Intervention strategies to improve the quality of education By Lt. Gen (R) Arshad Mahmood

Our educational system assumes that every student can learn each subject material with the same method or pedagogy, and a standardized universal measure can accurately assess a student’s learning ability. As currently applied, it is heavily biased towards a linguistic mode of instructions (or lecture method) with a theatre style sitting, without assessment or evaluation. Howard Gardner, a Harvard University Psychologist, argues that a contrasting set of assumptions are more likely to be educationally effective, as every student learns in different ways that are identifiably distinctive, to his/her intelligence and aptitude. The broad spectrum of students and perhaps our economy as well as our society as a whole-would be better served, if disciplines could be presented in different ways, adaptive to student population’s learning styles. Learning styles could be assessed through a variety of means, i.e. Multiple Intelligences Assessment, Psychometric Aptitude Assessment and Leadership Evaluation, within the given parameters of the syllabus.
For the last year and a half, current government is planning to improve quality of education by developing a standardized syllabus across Pakistan. Syllabus is an outline of main points of the subject material to be taught to a relevant age group in any course. This syllabus has been designed to nurture left side of the brain responsible for logical mathematical and verbal skills, while the child’s abilities of visualization, imagination and creativity in the right brain are ignored. The outdated syllabus of Lord Mc Aulay’s vintage, encourages rote learning at best, and is teacher-centred. It does not specify methods of instructions or pedagogy and assessment and evaluation strategies for comprehension and easy learning. Whereas, curriculum, which is learner-centred, comprises of three (3) important ingredients:-
a syllabus (contents) or knowledge that needs to be disseminated or shared with students a pedagogy or methods of transmission of subject matter (lectures, tutorials, seminars, workshops, multimedia, computers, TV, radio, research / field work and industry field trips, etc.) and assessment and evaluation strategies, to assess child’s potential and develop his personality to be a useful member of the society.
We are using syllabus but ironically call it curriculum without its important ingredients applied for assessment and evaluation of the students abilities and aptitude.
Syllabus is teacher-centered because it relies on lecture in the classroom, resulting in rote learning without a conceptual understanding of the subject matter. However, a curriculum offers planned learning opportunities, learning experiences and targeted learning outcomes, to enable students to not only acquire skills, but to apply them too, using Product-based learning techniques. A curriculum is more comprehensive and application of knowledge focused, which relies on use of a student’s inherent ability to utilize his/her creative and critical thinking to apply knowledge gained, to solve industry problems.
Each child is unique, and born with certain inherent abilities, which if discovered, could help reach his/her potential. This ability mix or talent pool helps each student in learning things in his/her own way. Our current Single Unit Examination System, which is based on old vintage syllabus, expects students to secure excellent marks across all subjects, without evaluating student’s inherent ability mix. On the other hand, a curriculum, which is assessment oriented, is designed to match optimum subject mix according to student’s aptitude.
In order to optimize impact on students, with implementation of a standardized syllabus across Pakistan, we must complement it by building intervention strategies, targeting assessment and evaluation of students, to create a fit with syllabus. By assessing intelligences, aptitudes or potential of students, we move to empower our youth, through self-discovery, which will result in better subject and career fit for our future workforce. For example a student good in English but weak in Mechanical abilities and the other, good in Mechanical abilities and weak in English, will have the same IQ, if they are of the same age, but will differ in their abilities. The parents, however, without assessing the aptitude, ask the child to take up the subjects, which are not of his/her choice, as a result 50% of the students drop out, due to lack of interest in studies, at primary and secondary level, as also get confused at under-graduate level regarding their career path or higher studies.
In our existing education system a student has to be a high achiever in at least 5 out of 6 subject, to secure admission in a good school/college/university. A student securing excellent marks in one or two subjects is not encouraged but, rather considered weak and motivated to join a tuition center. As a result, we average out the exceptional performance in one or two subjects, which could be connected to his/her aptitude and/or career choice later. This phenomenon, more often than not, leads to a low self worth, a possible lack of self-confidence and eventually future poor academic performance.
Therefore, we must apply intervention strategies to profile students, in order to evaluate their ability mix, helping connect their aptitudes with their subjects of choice. Starting with 7th grade, onwards to FA/FSc, up till under graduates, must be given their summary reports or profiles for discussions with their influencers (parents, peers etc). The criteria for admission should be top scoring one or two subjects, weighted with other subjects, so he/she may pursue choice of subject accordingly to their aptitude mix, rather than chasing marks across all subjects.
In addition, every one cannot be good in studies, so we need to find out those children through assessment, who cannot continue studies beyond class 6th to 10th and 12th, due to lack of aptitude to study, or are unable to get good marks in all the subjects for admission, economic reasons of the family and difficulty in getting admission due to shortage of schools. For such children there should be vocational classes in all the schools, to train them as community workers, to under-go diploma/short courses for 3 to 6 month as electricians, vehicle mechanics, plumbers, AC mechanics, etc. so that they start earning their lively-hood, instead of adding to the number of unemployed and become burden on the society. This is not being done at present in our education system, which needs a serious considered.
In addition, there are more than 22million children out of schools, due to the reasons that schools are located quite far away, at a distance of 5 to 10 km or even more from their residences. Some of the schools have been converted into cattle farms and shortage of funds to construct new schools. To overcome this problem we need to use the present schools in the evening shift, to provide education to all children and also use mosques as primary/secondary schools, as the mosques (every village has 1 or 2 mosques) are not under use from “Fajar” to “Zuhar” prayers. This was the practice during the period of Khlufa-i-Rashdeen/ Ottoman Umpire. Why can’t we do it in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?
We should launch a system of assessment and evaluation of student’s multiple intelligences, Aptitude and Leadership Evaluation as follows:-
Multiple Intelligences: We should, determine the best intelligence of the students, based on Howard Gardners Theory of 8 Multiple Intelligences: logical mathematical, linguistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, bodily kinesthetic, spatial, musical and naturalist, which help in easily understanding, quickly comprehending and applying the subject matter to facilitate learning.
Aptitude Assessment: We should also measure students potential through aptitude assessment in verbal reasoning, numerical ability, mechanical reasoning, abstract reasoning, space relations and language usage, to assess genetic and environmental aptitude for life-long learning. Accordingly students should be advised, if they could continue higher education or to become community workers based on their aptitude/choice.
Multiple Leadership Evaluation: We should also measure Multiple Leadership Evaluation by profiling leadership characteristics: developing others, team leadership, collaboration, achievement, strategic intent, entrepreneurship, interpersonal, influencing others and intellectual capacity.
This assessment and evaluation process, through intervention strategies will make them self-learner, confident, self-directed and motivated, to achieve excellence in their academic and professional lives. The teachers can also be trained to apply the assessment for development of student’s personality. On the other hand, if the students do not have aptitude to continue higher studies, they can be offered to become community workers, based on their choice, within the framework of their abilities and aptitude. Therefore, we should not make any effort to make a uniform syllabus, as the subjects taught at various levels are appropriate to the relevant age structure in all the provinces, so no need to make the syllabus uniform. What we need to do, is to apply the curriculum instead of syllabus to assess the abilities potential and aptitude of the students.
The measurement of aptitude is, therefore, crucial, as it facilitates the enlightened growth of students (14-23 years) by predicting their talent, traditionally referred to as a student’s aptitude, to be developed by further enhancement of skills. This will create interest and improve their academic performance. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that instead of making the syllabus uniform across Pakistan, we should convert the syllabus into curriculum by introducing intervention strategies in our assessment system, to discover students abilities, potential and aptitude for the development of the personality of the students and contribute towards the National development.

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