1st October 2021
By Lutf Ullah Saleem Khan
DERA ISMAIL KHAN
On August 16, the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government officially launched the controversial Single National Curriculum (SNC), touting that bringing a uniform syllabus to private and public schools and madrassas would end the profound disparities in the education system of Pakistan.
However, from the conception of this curriculum to the method of its development and implementation, the SNC has been surrounded by a stormy debate regarding the practicality of imposing a uniform syllabus, ensuring that the quality of education is equal across educational institutions, and a perceived perpetuation of religious and ethnic inequalities in the syllabus.
While policymakers, activists and educationists have taken center stage in these debates, the perspective of the schools that are now tasked with teaching the SNC to the coming generation of Pakistanis has been missing. For this purpose, the scribe visited two schools in Dera Ismail Khan, a private and a public institution to ascertain how they have managed to implement the SNC and what they hope from it.
Gul Nawaz is vice principal of the government run Islamia Secondary School. Regarding the books assigned under the SNC, Nawaz felt that although improvement is always needed, the material and content being taught to students are sufficient to provide an elementary base to students.
“There has been a great disparity in almost every sector of our country,” he observed. “To achieve parity and equality, the country needs a system of education where all such inequalities and disparities shall ultimately vanish, and we become a united and prosperous nation. I think the SNC is one such step towards that goal.”
Between an across-the-board national curriculum and an effective teachers’ training programme, he understood that both aspects are required for a wholesome and robust education system. While reforms in the curriculum are a welcome development, an ideal education system is impossible without trained teachers to impart the contents of that curriculum.
“Teacher training is essential before applying the SNC to achieve the desired objectives. Teachers are trained, however, but I think they need more specific training in this case.”
Nawaz was also of the view that the SNC would help promote tolerance among students.
“Nations are not built due to living side by side, but they are built when unity and strength develop amongst them,” he held. “Unity and strength basically come from having the same goals and objectives, which is only possible through a progressive and enlightened education system which I believe the SNC will provide. But it will take its time to flourish.”
Muhammad Adnan, principal of The Education Valley, a private school, felt that the SNC was much welcome where there was a desperate need to change the curricula. However, it may be too early to say whether the textbooks assigned under the national curriculum are up to the mark in building an effective knowledge base in students.
“We have yet to give [the textbooks] a thorough check since all of them are not yet available in the market, but I appreciate whatever I have been able to see so far,” he said. He also urged to apply a wait-and-see approach to the SNC’s performance and how young students have adjusted to it so far.
“What is important is whether they develop a critical understanding. This, I think, will take some time to see results. One just cannot expect a sudden change in the students’ behavior, nor can one expect the results abruptly,” Adnan stated, urging that the curricula be allowed the time and space it needs to ground itself. “There are certainly a lot of things that have been changed in the syllabus, from the sciences to Islamiyat. I think it will show good results if we just wait.”
Expounding on the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the academic course of millions of students across Pakistan, Adnan was of the view that the pandemic may have changed things far too much for schools to revert back to two years ago. And the introduction of the SNC is perhaps the least of the concerns of teachers, students and parents.