The Constitution of Pakistan has various legislated laws that call for the provision of education to every citizen of the country. The prominent, and recent, among these, is Article 25-A which underscores the provision of free and compulsory education to all children from ages five to sixteen. The recent pronouncement by the Government of Pakistan of the Single National Curriculum (SNC) promises sweeping changes in the curriculum development and would integrate all spectrum of educational streams. However, the standardization of Curriculum does not promise any structural changes into the provision of education which would help increase the number of school attendees.
The students in Pakistan come from different socio-economic backgrounds, areas, genders, and abilities. The distribution of education funds toward cities and rural regions along with the variance in availability and quality of the faculty and the inaccessibility toward the education of the marginalized groups shapes the education system’s structural inequalities.
To ameliorate the situation, a more inclusive approach is required towards it, which would help increase literacy. An inclusive approach would also facilitate children with special needs. Students with special needs have a particular curriculum; they require a separate syllabus that should be formed according to their capabilities. If equality is what this new SNC aims for, the special children should be given the same importance alongside other children. Lack of availability of educational institutions might extinguish the prospects of the reform as well making these reforms ineffective. To increase the effectiveness of SNC, the state should make sure that the educational sector is highly regulated and the implementation of the reforms is according to the plan.
The SNC may help achieve the target of providing uniform education, but it might narrow the spectrum of diversity and reduce the variety of skill sets. The new education reforms may solve equity issues, but they do not nurture the idea of creativity. Critics say that the name of the Single National Curriculum should be changed to the ‘Minimum Standards Curriculum’ so that the schools follow the primary curriculum and meet the standards. They may first meet the curricular standards and then teach advanced topics or the subjects they want to teach. This way, not only the criteria for education would be met, but the diversity provided through the curriculum would also be maintained.
The SNC is believed to be fruitful for the Madrassa education system (religious institutions) as in this way they would be added into the mainstream education sector. However, a whole new reform to bridge the gap was unnecessary. This could have been done using the 2006 curriculum. The Education system of Pakistan has come down to the traditional ways of teaching un-relatable content stuffed into the students.
The syllabus currently taught in the governmental institutions is decades old and has not been updated in years. Such an approach depicts the attitude of the state towards the education sector. The fact that the new educational reform is only directed towards equity and other variables are still being overlooked shows that the provision of a diverse syllabus is a necessity.
The policymakers themselves need to broaden their vision and look into different variables that perpetuate inequity. The budget allocation for the education sector is equally important in making these reforms impactful along with the content of the syllabus. Currently, the education allowance is 2.4%, which is not even enough. This is why this total change is completely infeasible and does not improve the current rotten system of education.
The approach of the government in the provision of equal opportunity to the students rather than delivering quality education is counter-productive. To reduce structural inequalities in the education system, the state needs to prioritize areas within education and then implement any new reforms. It looks like the state itself is in a state of lethargy and confusion and is just trying to make up for their promises and not fulfilling them properly, because of pressure put on by the critics, which is why the state is depicted ‘weak’ by the critics.
The state needs a more constructive approach towards developing infrastructure so that the new curriculum becomes successful, and our literacy rate goes up. The Single National Curriculum is an approach towards the solution of equity. Still, it would not get the 22.8 million out of school students to come to schools, and it does not clarify if the current students would join schools back, once they reopen.
To construct a solution for all of these, certain factors should be looked upon to find a solution that would address this crisis. One of those is the allocation of proper budget to develop more infrastructure and to introduce vocational training programs to facilitate the faculty and enhance education quality. To ensure a regulatory system and form a body to keep a check and balance would also require some capital. This makes the reallocation of budget and increasing its percentage to develop a sustainable education system.
The introduction of SNC has shown that the state cannot distinguish between a minimum standard and a single national curriculum. It seems like the government is looking to centralize things back by introducing the SNC, and if they want to bring such changes, it should at least transit via an amendment. The introduction of a unified curriculum looks like the state is trying to impose its ideology on Pakistan’s people yet again.
The new reform does not address the issue of the hidden curriculum as well. The state has to make a regulatory body through new reforms, to make sure that extremist ideologies are eradicated from the system. The hidden curriculum is a crisis that needs to be addressed immediately. The state, however, itself may use SNC to promote its ideologies, and that remains an open debate.
The state can impair the masses by feeding its ideologies and narratives through this singular curriculum and narrow the spectrum of narratives of its citizens, which may have adverse effects on future generations. If we all have narrow thoughts, and everyone’s intellect is at the same level, is that equity?
The SNC is a half-hearted attempt at fixing a rotten education system. It serves no purpose and is not an impactful move. If the government is not going to make any effort for the betterment of its people, then it should know that ‘if you keep feeding your soul with rotten fruits, don’t expect your bones to be strong enough for a climb’.
Husnain Muzzammil is currently working at AIESEC as a Market Researcher for the Incoming Exchange Program (ICX) program. He is also working as Chief Technical Officer at Kaam Waaley and as Director Promotions at Aagah Pakistan.