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Monday May 27, 2024

Inadvisable SNC

By Editorial Board
March 09, 2021

Education experts and independent observers have been advising against undue hurry in the implementation of the Single National Curriculum (SNC) in the country. The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training appears to be going headlong despite there being some serious issues to ponder regarding the implementation of the SNC. First, constitutionally it does not fall under the purview of the ministry to indulge in something that is the sole domain of the provinces under the 18th Amendment which has devolved education at all levels – including curriculum development – to the provinces, and the federal ministry has essentially nothing to do with it. So this entire exercise of a single national curriculum goes against the constitutional spirit of the 18th Amendment. If at all, the federal government should be more interested in what it is supposed to do. That means it must make efforts to improve federally administered educational institutions and improve professional training. After the long-drawn exercise of SNC development, which was inadvisable, now the development of books and supplementary material has been taken up.

This highly prescriptive approach to education goes against the grain of a democratic society and its education system. If the SNC just sets some minimum standards – as the government has been claiming – then there was no need to get involved in ‘model textbook’ development. It is up to the schools to maintain the minimum standards and use textbooks and supplementary material of their choice. The ‘model textbooks’ appear to be an attempt to impose the will of the government in a uniform manner. Uniformity kills diversity especially if it is propagated by textbooks, model or otherwise. It must be left to the schools to decide what kind of supplementary material and books they want to use as long as they are maintaining certain standards. Punjab is showing unprecedented speed in embracing the SNC despite the serious concerns that authors, educationists, parents, printers, and private publishers have been expressing. It is noteworthy that the PTI had promised a uniform system of education in its election manifesto. A uniform system of education should first of all aim at providing equitable opportunities to all children irrespective of their capacity, caste, colour, community and creed.

Such matters must be discussed in parliament and such open discourse can lead us to some fruitful outcomes. The government must increase the allocation to education to at least five percent of the GDP so that the conditions of schools improve. Forcing an SNC which does not have support from the opposition and education experts will likely lead to its cancellation by the next government. This is a serious matter and the governments of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh are treading cautiously. In Punjab too over 250 private publishers and printers have been protesting against the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) which has cancelled their previous registration. With 30 model textbooks to be introduced into the system, there will be little left for independent authors and publishers and the PCTB will have virtual monopoly, which is not suggestible at all.