Single National Curriculum – A Retreat Or Overhaul To The Educational Framework Of Pakistan

Uniformity in the education system is a must but a single national curriculum can’t be a substitute for a uniform education system. An insight of SNC alludes to the philosophy of merging the school and madrassah education or more probably a gradual shift from traditional school education towards orthodox Madrassah style-teaching. 

Photo source: Geo News.

A cursory look at the Single National Curriculum

A single national curriculum entails the idea of one system of education for all, in terms of curriculum, the medium of instruction, and a common platform of assessment to ensure equity in education. The SNC is indicative of Naya Pakistan where education is aligned to the emerging international trends in teaching, learning, and assessments, that develop analytical skills, critical thinking in students.

The idea of SNC sounds inspiring and vandalizing the decades-old apartheid in the education system of Pakistan. Reportedly, SNC will be implemented across the board in all schools of Pakistan including government and private schools and religious seminaries contrary to the 2006 curriculum that was implemented only in government schools and in some of the low-budget private schools.

Salient features of Single National Curriculum

SNC is a phased transition of curriculum towards a single national curriculum and the plan would enter the implementation phase in March this year. According to the information available on the official website of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training some of the salient features of SNC are as follows:

The SNC is standards, benchmarks, and outcomes-based across all subjects. It will focus on equipping learners with principles and attributes such as truthfulness, honesty, tolerance, respect, peaceful coexistence, environmental awareness & care, democracy, human rights, sustainable development, global citizenship, personal care, and safety.

Some of the key considerations of SNC would be the teachings of Quran and Sunnah, the vision of Quaid and Allama Iqbal, Constitutional framework as well as outcomes-based approach in education. It is rather unclear how SNC would materialize all the aforementioned aspects with just a phased uniformity in the contents of syllabi.

Single National Curriculum – A Retreat Or Overhaul To The Educational Framework Of Pakistan

SNC is undoubtedly a welcome-move to overhaul the existing educational framework within the country but a detailed insight of SNC alludes to the philosophy of merging the school and madrassah education or more probably a gradual shift from traditional school education towards orthodox Madrassah style-teaching.

Single National Curriculum vs Madrassah Education

The inclusion of Quranic education within the curriculum is a tremendous shift but it should be analyzed only as one aspect in ameliorating the education system. Teaching Quran with translation would necessitate the understanding of Quranic verses to students and to materialize this aspect the teachers of different ethnicity are feared to interpret it according to the hankerings of the version of Islam they are inclined to.

Until and unless a comprehensive strategy is carved out to address that aspect, the ethnic and class differences would continue to take an edge within the country this time around from the corridors of the already dwindled three-tier education system of Pakistan.

Under SNC, schools will have to accommodate madrasa qualified qaaris to educate the students that might develop a madrasa like ambiance in public schools. The detrimental aspect of Madrassah teachers is their prejudiced approach in social and religious matters. Islam advocates critical thinking and exploration of the new ideas and fields of knowledge but a majority of the Madrassah teachers here in our country believe in controlling things with an iron fist.

The idea of questioning isn’t at all welcomed at local madrassahs and mere cramming is still a threshold. Moreover, students are badly beaten over there. Such a rigorous approach by teachers would only transform students into pitiless and stone-hearted alumnus. Instead of ameliorating the Madrassah environment, the very idea of SNC seems to advocate its merger with the traditional school environment.

Uniformity in the education system is a must but a single national curriculum can’t be a substitute for a uniform education system. The new education policy (NEP) is bent over merging the public, private, and madrassa systems of education to offer equal opportunity to all students and constitute a single-minded nation. The only inclusion of religious education in bulk without comprehending the entire situation would not address the challenges to which our country is confronted with.

Single National Curriculum vs Modern Education

John F. Kennedy once said that our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. Pakistan lags behind many other nations of the world in various respects. We have yet to become self-sufficient in food, agriculture, health, pharmaceuticals, logistics, transport as well as in security management.

To reach all these aforementioned goals, Pakistan needs to become adaptive to the modern approach in different fields of science and technology. For all these things curious and analytical approach in the education system is a must. Contrary to this, the SNC policy seems to be promoting influences that are contradictory to critical thinking. The primary focus is on the sheer quantity of information poured into students’ cerebrum.

The current examination system advocates the practice of cramming and sheer memorization of the subject matter and there seems no out of the blue policy indicators to do away with this bygone tradition.

Will the idea of a Single National Curriculum address the challenges of youth?

We live in a country where school education is faced with problems of a very basic nature from the absence of missing necessary facilities and sufficient funds to lack of quality education. In a modern world where a quality approach in the education system is mandatory to make progress, the educational authorities in Pakistan for even secondary school education level seem more concerned about the aesthetic aspects and decoration of schools.

In such an abysmal scenario, it’s very unlikely for a thing like SNC to remove all the prejudices in the education system and to provide youth with career-oriented quality education.

Single National Curriculum and social development

It is an undeniable fact that Pakistan ranks low in indicators of social development. SNC clearly ignores the pre-schooling, academic environment, infrastructure, quality of instruction, and teaching Avi-aids that certify the quality of education. The curriculum alone would not suffice the loopholes in the primary as well as the secondary level educational framework.

Also Read: The Issues of Higher Education in Pakistan – A Deep Insight

SLOs are good indicators to be very specific in the educational approach but they are more about theoretical aspects rather than field knowledge and this aspect further air an environment of cramming and memorization. This would certainly not going to revolutionize education as has been perceived in the corridors of power.

