National curriculum & 18th Amendment
Federal Ministry of Education empowered through ‘Federal supervision of curricula, textbooks and Maintenance of Standards of Education Act, 1976’, to supervise curricula, text books and other learning materials up to Higher Secondary School levels as well as to maintain standards of education. Thus, the formulation of the curriculum was centralized and one curriculum for all government schools and colleges in all the provinces was mandated. The curriculum wing of the Ministry of Education was also responsible for the periodic review of the curriculum up to class 12. Text books for class I-XII were developed by the four provincial Textbook Boards in line with national curricula and were printed by them after review and approve by the ‘National Review Committee’ based in ‘Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education. Higher Education Commission (HEC) is charged with the development and review of the curriculum for education higher than class 12 at Bachelor level and onward higher education.
Federal Supervision of Curriculum Text books and maintenance of standard of education Act 1976, authorizes the Ministry of Education: ·To prepare or cause to be prepared scheme of studies, curricula, manuscripts of textbooks and schedules or strategy for their introduction in various classes of an institution in line with the Education Policy of the Federal Government. ·To approve the manuscript of textbooks produced by other agencies before they are prescribed for various classes. ·To direct any person or agency in writing to delete, amend or withdraw any portion or the whole of the curriculum, textbooks or reference material prescribed for any class of an institution within a period specified in such directive. In order to implement the above provisions of the Act, the Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education had been performing the following functions. · Preparation of Schemes of Studies for class I-XII. · Development of curriculum class I-XII, review and approval in consultation with representatives of provincial departments of education and curriculum research and Development centres. · Preparation of strategy for the implementation of curriculum. · Review and approval of textbooks and supplementary reading material produced by other agencies such as textbook Boards and private publishers. ·Directing any person or agency to delete, improve or withdraw any portion or whole of the curriculum, text books and reference material prescribed for any class being repugnant to Islam and Ideology of Pakistan.
In complacence with the recommendations of the 18th Amendment, the Federal Ministry for Education has been abolished and the responsibility of formulating curriculum and syllabus has been transferred to the provinces with effect from 30th June, 2011. Although most of the members of the Parliament, Chairpersons of the Standing Committees on Education of the Senate and the National Assembly and majority of the heads of the Political parties were not in favour of shifting the curriculum wing to the provinces. I also believe that Federal Education Ministry should not be abolished and in my opinion, allowing the provinces to have their own separate syllabus and curriculum is a retrograde step that may harm national integration and cohesion.
The devolution of the Federal Ministry of Education with special reference to the curriculum wing to the provinces may cause the following long lasting problems: (1) With the devolution of the curricula to the provinces, it would be difficult to have uniform education system and curriculum all over the country, which is necessary to prevent the emerging discriminated society. (2) It will promote provincialism rather than spirit of nationalism. The vision of the new generation could be limited to their provinces instead of the whole country. Six different school curriculum may divide the nation into six groups of citizens instead of one Pakistani nation, which will damage nationalism and national unity. (3) All the provincial governments will formulate the curriculum according to their party policies and political mindset. With every change in the government, the curriculum will also be reviewed and amended according to the education policy of the next government. This will create confusion and manifold problems for the students. (4) After the devolution of curriculum to the provinces, it will not be possible to implement the National Education Policy 2009 which was formulated after lots of hard work and research of experts, educationists, public representatives, planners and other stake holders. The whole process took more than five years. The policy which is duly approved by the Cabinet should be implemented and monitored jointly by the federation and the provinces, failing which the whole investment in Education Policy will be wasted. (5) It will be difficult for the provinces to keep similar standard of education throughout the country. Different standard of education and schedules of admission and examination may cause difficulties for those students who migrate form one province to another. The problem could be more serious if one province rejects the certificates of other provinces due to any reason. (6) The Federal Ministry of Education has signed number of pacts, covenants and agreements at International level for development of education such as EFA (Education for All) and MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). By devloutionizing the Federal Ministry of Education, who will be responsible for meeting such international commitments?....and who will represent Pakistan in international conferences, meetings and other forums on education and Literacy? These are big question marks having no answers. (7) The curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education revised and developed 56 different core disciplines/subjects in consultation with the provinces and federating units during 2006-2011. Lots of inputs in terms of expertise and financial resources were given. If not utilized, the whole intellectual and academic assets will be wasted.
According to the recommendations of the 18th amendment, in article 267 (a) the parliament can re-consider any change in its provisions within a period of one year from its commencement and revise them through a resolution in a Joint Parliamentary Sitting. Keeping in view all the above mentioned issues which may cause damage to the national educational vision and standards, our national integrity, unity and cohesion, the government and the honourable members of the parliament must re-consider the devolution of the Federal Ministry of Education along with the curriculum wing to the provinces and retain it in part 1 of the Federal Legislative List.
—The writer is former Chairperson Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science & Technology.