The Case of Single National Curriculum

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Since the implementation of Single National Curriculum in March 2021, numerous articles and research papers have been written on the pitfalls of SNC. The uproar makes one wonder why there is a lot of hue and cry over this policy? This intrigued me to study in detail the Single National Curriculum and, today, I thought to pen down my views while analysing SNC with a different and non-clichéd perspective.

SNC is a state led policy to homogenise the different educational streams of Pakistan. The objectives of SNC are wide ranging from building one nation under single curriculum to emphasising on national identity that looks upon religion as the unifying factor. In addition to that, it also aims at minimising the educational disparity that prevails in different educational streams of Pakistan. My question to the audience is that are these so insignificant objectives to be disregarded easily? In this article I will try to address all the questions being raised on Single National Curriculum orderly.

Firstly, history tells us that a society with heterogenous cultures will always need a unifying factor to come under a single umbrella to achieve bigger goals. Pakistan is blessed with heterogenous cultures and subcultures where it is difficult to form a unity among these different masses. Pakistan got independence due to the idea of two nation theory and the unity of the then Muslims under the umbrella of Islam. Even then, the Muslims in subcontinent were divided on racial and ethnic lines but Islam played a unifying role and invigorated the spirit of nationalism. The very foundations of Pakistan were laid down on Islamic ideology,and disregard for them will be a disregard to the spirit of independence. It is evident from the history of Islam that Muslims have achieved commendable glories without separating religion from the state. Either it was Rashidun Caliphate, Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, Sultanate of Rum, Mamluks, Ghaznavids, Ottomans, Delhi Sultans and Mughals, all these dynasties produced the best scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, musicians, works of art and architecture. Henceforth, the critics point of view that state religion only harbours extremism is null and void. In fact, Islam if preached according to the letter and spirit of teachings of Quran and Sunnah, can be a factor in diminishing the violent extremism and tragedies like Sialkot incident can be avoided by teaching pluralism and peaceful coexistence. Single National Curriculum can provide this opportunity to teach both the true spirit of Islam and the modern education. There is no need to eliminate one for the other. Striking a balance between the two will be a win-win situation for both state and the society.

Secondly, the critics point out that educational disparity and inequalities cannot be diminished with SNC solely because they are multidimensional. The followers of Marxian school of thought think that inequalities in the society are not created because of the differing methods of schooling or curriculum, rather that the differing schooling and circumstances are created by the ruling elite as a means to perpetuate the inequalities or its dominant ideology. They are not the reason why the inequalities exist in the first place, rather they are the consequences of an unequal society based on an exploitative and unequal system of distribution of resources and power. The critics are right, SNC cannot diminish educational disparity because there are still 25 million children out of schools and there is no state led mechanism to address this issue. Nevertheless, for the very first time, under SNC religious seminaries are brought under state regulation and minimum benchmarks have been set which these institutes must meet. This might not dispel educational disparity altogether, but it is a steppingstone to introduce modern education to the students of religious seminaries.

Thirdly, the critics have pointed out that SNC is a breach of 18th amendment under which education is a provincial subject, however, under article 25-A state must provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen. Furthermore, under article 37-A state shall promote economic and educational interests of the backward areas. Last but not the least, article 144 purveys that majlis-e-shoora (Parliament) can legislate on any matter with the consent of provinces. Therefore, this argument stands no ground that promulgation of SNC is a breach of 18th amendment.

Fourthly, it is a widespread apprehension that SNC will bring down the quality of education of private institutes. This argument also stands invalid because SNC has only set minimum benchmarks for all the public and private institutes which they must meet. The private institutes are free to teach more after achieving minimum standards.

Fifthly, it is said to have a political motive rather than an educational; an agenda to introduce one curriculum and one nation. In words of Bertrand Russel, “almost all education has a political agenda”. Before SNC, education in all three different streams that is, public schools, private schools and religious seminaries were not devoid of political agendas. Since the inception of Pakistan, students have been taught what state wanted them to learn and barred them to think critically. However, SNC does introduce critical thinking exercise in books and this can be further improved by regular revision of textbooks.

For the success of SNC it is advisable that curriculum should be revised more often, modern pedagogy and teachers training should be introduced as per the requirements of SNC. Last but not the least, yearly evaluation of SNC should be made public, thereby it will be open to public scrutiny and evaluation. Any new policy has always been met with criticism and apprehensions, and it is rightfully so because policies are made, implemented but the results are never evaluated. However, it is imperative for responsible stakeholders to take in account the dissenting voices especially, those coming from academia and top-notch educationist.

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