Public sector education vs private sector

Instead of lifting up public education standards, poor-performing public schools continue to be transferred to private entities (NGOs) for over a decade in the name of better supervision and operational proceedings. This policy aspect indicates that public sector administration is presumably considered incompetent to improve the performance of these schools.

How SNC would improve the compatibility of public sector educational institutions to make them proficient as well as efficient in performance has no mention in the proposed SNC statements. SNC policy seems more verbal in its approach than really transforming the role of education for the betterment of society on the whole. The private sector is more likely to enjoy an edge in educational standards until and unless the old thought of dealing with everything with an iron fist is thrown out of the window.

Over and above, equity, access, availability, adaptability, acceptability, education governance, transparency, and accountability are also undermined by the new education policy framework.

Public sector schools, as well as madrassahs, largely enjoy exemptions from any stringent check and balance about the quality of education they deliver. Moreover, there exist loopholes in the yearly financial budgetary expenses as well. If somehow these financial and administrative discrepancies get noticed, the political contacts and bribery fix the debate once in a while.

SNC – an attempt to control public opinion in the name of national interest

The new law Tahuffaz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam, Punjab, proposes MUB and Director General Public Relations to examine and not to allow arrival or publication of any national or international book critical of Islam, politics, or history of Pakistan in the name of ‘national interest’. On its way to scrutinize 1000 books, the PCTB has already banned 100 books, declaring their content to be anti-religious or anti-national.

Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam Law gives the Directorate General Public Relations (DGPR) powers to visit and inspect any printing press, publication house, book store, and confiscate any book, before or after printing in the name of national interest or protecting the religion.

Though NCC claims to engage representatives of all masaalik in re-shaping the curriculum, one simple question arises here how the new curriculum would address the differences between different masaalik. Would it ignore the points of differences and remove the relevant topics from the syllabi?

SNC would contradict the autonomy of provinces in education

The 18th constitutional amendment devolved education to the provinces and declared it to be a fundamental right (Article 25A). The proposed SNC seemingly aimed at centralizing curriculum in order to attain national-integration under the cover of single religious nationalism. This violates the principles of federalism, democracy as well as rights of the provinces.

Moreover, the proposed SNC policy seems unable to highlight how it would address the growing concerns of minorities.

Recommendations for Improvements in the education system of Pakistan  

Such transformations in the education system are needed that polish the creative abilities of the students and make them critical in their approach.

The education system especially from primary to higher secondary levels must be supportive of the students and should socially as well as financially support each and every student regardless of gender, religion, and socio-economic status.

The education system must be reoriented to promote the diversification of ideas and knowledge through proper discussion forums and webinars. For this purpose, the interaction of faculty, as well as students with foreign educational institutions, can be helpful.

The education system must be ordered in a way so as to produce more entrepreneurs than merely creating a breed of job-seekers. Career-counselling, promotion as well as support to new start-ups, small businesses, and new business ideas can be complimentary.

A phased transition from economic-dependence towards an economically-independent youth can do wonders in transforming the overall situation of the economy in Pakistan. The transition of the economy from a paper-currency towards digital payments can be helpful in this regard.

The education system must be decentralized in finances as well as accountability aspects to speed-up and to ensure the earliest implementation of the reform-process.

Class-rooms should be the places to experiment with the ideas and knowledge instead of enforcing a sitting arrangement on students for consecutive hours of the day.

To become self-sufficient in ideas and planning creative aspects of students must be explored willfully and for this purpose reasonable budgetary allocation is inevitable.

To set aside class-based differences, a widespread inculcation of social cohesion is needed, and to ensure this removal of economic deprivation of students is necessary at least within the educational institutions.

Training sessions of teachers in consonance with the challenges of the modern era are inexorable.

To sideline the potential role of women in the well-being of society is considered one of the top priorities of those controlling the public opinion about the knowledge of Islam. There is a dire need to address that blind aspect by highlighting the very prominent role of a number of ladies in the history of Islam as well as Pakistan.

Replacement of health supervisors (attendants) who visit government schools occasionally with general physicians. The health supervisors can’t advise students on health issues and normally do bogus things for record-keeping. At least a doctor can check the ill students on the spot and can prescribe the medicines.

Especially in rural areas where parents don’t even bother for even a serious bodily illness of their child. Many cases of such kind have been seen where students can’t afford medicines. Why don’t school administration collaborate with the health department via agreements for the well-being of students? Students are a future and a healthy future is a must for a progressive Pakistan.

Government should extend at least financial support to mentally and physically disabled children snd should try to engage them in some productive work so as to overcome the social as well as economic deprivation. After all, it’s a constitutional responsibility of the state to look after the marginalized.

Sahil report revealed that more than eight children were abused every day in the first six months of the year 2020. The sexual abuse of children has become a dark reality in Pakistan. Children are unsafe even at homes, at the places of education, and in play areas. To abandon their physical assault, techniques of self-defense must be taught at the level of schools and chapters must be included in the education syllabi that highlight the moral values.

To cut the long story short, the education system of Pakistan needs reforms beyond the concept of a single national curriculum. The educational set-up in the country is still confused about whether to educate the girls and boys separately or in an environment of co-education. Preferential treatment of boys and perseverance of women as lesser creatures are stereotypical beliefs taking their roots in the foundation of an intolerant, chauvinist, and prejudiced society.

Transformation in the educational system in line with the modern-day requirements are inevitable if we want a sustainable society in a rapidly transforming world. SNC is a step in the right direction but a more rigorous and comprehensive approach can make it even more effective and useful.

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