Sunday March 26, 2023

Complications loom large as Centre gets ready to implement SNC

March 08, 2021

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan prepares to implement the Single National Curriculum (SNC) for its around 25 million children in August this year, many perennial issues such as development of books, supplementary materials, uncertainty and chaos loom large in the minds of parents, educationists and executing authorities.

Punjab is the first province which embraced an uproar of parents, private publishers, printers, designers and some other stakeholders after it was set to implement the SNC from Grade-I to Grade-V in the first phase this year (2020). The federal government wanted one system of curriculum for all the children to have an equal opportunity for quality education in the light of emerging international trends and local aspirations in three different phases (2021-23). Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are not ready to implement this SNC by this year.

Some 250 private publishers and printers started protesting against the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) that scrapped their old registration, leaving many independent authors, book sellers, printers and designers in chaos, interviews with all stakeholders suggested.

Experts familiar with the process of implementation of SNC question that why was the government implementing SNC from class one to five in one go and implementing the entire new curriculum within a period of 30 months, a short span of time which may put the entire education of millions of kids at risk, who are studying in class three to five. Experts say that this move might create a crisis in the existing provincial educational system. Thirty model books are being introduced by the government where almost 80pc content of these textbooks is said to be like pouring an old wine into a new bottle. A study of a few out of 30 model books suggested that the majority of textbooks followed old versions of thoughts and patrons except a few procedural changes and partially new work done in social sciences subjects.

Parents at both private and public sector schools were worried about how their children would cover social sciences subjects in Urdu format who never got prepared for such methods of readings. Dr. Shazia Naeem, whose two daughters find this new process a shock, said, “a single book will lead to rote learning. It is important that learning shall not be language dependent. English is a bit easy to understand, and if children have to learn in an unfamiliar language then English is a more useful tool to teach in schools."

The SICAS, a private school system in Punjab, wrote to parents that the SNC covers the subjects; Urdu, English, Islamiyat, Mathematics, General Knowledge, Social Studies and Science. "Textbooks for these subjects would be provided by PCTB but we can use other textbooks or additional resource books that have been sanctioned by PCTB through their approval process. We might not be able to use the suitable textbooks and resource material to deliver the curriculum and maintain the quality education for your children to prepare them for international exams," Dr Noha Mazraani, Academic Director SICAS, wrote to students’ parents.

Sensing the seriousness of this issue, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said, "this is to clarify some issues regarding SNC which prescribes minimum learning standards i.e. the core curriculum. Schools are free to teach any additional material or even additional subjects and secondly private schools can use any book that is consistent with SNC. Private publishers' concern is genuine, said Shafqat Mahmood, Federal Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training.

“I asked PCTB to ease NoCs process. We are very much hopeful that all provinces would implement this SNC this year. It is a landmark achievement and the government believed that the newly published model books and supporting materials would uplift our educational system," said Shafqat Mahmood.

Textbooks Publishers Association Punjab President Fawaz Niaz said that “the government has crushed the private publishers industry.” He said that the PCTB granted a blanket approval for the adoption of the SNC without considering the stakes and concerns of the private publishing industry.

"Public sector publishers have been allowed to publish the ‘model textbook’ under the Punjab Education Sector Reforms Programme while the private sector has yet to get NoCs. This is apparently a violation of Section 3 of the Competition Act, 2010 which deals with the equal educational material development programme," he told Geo News.

Sindh has rightly rejected SNC as Education Minister Saeed Ghani said, "education after passage of 18th amendment remains a provincial matter. Our review committee did not see any new productive change in the new SNC and we are not going to implement it at all."

Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani said, "the government has conveyed edits concurrence to the federal government with regard to SNC for grade one to five. Its implementation will take place in due course of time." The KPK government is not yet prepared to adopt this SNC in due time. PM Imran Khan convened a meeting with private publishers in Nov 2020 but confusion, chaos and issues still remain unresolved.

When asked why PCTB was demanding NoCs from private publishers charging heavy fees with 7.5% royalty, PCTB MD Dr Farooq Manzoor said the new heavy fee has been withdrawn. This matter is also sub-judice in the court, he added. "No issue exists on the issue of NoCs in PCTB. NoCs would be issued to all private publishers in a stipulated time period. We have capacity to review thousands of books in a timely manner and all stakeholders were consulted while preparing model textbooks,” he said. When asked where in the world a regulator becomes a competitor, he said PCTB is a major stakeholder and taking up this issue with publishers, he told Geo News.

On the issue of who will teach holy Quran in schools since it is a compulsory reading for students under the Compulsory Teaching of Holy Quran Act, 2017, officials said any teacher (from Islamic studies, Arabic, etc) could teach this subject students in all educational institutions. Under the Naazrah Quran in classes, grades or, as the case may be, levels I to V in prescribed manner.

Joint Educational Advisor NCC Rafique Tahir says, "the federal government is ready to implement SNC across the country by August this year. All model books are equivalent to the world standard. Novel methods have been adopted and one can see 100% change in all the recommended textbooks. Negotiations with all provinces including AJK and G-B remained successfully, except Sindh which is still considering our request to adopt SNC."

Faisal Mushtaq who was declared 'best educationist of the year 2014' said, “though I agree, the contents, pedagogical construct, learning standards, framework and assessments of the curricula should remain with the federation since the provinces could take liberties. Suspicion and ideological disparity, and the conflict within the educational responsibility paradigm has demonized the marketplace, may it be public, provincial or a private provider and must be undone.”

General Secretary Wifaq ul Madaris Al-Arabia, Pakistan Hanif Jalandhari said the government did not consult them on matter of social sciences and supplementary materials. It is difficult to implement SNC in all madaris with the existing format, he said. “Government only consulted them on Deniyat subject and ulemas must be consulted on all textbooks and other materials for their input,” he told Geo News.