Pakistan's Education System Has Been Surrendered To The Mullah: Pervez Hoodbhoy On SNC

Pakistan's Education System Has Been Surrendered To The Mullah: Pervez Hoodbhoy On SNC
The newly-formulated Single National Curriculum (SNC) that is all set to be implemented in Pakistan's educational institutions from August onwards has raised many an eyebrow due to its divisive nature. Educationists warn that the new system which is being brought in the name of 'inclusivity' will add to the challenge of inequality instead of addressing it. Lack of critical thinking, which is an existing issue with Pakistan's education system, is likely to worsen once this new form of curricula is put in place.

Some also fear this new system of education will further alienate religious minorities. Despite various concerns raised by activists, the government is insistent that the SNC is in fact a reformative measure.

To deconstruct these issues, Naya Daur Media reached out to renowned educationist and activist Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy.

Ailia Zehra: Why do you think Pakistan's education system discourages students from thinking critically? How best can critical thinking be introduced and encouraged at the state level?

Pervez Hoodbhoy: Critical Thinking is the new buzz word – even the government says it must be taught in schools. But do those people who preach this even understand what critical thinking really means? As a definition: the critical thinking process prevents our minds from simply accepting what is told to us. Instead, it guides the mind through logical steps that widens the range of perspectives, accept findings, put aside personal biases, and consider reasonable possibilities.

My question is: how can this possibly fit into an authoritarian culture? Or one that is religiously orthodox? The teacher could get accused of encouraging insubordination, indiscipline, or even blasphemy. I think it’s all nonsensical, empty talk.

AZ: The Single National Curriculum which was introduced by the present government after much fanfare not only fails to address the issues with existing system of education but makes it even more regressive. Do you think stakeholders can ever agree on a truly inclusive and progressive curriculum considering that the state is used to censoring alternative views?

PH: The state has surrendered control of education to the mullah who, if ever challenged, will wage war to retain control. SNC is poised to inflict damage upon Pakistan’s education system in a manner never seen before. The systemic changes hidden in it go far deeper than the ones conceived and executed by Gen. Zia’s extremist regime. A column-by-column comparison with two major madrassa systems – Tanzeem-ul-Madaris and Rabta-ul-Madaris – shows that under the Single National Curriculum, ordinary schools will impose more rote learning of religious materials than even these madrassas of the two systems.
An army of madrassa educated holy men – hafiz’s and qari’s – will enter normal schools as paid teachers. Still, so extreme are the madrassas that only a tiny fraction of them have agreed to submit to the Single National Curriculum although the manner of teaching in all Pakistani schools has been changed to suit their wishes. Imran Khan’s government has abdicated its responsibilities and handed control over to extreme, ideological forces.

AZ: At a time when the space for critical expression is shrinking in Pakistan and academic freedom is at risk, how can young students defy these curbs and protect their right to know the real history of the country which the state tries to hide from them?

PH: There are some good books. These are mostly in English but some translations are available. Unfortunately in the new generation only a few people read books. This must change if we are to fight censorship. Moreover, the absence of good books leaves only social media and internationally published commentaries on Pakistan. ​
Managing Editor

The author is Managing Editor, Naya Daur Media. She covers counter-extremism, human rights and freedom of speech among other issues. She tweets at @AiliaZehra and can be reached at