Mathematics Teaching Practices in Pakistan and the National Curriculum
Opinion Pakistan

Mathematics Teaching Practices in Pakistan and the National Curriculum

By Professor Akmal Rabbani

In the formal schooling system, teachers enjoy a very central and important role. Students consider their teachers a role model either intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, for a teacher it is incumbent to be up to the mark in his or her subject so that he may be able to nurture the new talent effectively. However, the situation is quite opposite in Pakistan.

According to a study conducted under the auspices of National Education Assessment System (NEAS) in 2005-06, only 15% of the total Mathematics teachers hold a Master’s degree in the relevant subject in Pakistan.

Now in such a situation, when we talk about reforms in education sector of Pakistan, either through state level or through the private sector, we have to consider the ground realities of our country.

Formal curriculum and the enacted curriculum

A Mathematics teacher in Pakistan has a usual practice of using textbook as a major source of planning and guiding classroom instructions. Since textbooks are said to be designed according to the guidelines provided by National Curriculum, therefore in simple words we can say that teachers derive an enacted curriculum for their own classroom with the help of the formal curriculum given by the government. Of course, this enacted curriculum is subjected to observations and judgments by the curriculum leaders and educational researcher so that those benchmarks can be smoothly achieved which are set in the formal curriculum (or the state-provided curriculum).

Overview of Pakistan National Curriculum of Mathematics, 2006

Whereas the National Curriculum is a complete set of guidelines for designing and implementing the necessary resources for dealing with Mathematics education at different levels till higher secondary. It has set some specific Mathematical standards.

To further elaborate these standards, some benchmarks have been set as an indicator of expectations from the students at completion of each of the five developmental stages: stage one (grade I to II), stage two (grade III to V), stage three (grade VI to VIII), stage four (grade IX to X) and stage five (grade XI to XII) (as mentioned in the document). It was an appreciable step by the government with the objective of preparing young students to cope with the challenges of socio-economic demands and technological changes being happened around them.

The following themes permeate the National Curriculum for Mathematics.

  • The curriculum is designed to help students build the solid conceptual foundation in Mathematics that will enable them to apply their knowledge skillfully and further their learning successfully.
  • The curriculum emphasizes on the geometrical concepts that enable the students to think logically, reason systematically and conjecture astutely.
  • The curriculum stresses graphics that enable the students to visualize and interpret mathematical expressions correctly rather to manipulate them ‘blindly’.
  • The curriculum recognizes the benefits that current technologies can bring to the learning and doing mathematics. It, therefore, integrates the use of appropriate technologies to enhance learning in an ever increasingly information-rich world.

The implementation of this curriculum includes the provision of reviewed and updated textbooks, provision of teaching manuals/guides, provision of web-based resources, professional developments of teachers etc.

According to the National curriculum, teacher has to be more than just a dispenser of information. In short, his role should be more like a facilitator rather than a conventional teacher standing by the black/white board. He must facilitate students in critically dealing with the subject of Mathematics.

This document also suggests a list of some useful websites as electronic resources aid for teachers.

What teachers really do for their Mathematics classrooms?

As we have discussed before that teachers have a usual practice of using textbooks as a major source of designing their classroom instructions. Along with the textbooks, teachers also use some other curriculum material resources which are designed to guide instruction. These material resources include teaching manuals and due to the advent of technology electronic resources are also included in this domain.

Some teachers also take reference from supplementary workbooks. Many schools offer the facility of professional development to their teachers; teachers of such schools often take assistance from the material related to their professional development and facilitation of students.

Barriers in the implementation of National Curriculum

Now, as discussed before, such a curriculum which is moulded by a teacher according to his or her own classroom is termed as enacted curriculum. Although teachers design their lesson plans and teaching strategies according to this enacted curriculum, there is still a vast area of improvement in their overall teaching practices due to a number of reasons. Some of them are discussed below.

 

  • Majority of Mathematics teachers in Pakistan are unaware of the technicality of the term ‘curriculum’. They mistakenly mix syllabus with curriculum.
  • These teachers are therefore also unaware of the National curriculum as well as of changes done in this curriculum as a result of its last review.
  • Teachers have particular orientations towards the subject of Mathematics, to their students and to their teaching profession. These orientations largely influence their teaching practices.
  • Teachers do not have relevant and strong academic background regarding the subject of Mathematics. Strong academic background relates to the quality of education of Mathematics which a student gets at different levels from primary till higher secondary regarding the subject of Mathematics.
  • Along with the academic background, teachers are also not well-trained and are not exposed to modern teaching methods especially in the subject of Mathematics.
  • Many teachers are not well versed with the use of modern technology.

Remedies to overcome the barriers in the implementation of National Curriculum

It’s a very important responsibility of educational leaders, teacher educators, education researchers and the stakeholders of the government to work on the development and implementation of different teacher education programs to solve these problems. Pakistan has been running different teacher education programs to cater this issue through different teacher training organizations. For example, in Sindh, Sindh Teacher Education Development Authority (STEDA) is responsible to organize different Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programs for teachers along with different relevant academic degrees. Pakistan Institute of Teacher Education (PITE) is also a supporting body of STEDA in all these activities.

There are also some other initiatives including the Sindh Curriculum Implementation Framework to bridge the gap in implementation of the National curriculum. But all such programs need to be run on a larger scale with accelerated pace and efficiency as compared to the present scenario keeping in front the situation of Mathematics education of our country.

Therefore, if the curriculum designers and educational leaders want to effectively implement their formal curriculum in the actual classroom, they must have to work on the empowerment of their teachers as discussed above.

In short, if we sincerely work on devising solutions to the problems of teachers, it will also lead us to identifying and highlighting the gaps and barriers in the implementation of the National Curriculum of Mathematics to the stakeholders of Pakistan.

According to Adult Numeracy Center, United States there are some unproductive and productive beliefs of Mathematics teachers which they usually have about the subject. The beliefs are discussed in detail below.

 

Beliefs about teaching and learning mathematics
Unproductive beliefs Productive beliefs
Mathematics learning should focus on practicing procedures and memorizing basic number combinations. Mathematics learning should focus on developing understanding of concepts and procedures through problem solving, reasoning and discourse.
Students need only to learn and use the same standard computational algorithms and the same prescribed methods to solve algebraic problems All students need to have a range of strategies and approaches from which to choose in solving problems, including, but not limited to general methods, standard algorithms, and procedures
Students can learn to apply mathematics only after they have mastered the basic skills. Students can learn mathematics through exploring and solving contextual and mathematical problems.
The role of the teacher is to tell students exactly what definitions, formulas, and rules they should know and demonstrate how to use this information to solve mathematics problems. The role of the teacher is to engage students in tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving and facilitate discourse that moves students toward shared understanding of mathematics.
The role of the student is to memorize information that is presented and then use it to solve routine problems on homework, quizzes and tests. The role of the student is to be actively involved in making sense of mathematics tasks by using varied strategies and representations, justifying solutions, making connections to prior knowledge of familiar contexts and experiences, and considering the reasoning of others.
An effective teacher makes the mathematics easy for students by guiding them step by step through problem solving to ensure that they are not frustrated or confused. An effective teacher provides students with appropriate challenge, encourages perseverance in solving problems, and supports productive struggle in learning mathematics.