Single National Curriculum: a way forward to maintain standardised education

By: Salman Raza      Published: 03:15 PM, 9 Oct, 2021
Single National Curriculum: a way forward to maintain standardised education
File photo.

As the government begins to roll out a unified curriculum across Punjab in a week in line with its manifesto as 'one nation one curriculum' experts are looking forward to maintaining standardised education to end class division in the society.

The unified curriculum has become a divisive issue on its own. A large majority of private schools has opted to stay mum so as to not risk retaliation from government departments, it's observed.

Opinions are varied from the opposition and supporters of Single National Curriculum (SNC) following two major reasons namely Urdu is imparted as medium of education with excessive use of religious content reported to be put up in the curriculum that feared to burden the children.

Salient features of SNC are that it has replaced Science with General Knowledge subject in Urdu language from class I-III. Science as subject has been introduced in English medium in class four and five. According to local teacher Tehseen of Oxford High School, about 20 percent syllabus of Islamiat has been increased. English as subject appears in easy language with vocabulary as compared to previous syllabus. However, religious content has been increased relatively in English subject. Overall, it's good initiative, she expressed.

Former Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi said this regard that initially they had no objection over initiating Single National Curriculam (SNC) in the country.

"Basically, we have to teach Quran and Hadith in madaris. Let's see the way how government would implement it across the board? Basically, it's problem of Atchison and Beacon House, not us" he added.

Mirza Skindar, senior teacher of higher secondary school and PhD scholar, hailing from a minority group, opined that it's not workable. According to him, affluent people wouldn't accept it by and large. He quoted Quran as saying: We have preferred someone to otherone on the soil. He put regret that minorities' issues aren't addreessed by and large in the syllabus.

Shafqat Hayat, Principal of Nishat School, the largest chain of a private school runs here follows provincial curriculum, has "welcomed the government's decision of introducing SNC in every school and seminary".

He termed the new syllabus going to be introduced from class one to five as "very knowledge-ful is ready for implementation for through solid books". He said their core committee's meeting has approved new books. We would conclude our annual examination based on current syllabus until start of current month, October, he said. He said seminaries' administration "not to get worried about it because it's not difficult syllabus".

Ms Kausar, Principal of Jinnah High School running on pattern of Cambridge system, stated as "We are glad to use the recommended books of PTB. It's not only the content we use, it's not only about pictures to attract children but it's about the methodologies and techniques how to deliver ideas, religion, language skills, and history etc. SNC has explained each and everything according to each level".

Asking about the reason that distinguishes SNC from past syllabus, she replied: it's an attempt to end discrimination in society by offering same education to children of every strata of society. Secondly, it provides a good chance to children to learn Nazra Quran and Namaz in the school - a better forum as compared to the family being an institution. But at the same time, she expressed sorrow as she can't teach her a Christian student in accordance with its respective faith since there's no specific content available for minorities.

Dr Kazim Naqvi, vice principal of Jamia Mkhzanal bloom Al Jafria on the other hand, ruled out its chances of implementation in religious institutions.

"Because we teach Arabic in all subjects including Quran, Hadith, Fikah. There is a possibility that we include English as compulsory subject of our syllabus, but how come would it be convenient that we change entire our syllabus on dictation of some authority? The only way forward to accept the decision is that our Shia Wafaq ul Madaris would advise us to adopt it", he maintained.

Zahid Hussain, a known journalist and writer, objected in one of his article that standards benchmarks and learning outcomes were not developed in SNC offered by the government. "It focusses on development of analytical, critical and creative thinking through activities-based approach rather than static teacher centric learning", he added.

As per the Pakistan Economic Survey 2019-20, there are about 172,500 registered primary schools in the country, and about 260,000 schools of all kinds. Employing two madressah-certified teachers in each school amounts to providing jobs to 520,000 madressah-certified persons in public and private schools.

"How many teachers would you hire for schools as well as seminaries to teach that classes" Physicist and social activist Prof Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy said.

According to him as per the declared curricula for grades I to V, the new course on Islamiat is far heavier in content than any previous Pakistani school curriculum for this subject.

District Education Officer (Secondary Education) Sheikh Muhammed Rafiq responding to this scribe over 'heavier in content with regard to Islamiat portion' explained: it is impossible that Islamic portion increased in the syllabus up to the level that it would offer more religion than taught in madressahs. He said our experts have approved the syllabus by incorporating opinions and suggestions from all school of thoughts.

Pakistani education system is split along three broad lines: a tiny sliver of expensive private schools preparing students for foreign examinations; low-to-middle end public/private schools that follow the federal/provincial curriculum; and madressah education, that aims to produce the clergy.

A famous writer Nadeem F. Paracha stated in his piece of script published in the English daily as: Pakistan where every schoolchild will receive the same kind of education, and will thus have the same opportunities in life continue to have a skewed belief in what constitutes quality education.

With 22.8 million out of school children, according to Unicef data, and the total number of enrolled school students around 25 million, there are nearly as many out of school children as there are in school.

To put nearly 23 million additional children into school would be a gigantic task. Pakistan would need to build nearly as many schools as exist today, furnish them and employ as many new teachers as are currently in service.

"Let's climb up first stairs, the so-called gigantic targets would be achieved with the passage of time. It's not rocket science after all" said the DO Secondary, one of the top implementation authority of SNC in the local district.

As for as implementation of SNC in seminaries is concerned, Afzal Haidri, a member of Tanzeemat-ul-Madaris, the representative body of all schools of thought of Muslims surviving in the country, told this scribe on telephone that they had still a deadlock with the educational authority over modus operandi of the implementation. He said they were asked to appoint teachers for respective subjects by themselves that requires billions of rupees budget. As such we can't afford heavy budget because we didn't have so much money, he said.

It's pertinent to note that schools based on cambridge system have opted to teach SNC in English medium instead Urdu. "We got its permission to adopt English to teach SNC in our schools in order to bring confidence in our children" said Ms Kausar.