share examples from daily life.” And, “Develop any model of transport with low and no cost material.”

Uu: “u” letter, “u” letter, up, up, up / “u” letter, “u” letter, pass me a cup

There are two images on the page, an umbrella and an umpire. The teacher’s instruction is to “demonstrate (sic) children by taking them up and down from stairs to give them concept of up and down.” No alternative is mentioned for teachers in single-story schools. The takeaway message is “How can we protect ourselves from rain?” The sight words include unlock and unicorn.

Vv: “v” letter, “v” letter, van, van, van / “v” letter, “v” letter, turn on the fan

The picture is of an idyllic village. The teacher’s instructions are to ‘Discuss with children similarities and differences between village and city life.” And, to “Take children outside the classroom for nature walk and ask them to draw the picture of what they saw in the environment (birds, trees).” What about other, not so salubrious, things the children might have seen? The takeaway message is “Do you know vet treats animals?” The sight words include vase, vacuum, volcano, and vulture. I wonder if anyone has ever sighted a vacuum.

Page 98 is about ‘Vegetables’ with images of six common vegetables. The teacher’s instructions are predictable: “Discuss the benefits of eating vegetables. Explain to children that few vegetables are roots and few grow above the ground.” The confusion between ‘few’ and ‘some’ persists.

Ww: “w” letter, “w” letter, well, well, well / “w” letter, “w” letter, ring the bell

The teacher is instructed to “Discuss the health benefits of eating watermelon.” And, “Help children make wrist watch from low cost and no cost material.” The takeaway message is “Do you know, watermelon has high water content?” The sight words include whale.

Page 102 draws attention to the ‘World Around Us: Climate Change’ with the message “Act Now: The climate is changing! We need to be careful.” The sub-messages are “Dispose of (sic) waste properly” and “Save trees.”

The teacher is to “discuss climate change, its effects and how to prevent pollution, de-forestation (sic), floods, earthquake and global warming. Encourage children to use resources carefully, e.g. turn off light and fan when leaving the room.”  And, “Show a climate change video in class or invite guest speaker to talk about climate change and celebrate world environment day on 5th June.”

Xx: “x” letter, “x” letter, xylophone / “x” letter, “x” letter, play a tone

A xylophone is not shown on the page, just four individuals in a room labeled ‘x-ray.’ The teacher is instructed to “ask children what they see in the picture (doctor, nurse, x-ray, etc.). Caution: children should not take any medicine without adult’s supervision.” And, “Do role play of doctor and nurse in the classroom.” The takeaway message is “Taking care of sick people is a good deed.” The sight words are x-ray and xylophone.

Yy: “y” letter, “y” letter, yarn, yarn, yarn / “y” letter, “y” letter, go to the barn

The picture shows two boys with yo-yos. The accompanying text is “Yasir is an energetic boy. He always changes his clothes after coming back from school. He loves to play yo-yo. He takes good care of his toys and keeps them clean and tidy.” The teacher’s instructions are to “Make yo-yo using low cost and no cost material.” I wonder if the writer of the primer gave this a try. The takeaway message is “When you throw yo-yo, it bounces back.” I recall when I threw a yo-yo it went quite far away. The sight words are yo-yo, yellow, yolk, yak, and yawn.

Zz: “z” letter, “z” letter, zoo, zoo, zoo / “z” letter, “z” letter, the cow says moo

The illustration is of an amiable zoo in which all the animals, including a zebra, are congregating together. The teacher’s instruction is to “Help children to make zoo animals with low / no cost material and set a zoo corner in class.” The takeaway message is “Lion is the king of jungle” and the sight words are zoo, zebra, zipper, and zero.

This takes care of the alphabet. There are a few additional items that I will describe in the next part which will conclude the review of the Pre-I English primer. It will also include my observations on its various aspects.

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-VIPart-VII, Part-VIII, Part-IX

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