As schools across Punjab adopt the recently drafted Single National Curriculum mid-session, Aitchison College refuses to do so, stirring a controversy of sorts
The introduction of the Single National Curriculum (SNC) has only added to the confusion and divisions in our education system. While low-fee private schools across Punjab have been made to implement the recently drafted syllabus into their curriculums mid-session, Aitchison College, Lahore, has refused to do so, stirring a controversy of sorts.
The SNC represents the ideological naivety of the Naya Pakistan leaders who decided to forego the 18th Amendment, which puts education under the provincial domain, and turned it into a federal concern, thus dismissing its constitutionally assigned status. Sindh has so far resisted implementing the SNC in its schools.
The question arises whether the schools have a choice. TNS spoke with the administrators and teachers of several (elite) private schools in Lahore, to sound them out on the subject. They all seemed to say that they had been instructed to implement the new syllabi and told that a refusal could lead to closures.
Even though the educationists and minority rights activists have pointed out several problems in the recently issued textbooks, private schools’ administrations have kept mum on the subject — perhaps, to avoid conflict. “The syllabus in its entirety has been implemented, and yes, it was somewhat challenging for the students to navigate the terms, but they are quick learners and getting on quite well now,” says a school teacher, requesting anonymity. “It’s the parents who are most reluctant [about the implementation of the SNC],” the teacher adds.
The textbooks issued under the SNC policy have been objected to for gender stereotyping and ‘Islamisation’ of the syllabi.
“It is difficult for children to take on the workload mid-session, but they are managing now,” says Naheed Saif, a mother of three whose children attend a private school in Lahore.
She wonders why Aitchison should resist when the rest of the schools have accepted the new policy.
Unfortunately, no one from Aitchison is available to answer the question.
“From what we know, Aitchison will soon be including the NOC-holding textbooks in their curriculum,” claims a private school teacher who wishes to remain anonymous. “It’s been chaotic so far.”
The government has declared victory even before tossing the coin. Many of the SNC textbooks are still in print and await NOCs. Schools have been told to implement the entire curriculum with fewer books in circulation.
“The government should have provided the complete syllabus prior to implementing it,” the teacher says.
Dismissing the SNC outright would be an extreme reaction, since the objective behind its implementation is after all to level the playing field and provide children from various socio-economic backgrounds the same education irrespective of class differences. Adding Islamic material to most textbooks is seen by the minority rights workers to have created a disparity.
“There are two compulsory Islamiyat lectures now,” says a private school teacher.
“It’s not an unwelcome addition,” says Saif. “Nazira Quran (learning to read Quranic text) has reduced the parents’ burden. If children are learning religious text in schools, we will no longer have to engage a separate instructor at home for it.”
As a post-colonial society, Pakistan has had to struggle with identity issues. English language has been both a tie to the past and the need of the present. It is understandable why Urdu being the national language has been a focus in the development of SNC. It is, in fact, the hasty implementation that is the issue.
“A shift from social studies to mo’ashrati uloom is bound to be difficult for some children, but they are adapting,” says another school teacher.
The Aitchison administration’s refusal to implement the SNC is ironic considering that Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar heads the school’s Board of Governors (BoG). Aitchison alumni include Prime Minister Imran Khan and several ministers in his government. The twitterverse has been quick to point this out, with many questioning the ministers’ inability to ‘convince’ their alma mater to follow the state policy.
Also, it is not unfair for schools to demand that if they have been forced to implement the new curriculum, so should Lahore’s most famous all-boys school.
The SNC may even prove beneficial in the long run if it succeeds in standardising education. For now, though, it has caused visible stress to the students as well as the academia. Children who have been studying most subjects in English so far will have to re-learn them in Urdu. To disrupt the course of study mid-session could easily hinder progress and cause learning difficulties.
With nearly 22.5 million children out of school, Pakistan has humongous challenges to deal with in its education system. The government, instead of focusing on fixing the problems, has apparently tasked itself with creating more. It is uncertain as to what the future holds for our children, but we can be sure they will all be studying the same syllabus for some years.
The writer is a staff member