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December 5, 2018

Inclusion of fundamental rights in curricula on the cards, SHC told

Karachi

December 5, 2018

A comprehensive chapter on fundamental rights of citizens as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan will be introduced in Pakistan Studies after the meeting of the Sindh Curriculum Council, Education Secretary Qazi Shahid Pervaiz informed the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday.

The SHC was hearing a petition seeking the inclusion of human rights education in the curricula of educational institutes. Petitioner Zubair Ali Khaskheli said that on November 12, 2013 the court had ordered the government to introduce fundamental rights as a compulsory subject in higher secondary education during the academic year 2015.

However, he added, the direction of the court is yet to be complied with. He maintained that it is about time that peace and harmony are promoted in our society, and to achieve that the government needs to make concerted efforts.

The petitioner cited the example of Nepal, where human rights education is a party of the school syllabi. He requested that the court direct the federal and provincial governments to include articles from the Constitution of Pakistan ensuring protection of human rights in the syllabi.

The education secretary told the SHC that the curriculum council constituted under the Sindh School Education Standards & Curriculum Act 2014 will convene a meeting this month to discuss the details of the court order and, to comply with it, hopefully introduce a comprehensive chapter on human rights in Pakistan Studies.

The petitioner’s counsel said that if a chapter on human rights is included in the curricula of educational institutes, the purpose of the petition will be served.

The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar observed that before including such a chapter and its incorporation in the curricula, the manuscript should be placed before the court for vetting so that further direction may be issued. The court directed the education secretary to place the report on record by January 15.

The education department had earlier informed the court that they were developing textbooks for grades VIII to XII under the new curricula, wherein the student learning outcomes focused on forming a child’s basic concepts of fundamental human rights.

A compliance report maintained that chapters highlighting basic human rights had been incorporated in the new textbooks for grades I to VII. The report also stated that concepts supposed to be made clear through the curricula were decided in a systematic manner with consultation of educationists and child psychologists.

School infrastructure

The education department has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to improve education and school infrastructure, and 10,115 high-priority schools across Sindh have been selected on the basis of highest enrolment and catering to the infrastructure needs of these schools, the education secretary told the SHC.

The court was hearing identical petitions filed by rights activists and organisations seeking the implementation of the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2013.

The petitioners’ counsel said there are various provisions that need immediate attention of the government for the smooth implementation of the law in letter and spirit. They mentioned Section 9 of the Sindh Education Foundation Act 1992 that carries the various aims and objectives of the foundation. Filing an action plan for the implementation of the right of children act, the education secretary said that under Annual Development Programme schemes 2,632 schools will be rehabilitated by June 30, 2019, followed by 1,928 by June 30, 2020, and 4,685 by June 30, 2022.

He said that the remaining 870 schools have already been taken up in 2018-19 for providing similar facilities under the maintenance & rehabilitation programme.

He also said viability assessment of low-enrolment schools is to be carried out with the objective to right-size the total number of schools and to ensure that financial resources are invested in the right places as well as to close unviable schools. The education secretary said that steps will be taken to improve the quality of education, curricula and textbooks, governance and human resource management.

The counsel for the petitioners sought time to go through the action plan submitted by the education secretary. After taking the comments of the education department on record, the court adjourned the hearing until December 12.

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