In a previous blog I mentioned the lesson on family roles, but didn’t explain it that well. But I think it would be worth explaining.
Basically, the school used to run on the Egyptian curriculum, with a view to possibly taking IGCSEs at the end of schooling life. However, last year it was becoming apparent that there were two problems with this: the first is that IGCSEs are prohibitively expensive for a school that can barely afford textbooks. The second is that IGCSEs are actually more limiting because in a Sudanese university they would not count because they have not followed the Sudanese curriculum. In the west, however, Sudanese qualifications are accepted as equivalent to the British and American ones if a supplementary test is taken.
So it seemed a fairly logical decision to switch to the Sudanese curriculum. One key downside to this was that the school year had to switch from the British September-July format to the Sudanese May-February format (the Sudanese method keeps exams out of the scorching summer). So the school year which started in September 2008 restarted in May 2009 but with the new curriculum.
This means that Sudanese course content obviously has to be taught, and the most significant impact of this is in science, where part of the course involves learning family roles, but even more significantly, and more difficult for the school to handle, is the prominent involvement of Allah in some science textbooks. One exam question actually asked something along the lines of: ‘If we want to understand how Allah has made the world so great, where do we look?’ Unfortunately, no mark scheme was provided, so no one actually knows, which isn’t that helpful.
Things are complicated by the fact that in fact the curriculum in Sudan offers two options – either a Muslim one or another Christian one. So every time a lesson has to cover content that features religion, classes will have to split into the Muslims and Christians so they can each be taught their respective beliefs. Previously religion was not allowed anywhere near the classroom because the Egyptian curriculum specified either Islam or nothing (or there would be trouble, which the school has plenty of without adding extra problems). Our school previously opted for the nothing option, although I did once find some kids colouring in pictures of Adam and Eve the first time I was here.
The last two days have been relatively boring at school – today, for example, I spent four hours invigilating. It felt bizarre having been the invigilatee (?) only a few weeks ago. A surfeit of volunteers meant that at one point there were four invigilators for about twenty kids. We had them covered! They had their English test this morning which unfortunately it seems they all duly flopped. This, the teacher blamed on them not studying, although I have seen huge pedagogical flaws in the teaching methods used for English grammar, about which I am powerless to change meaningfully (I may blog in more detail about this at some point).
Fundamentally though, the curriculum will probably have benefits – disadvantages like this are to be expected in the kind of context that this education is happening in. But the better pathway to meaningful qualifications is surely a positive, along with the fact that these won’t break the bank. I think money shouldn’t be an object to any qualification in the first place, and so in an opportunistic but mildly relevant sidenote, I will now slate tuition fees: we have to pay to be educated at university? That doesn’t make sense at any level, whether it’s a school for refugees in Egypt, or a university in the western world. Even if we can’t share the nature of the curriculum on many levels, I guess that’s something I can conclude that both do share. Education should be free. Boom! And that’s my parting shot.