Single National Curriculum Will Not Improve The Quality Of Education In Pakistan
The Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood’s statement, “we have attempted to define a curriculum which is outcome based, to create a more fair system” appears vague when juxtaposed against A.H Nayyar’s assertion that Single National Curriculum (SNC) confirms that educational policy makers continue to have a skewed belief in what constitutes quality education.
PTI’s Naya Pakistan promised an end of education apartheid by bringing a uniform curriculum in the country. After 18 months of tiring consultative process what it achieves left most educationists disgruntled.
The SNC that has been approved so far presents curriculum for grades I-V but its flaws are already becoming apparent. The biggest concern so far has been around government’s move to bring the madrassa to public and private schools. The manner in which religious studies are made part of SNC, it reminds of 1980s controversial imported American Curriculum of Talibanisation.
In the post 9/11 context, madrassas came under global scrutiny as the main sources of fundamentalism and militancy in Pakistan. Generally, they have propagated a myopic and in some cases a militant version of Islam.
In 2017, PTI’s provincial government in Khyber Pashtunkhwa gifted a huge grant of $2.7 million in public funds to Akora Khattak madrassa of a man who proclaimed himself as “the father of Taliban”. The decision was criticised widely as an act of supporting extremist elements and dishonoring the martyrs of December 2014, militant attack in APS Peshawar.
Most of the educationists fear that PM Imran Khan’s inclination toward madrassas might lead this country into an era of the dark ages. The greater dose of religious education offered in SNC would serve a blow to the goal of instilling critical thinking and reasoning in schools. According to the arrangement worked out in the SNC, the madrassa teachers will get jobs in schools which would give them huge influence over young minds.
These fears aren’t baseless. In recent years, multiple incidents have been reported involving violence against teachers and students with moderate and progressive views. Lynching of Mashal Khan and muder of a professor in Bahawalpur for merely organising a farewell party speaks volumes that our syllabus and narrative need to change. We need teachers in schools that do not propagate hatred and contaminate minds of our children.
It is problematic how naive madrasa teachers with faulty understanding of religion confuse students. A few months ago, Maulana Imran Attari on Madni TV told his young students that the Earth is stationary while the student argued that their Geography syllabus told them otherwise. It is expected that similar type of confusions would arise if we put future of our youth in such hands.
Moreover public/private schools provide employment opportunities for females. It is still unclear how they would react to SNC latest decision. Would they feel comfortable teaching liberal subjects? How would school administration strike a balance between opposing viewpoints.
Paulo Freire in his book,” Pedagogy of the Oppressed” states that the tragic dilemma of the oppressed which their education must take into account is presence of duality, they internalize the consciousness of the oppressor. This is exactly what we witness in this SNC, under an illusion to reform madrassa, in reality we are turning schools into seminaries.
What history has taught us is that our best hope for bringing a new wave of progress lies only if we invest in the future of our youth and make them responsible for the success of our economy. A Chinese proverb says,“if you plan for a year, plant corn. If you plan for a decade, plant a tree. But if you plan for a life, train people.”
Pakistan has the youngest population in South Asia. More than 64% of the population is below 30. Yet we are worst performers in terms of technical and vocational education and training. Unfortunately, SNC does not focus on providing an effective development and implementation strategy to initiate a school vocational training programmes to ensure practical skills training at school level.
We have vowed to make the CPEC a success story but we can only reap its maximum benefits if we connect the world of learning with work and equip our youth with requirements of the digital age and instill the requisite capabilities. Such initiatives will increase the earning capacity, decrease unemployment and contribute to poverty reduction.
Dr Maryam Chughtai’s honest assertion that in a parliamentary system one can not neglect the demand of all political parties to teach Nazrah Quran to Muslim students is understandable. She acknowledged that as a policy maker, her personal take on issues take a backseat when constitutional restraints and majoritarian wishes over. But in intellectual terms it is problematic when scholars of her stature can’t see the consequences of their decisions. Sadly, two Harvard alumni i.e. Shafqat Mehmood and Maryam Chughtai have turned a Nelson’s eye to the festering issues of access to quality education for ordinary Pakistanis.
Dr Hassnain Javed is a socio-political analyst and a Sinologist based in Nanjing, China. He is also theauthor of Economic Corridors: A Gateway to Pakistan New Strategic Fit.