Single national curriculum a national disaster
SUCCESSIVE regimes and political leaders in Pakistan have failed to acknowledge the fact that education is the antidote or panacea to most of our political and socio economic problems and practically nothing seems to have been done to reform our education system during the last seventy four years.
Imran Khan has finally launched the Single National Curriculum calling it God’s gift to Pakistan that will end all inequalities in the education system of the country.
The first phase of the SNC has been launched at the primary level from class one to class five.
Presently there are a number of education systems in the country that include the Cambridge system offered by private schools and the local matric system offered by government Institutions and then the religious education offered by the Deeni Madaris.
The education system of the country suffers from two major flaws. First the government managed schools have failed miserably to provide modern education to our young minds, secondly the brain washing provided by the religious seminaries in the name of education has produced nothing but religious fanatics and bigoted minds leading to sectarian violence and obscurantist way of life, and these seminaries have remained unregulated since independence.
The Single National Curriculum so proudly unveiled by Imran Khan does not address any of the problems in our education system.
In Pakistan most public schools are in dire need of investment for the basic infrastructure such as toilets, libraries, IT labs, sports facilities, drinking water and even lavatories.
There is also the issue of out-of-school children as Pakistan’s student dropout rate is 40 percent one of the highest in the world.
The development and design of the Single National curriculum appears to be another attempt to further Islamize the society.
It is nothing but a blatant attempt at another round of forcing religious injunctions on our students leading to more and more intolerance bigotry and sectarian violence.
Apart from its numerous flaws and disadvantages for students in general and Pakistan in particular, the SNC is full of rising concerns regarding its smooth implementation.
This program has been introduced to promote national integration and cohesion but it has already created a serious rift between the Sindh province and the Federal Government because Sindh province has refused to implement this curriculum as the subject of education is now after the 18th Amendment a provincial subject and the federal government has no business to ram something down the throat of any province.
The SNC does not provide any separate plan for non-Muslims for their religious education but in fact it has obliged them to follow the same religious content taught to Muslim students and that is a clear and blatant violation of Article 22 of our Constitution.
The designers of the SNC have focused on quantity and not quality thus encouraging students to rote learning.
The syllabus of Islamic studies has been enhanced and aggrandized by including complete recitation of the Holy Quran, sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and some chapters on the life of prophets.
Many teachers have complained about the SNC complex and lengthy content which according to them is quite arduous to understand and teach and students face great difficulty in studying and comprehending complex material forcing them to memorization.
Public policy expert and an activist for the minorities Peter Jacob and his team of educationists have pointed out that 9% of the content of class 3 English text book of the SNC is in violation of Article 22.
This violation gets worse as the child progresses to higher classes. 23% of the class 4 English text book and 21.42 % of the class 5 text book is similarly in violation of clause 22.
English text books of the SNC show women only in the role of a mother, a home maker and a teacher, while men can be seen in more diverse roles such as a policeman, farmer and a doctor, this is sort of an attempt at Talibanisation of the curriculum.
English and Urdu are compulsory subjects under the SNC “One contentious issue for minorities has been the teaching of Islamic content in compulsory subjects” Jacob has rightly pointed out.
“Besides coercion this is discriminatory because students belonging to religious minorities are required to study and take exams for these subjects”. Some examples pointed out by Jacob include a question on the first page of a model Urdu Text book of the SNC which poses the following to class 2 students “Do you know?
Allah is our creator” Similarly in the English text book for class 1 there is a comprehension passage titled “Blessings of Allah” and in the class 3 English text book eight year olds are instructed to recite a naat which has been described as a poem in praise of the Last Prophet (PBUH).
Nobody disputes the objectives of teaching Islamiat as a compulsory subject but what is the need of all this religious content in compulsory subjects like English and Urdu? Dr Yaqoob Bangash says religious content has dramatically increased in the new curriculum and the Punjab Human Rights and Minority Affairs Department has asked the Punjab Text Book Board to exclude all Islamic content from compulsory subjects and shift the material to the subject of Islamiat but all such suggestions have been ignored by the Federal Government.
—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.