Need for a Common Syllabus

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BY: Bilal Ahsan Dar

Indian constitution under Article 21A (Right to education) gives every child, in the age group 4 to 16, right to free and compulsory education. Whether this constitutional guarantee helps people on the ground or nor is a question to be answered by the policy makers and analysts who gather data vis-à-vis a policies.

Apart from the stark naked reality of the country where a large population is bereft of basic facilities including food and clothing, a huge knowledge gap is found among children of private schools and government schools as well. There is an obvious inequality in the quality and standard of education when the private and government sector is brought onto a comparison map.

Infrastructure, pupil teacher ratio, lack of accountability etc. are the common reasons that we hear from teachers, parents and community when comparisons are drawn between private and government schools and all such reasons have a huge impact on the net outcome. However there is one thing which is usually not taken as a serious indicator of the difference while as, in my view, it must- the syllabus!

Syllabus is an outline that is covered in class. It is a guide to teachers as well as students and determines the quality of a course. It guides a teacher to impart knowledge, attitude, behaviour, performance and skills to students and thus needs to be highly researched and well planned. It also needs constant updating in view of the changing trends in education sector.

Though the government has laid a number of efforts in trying to eradicate the barriers and bringing about a uniformity of sorts between the private run schools and those run by government, but such efforts have yielded no or very less results as till date.

One of the main reasons probably for this is the difference in quality of syllabus at the elementary level. When one analyses the quality of syllabus in our government schools at elementary level from classes 1- 5, obvious weaknesses are found. There is lack of content in the books that are supplied by the government, lack of clarity in the sense what a student is supposed to learn and what a teacher is supposed to deliver, lack of sequence, continuity and directions, from class to class, that is, the content isn’t put in a chorological order. All the content is haphazardly put into the books and there is hardly an explanation and guideline for teachers as to how to go about it and at the end of a session how to examine if the teacher has been successful in delivering what was to be delivered. On the other hand, quality and updating of Syllabus has always remained a core focus in our private education system.

So, the knowledge gap is created right in the beginning and one cannot overrule the difficulty to remove it at higher levels. We need to stick to basics and evaluate the elementary levels in order to make a long lasting and impactful change.

At the secondary and higher secondary levels, this country has four main Boards of education- CBSE, (Central board of school education), CISCE (Council of Indian School Certificate Examination), State Boards and IB (International Baccalaureate), In total there are 41 boards of education throughout India. The difference in syllabus of these boards also creates gaps and inequality in education and knowledge. So to cover these gaps government can think of bringing the syllabus of these boards at par. That will help prepare students better for the competitive examinations and do away with that rat race of marks and grades among the scores of different boards.

It is time for government to review this policy, particularly for the government of J&K, and the syllabus at elementary classes 1-5 in government schools needs an immediate review. A common syllabus for all the students and boards could be a wise option as it would mean that there is no discrimination in terms of quality education.

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