2nd August 2021
Activists, academics, journalists, lawyers and representatives of minority communities at Saturday’s ILM Conference, organized by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), called on the Government of Pakistan to fulfil its obligations to provide free and compulsory education per Article 25A of the Constitution, and registered their strong protest against the Single National Curriculum (SNC), implemented in schools across Punjab for Grade 5 and below today, August 2.
Educationist Zeeba Hashmi questioned what policy is in place to cater to 25 million out-of-school children aged between five and 16 years who are guaranteed the right to free and compulsory education under Article 25A.
Terming the SNC an attempt at ‘indoctrination’, educationist Zeeba Hashmi said the state should focus on promoting education rather than curricula.
“The Single National Curriculum is being presented as a ‘problem fixer’, when it is a fry cry from that. Pakistan has an illiteracy rate of around forty percent, and there is a notable and steady increase in the drop-out ratio and the population of out-of-school children,” she explained. “When these children will grow up, they will not have elementary skills. How is the state going to cater to them? There was a need to find a solution to this problem.”
Speaking to Voicepk.net, the Executive Director of CSJ Peter Jacob said that imposing a uniform national curriculum would deal a massive blow to critical and independent thinking in Pakistan.
“The policy dictates the content contained in textbooks, and it is on the road to create an intolerant and narrow-minded society. Neither is this aligned with the constitution nor does the constitution allow for such a policy,” he said. “The [Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani verdict of 2004] held that education should help build a peaceful society.”
Meanwhile former Dawn editor Ashaar Rehman also attended the Conference which paid a rich tribute to his father, the late journalist and peace activist I. A. Rehman. Referring to the threat the SNC poses to critical thought, Ashaar Rehman was of the view that the present government, like the regime of former Dictator-General Zia-ul-Haq, is using Islam to gain popularity.
“They are trying to standardize [education] in the name of Islam and reversing all progress,” he opined. “However, I am elated that there is a nucleus of organizations in which my father may have had some part in creating that are able to raise their grievances against such policies and so powerfully.”
Speakers at the Conference urged the Government to refrain from using education to promote certain religious and political ideologies at the cost of depriving future generations the necessary knowledge and skills to keep up pace with the rest of the world.