Pakistan: Is Single National Curriculum A Hoax? – OpEd


What is Single national curriculum?

The Government of Pakistan has put forth its vision of one system of education for all, in terms of curriculum, medium of instruction and a common platform of assessment so that all children have fair and equal opportunity to receive high quality education.

The single national curriculum is a step in that direction with the catchphrase One Nation, One Book. The process adopted the government overwhelmingly focuses on the content of the education. The GOP with extensive consultations with over 200 hundred academicians, top intellectuals and religious scholars of the country, has shaped with consensus a broad based curriculum and the steps in which it will be implemented. Initially it is implemented up to 5th grade in Punjab province and KPK. 

The argument behind it 

The government proclaims its vision with the argument that there are 3 parallel education systems working in Pakistan;

  • Madrasah system
  • Public sector
  • Private sector

There are around 2 million students in Madrasah system which primarily focuses on religious education therefore most of the students coming out of this system are not qualified to apply for most of the jobs in public and private sector. Then comes the public sector where 4.2 million students are enrolled. Most of the public sector lacks resources, modern ways, equipment, trained teachers and facilities.

The private sector has around 2.1 million students in which there is further segregation between Matriculation system and Cambridge system. A very thin cream of the students in Pakistan studies in Cambridge system which is up to international standards. These parallel existing systems lead to segregation, inequality, polarization and division on the basis of economic class among the people of Pakistan. Therefore even when these students appear in the job market or in higher education institutes they do not have a level playing field rather an existing gap of have and have nots. 

Why SNC is just a Hoax? 

Is the content the sole reason of inequality? Even if we implement the same curriculum across the country that would not make the standards of education the same in a public school with 500 fee and a private school with 50 000 fee per month. The huge difference between the facilities, standard of education, quality of teaching, environment and resources like labs and libraries would remain the same.

Without addressing theses structural issues that actually make the difference changing the curriculum seems more of a political maneuver because one education system was part of the ruling party’s manifesto and addressing structural issues would have needed huge finances and in current times of economic and political turmoil GOP does not have that much fiscal space.

Another key point in this regard is that the SNC is not about lifting the standards of education up to the Cambridge standards which has somewhat good reputation and international recognition rather it is about finding a middle ground between Madrassah system and Cambridge system. That is why the Urdu, religious content and locally made text books are highly emphasized in SNC. Therefore the cost we as a nation would be paying is too much for this political catchphrase of national unity and Single national curriculum. It would cost us whatever little intellectual and scientific minds we get to produce.    

Implementation conundrum: After 18th amendment education has been a provincinial matter. Therefore implementing SNC in parts like Sindh where PTI(the ruling party in Federal Government) is not directly in power is another challenge because at the end of the day it is about political credit.

Possible religious polarization: SNC might sustain the high level  of religious content up to 10th grade but when in higher classes religious matters would be discussed in depth there would come topics with different interpretations and difference of opinion, and in a society where there is a thin line between difference of opinion and blasphemy, and a culture of mob justice because people have lost trust in justice system as 295c(the law regarding blasphemy) has been practically made ineffective as no one has ever been punished under it, can further trigger sectarian violence.

Ahmad Ali

Ahmad Ali is a student of Conflict studies at National Defence University, Islamabad.

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