Sunday September 26, 2021

Curriculum controversy

August 03, 2021

The SNC is finally a reality – except in Sindh. The School Education Department in Punjab has directed all chief executive officers of district education authorities (DEAs) to ensure implementation of the SNC from Grade pre-1 to Grade-5 in all streams of education from the academic session beginning from August 2, 2021 in the province. The federal government expects other provinces also to follow the same curriculum. The PM has directed the three provinces where the PTI is ruling to implement the SNC. That leaves only Sindh where the PPP government has not been enthusiastic about implementing it. The primary level is the first phase that the cabinet has approved for now; the secondary level will be next in line. There are two conflicting opinions about the SNC. One – that the PTI is spearheading – promotes the SNC as a great achievement of the government as it fulfills the promise that Imran Khan had made before winning the 2018 elections.

The second opinion is more scathing than appreciative. It highlights the fact that after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, education at all levels and all aspects – including curriculum development – is a provincial matter. The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training has nothing to do – so the argument goes – with curriculum development for provinces. It should at best confine itself to the federal education institutions that come under its jurisdiction. The holders of this opinion further remind us that the promise of the ruling party was about a uniform education system, which means equal facilities and opportunities of quality education across the board, irrespective of the economic and social status of pupils and students. This was a worthwhile promise, as the level of educational facilities and opportunities that the children of the lowest-income people avail in Pakistan is much worse that those enjoyed by the rich.

Unfortunately, despite spending a lot of energy, time and resources on the development of a new curriculum, many independent educationists have reviewed and pointed out that the SNC is just a revamping of the 2006 curriculum with a more religious tinge to it. The government should have taken into account the controversy that the SNC has generated and should have tried to develop a consensus with all stakeholders rather than with a select few already working in the government machinery. Initially the government said that the SNC just sets some minimum standards, but now it wants to implement it in all public and private schools and seminaries across the country with the ‘model textbooks’ prescribed by the government. The government plans to approve after scrutiny all books and learning materials across the country through textbook boards. The government must focus on providing fair and equal opportunities for all children and youth to receive high-quality education. Just enforcing an SNC does not fulfill the promise of a uniform education system.