August 8, 2020

By Haider Kaleem


The single national curriculum (SNC) has become controversial even before an official draft was made public by the Ministry of Education.

Many academics and educationists in Pakistan raised concerns over what is said to be the ‘reformation’ of the education policy framework in the country. This ‘review’ was based on the PTI manifesto which said: “Since the devolution of Education as a subject to the provinces, a national consensus on the critical matter of equity in education has been evasive. Pakistan’s National Curriculum has not been reviewed or updated in the past 12 years, and no national consensus on the medium of instruction and teaching of languages exists.”

The ruling party’s manifesto also promised to establish a National Commission for Education Standards that will issue a revised “Minimum Standards” list within 6 months of its constitution and initiate a National Dialogue and technical consultation to approve a policy on the teaching of languages at each level of education.

PM Imran Khan has also been emphasizing on mapping out and registering all the seminaries across Pakistan including information on finances, and introducing literacy and mathematics teaching as formal subjects within the Madrassah curriculum.

A renowned academic from Pakistan, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy has emerged as one of the prominent critics of the curriculum for being of the view that the curriculum is not only ‘regressive’ but also derived from flawed assumptions about the issues with the existing education policy of Pakistan.

The making of SNC concluded after several consultations for up to 18 months with the 400 subject matter experts from across Pakistan according to Dr. Mariam Chughtai, who is the Associate Dean and Assistant Professor at the LUMS School of Education.

Another reason given by the new education policymakers for the SNC is that the policy which existed before this was discriminatory on multiple bases for the children of Pakistan whether they were going to schools or seminaries.

Talking to, A Pakistani historian, Ali Usman Qasmi said that this not the first time a political government has tried to work on the idea of ‘nation building’ through reforms in the education policy whether one talks about 1960’s Education Commission Report, Curriculum of 1974-75, 1998 or 2006.

“The current government claims that this time a diverse and a large number of people were consulted before drafting the proposed education policy but even now the most common aspect with the current and the previously proposed curriculums that they are centered around using Islam as the unifying force and the Urdu as the main language for the production and discussion of knowledge but we have seen that it did not give very positive outcomes”, added Qasmi while pointing towards the partition of East and West Pakistan in 1971 after the violence.

According to Qasmi, even after 1971 when Pakistan tried to do the same experiment of using religion and the Urdu language to build upon and impose the idea of ‘One Nation’, issues of ethnic and sectarian strife erupted in Sindh.

Mr. Qasmi does not even agree with calling the proposed policy as ‘curriculum’ because he believes the proposal is a mere set of guidelines because a curriculum has to clearly identify the learning outcomes, how will the books be made, how will the learning capabilities of the students enhance and which part of the curriculum will interest the children while trying to learn from it as students.

“It seems like the PTI government is now going to claim that they have taken a step towards ending the education apartheid as promised in its manifesto but the actual difference was rooted in different facts, like in high-cost schools the students are able to use books designed in a much better way, they are provided with high-paid and well-trained teachers but many public schools do not even have the basic infrastructure to even call it a school hence it will not begin ending the structural inequality in the education system,” said Qasmi.

He further stated that it would have been better if the government, for now, had limited this development as ‘Madressah’ reforms after which it should have been mandatory for their students to read and learn certain topics and books about many different subjects, then we would have appreciated it but instead of doing this, the government has tried to turn existing schools into religious seminaries after increasing quantum of Islamic studies.

“Starting from Ayub era till PMLN’s last tenure there were laws passed on remembering certain parts of the Holy Quran by heart but now all of it has been made mandatory along with Ahadith according to Dr. Nayyer, so the impact can be imagined on the learning capabilities of the students regarding other subjects under such obligations” added Qasmi.

After the discussion with, Ali Usman Qasmi interviewed Dr. Mariam Chugtai to have a detailed discussion with her on the matter.