[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 Urdu Primer — III
By Dr. Anjum Altaf
Following the last اعادہ there is the reworked version of Aesop’s fable of the hare and the tortoise in which the former goes to sleep in his arrogance and gets pipped in the race by his plodding but conscientious competitor. In the primer, the hare’s progress is stalled by a river till the tortoise arrives to ferry him across on his back. This change is necessitated to highlight the benefits of cooperation and to avoid the mention of something as negative as arrogance to our children. They will be in for quite a few surprises when they grow up.
A page of singular-plural follows before the alphabet resumes with dal for dada / dadi whom Dania looks after when they are sick. The teacher instructs the children to care for elders and the Think and Tell asks: “Why should we pray for the sick?”
The hard dal is about the daakia. When he knocks, Dodo runs to the door but is reprimanded by his mother not to open it to strangers without her permission. With the latter’s permission, Dodo accepts the parcel. The teacher reinforces the message that no one should be allowed in the house or the room without permission.
Zaal is for zakheera and the teacher is asked to talk about the tastes of various edibles, i.e., tangy, sweet, bitter, and salty. The Think and Tell is “Why do we store grain in our homes?” A lot of people can’t or don’t but maybe some do because they fear the government might not be able to ensure a regular supply. This could be alerting children to the looming issue of food insecurity.
The story of the naughty monkey (sharatii bandar) provides relief from complex issues of economics. The jungle durbaar was in session when the deer ran up to inform that the naughty monkey had fallen from a tree and was hurt. Immediately, Dr. Bhaloo ran for his medicine box and bandaged the monkey. All the animals looked after him and he soon recovered after which the celebrations were resumed and all the animals sang happy songs. Moral: there are benefits to cooperation and caring for each other. Also, a warning, I presume that even monkeys can fall out of trees.
Re is for rail with an accompanying dialogue of a family travelling to Rahim Yar Khan for a wedding. The Think and Tell asks “Why is it necessary to make a list of travel items?” The hard Re is for pahaaR and the children learn about the famous mountains in the country. Ze is for zebra. The teacher tells the children the names of the various parts of the body and asks them about their favourite toys. The Think and Tell asks “What is your favorite toy?”
Zhe is for zhaalabaarii with which not much can be done. The teacher is asked to demonstrate it with cotton balls.
It’s اعادہ time following which the letter Seen is introduced with the story of the sunflower. The teacher is to explain the germination cycle of the sunflower and also replicate the same in the class with seeds of dhania, safed channa, and laal lobia. Sheen is for the honey bee. In the accompanying story, a honey bee and an ostrich strike up a friendship in the jungle but when the bee is away the ostrich poaches some honey from its hive. The bee expresses annoyance because the ostrich had not asked permission. The ostrich apologizes and promises never to use another’s things without asking. The teacher tells children the importance of friendship and of always asking for permission. He/She is also especially instructed to have the children practice courtesy words every morning.
Suad is for safaaii and here there is no need to devise an indirect lesson. The teacher can go whole hog helped by the coincidence that sabun also begins with a suaad. If only sawaab had played along, we could have hit the jackpot. But, as the authors no doubt realize, children must never be misled and adults must never deviate from the path of truth.
Zuad is for za’eef in which a child earns rewards by quenching a za’eef’s thirst. The teacher does role play to show how buzurgs can be assisted in sundry simple tasks. He/She is directed to send a note to parents to groom children to look after minor needs of elders if there are any in the home. The teacher then turns to informing children how the wastage of water can be prevented. The takeaway message takes a turn to climate change with “Do you know that the world can be endangered by the wastage of water?”
Toey is for tabiib but the children are asked not to ignore the equal importance of dua because while the tabiib gives dawa, Allah gives shifa. Nevertheless, children are advised to take medicine on the prescribed schedule, just in case. The Think and Tell asks “How can we protect ourselves from disease.” Zoey can’t go much beyond zuroof. The children are educated about various craftspersons — potters, carpenters, ironsmiths, etc. The Think and Tell asks: “What are the advantages of cooking food in earthenware?” This should provide much food for thought since the upwardly mobile prefer teflon. The vocabulary words are zan, zaalim, zille, zahoor, and zaahir.
An اعادہ break is followed by a page on My Family via which the instructor is to teach the gender difference (aunt is female, uncle is male) as also the importance of family. Ayn is for aynak and the children are told why it is important to care for their eyes and how they can be hurt by close viewing of various devices like tablets. For some reason, the same lesson also serves to introduce children to various historical sites like minaar-e Pakistan and Badshahi mosque presumably because they are less hurtful to the eyes. Ghayn is for ghusl karo rozaana / biimaarii karo rawaana. The children are told about personal cleanliness and informed of the proper way to bathe, brush teeth, clip nails, comb hair, and keep the toilet clean. The Think and Tell asks “Why is cleanliness necessary?”
Fey and Qaaf are special and I am saving the ascent to the top for the next part of this review.
[author title=”Dr. Anjum Altaf ” image=”https://sindhcourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Anjum-Altaf.jpg”]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).[/author]