The Government’s approach to education policy regarding the Single National Curriculum (SNC) is fundamentally anemic, and from a legislative perspective violates the 18th amendment’s devolution of authority on curriculum-planning to the Provinces. While the objective behind a Single National Curriculum for the entire country is to end “education apartheid”, the current SNC fails to meet this objective. The idea behind education equality is to bridge the gap in the access and quality of education across class structures. Instead, implementation of the Single National Curriculum is a move that is cheapest to implement, with the broadest ideological impact across the largest number of Pakistanis.
The current PTI Government started its tenure with a comprehensive Education Policy Framework, highlighting reforms in four priority areas: (1) Putting all out-of-school children in schools, as required by Article 25 A-of the Constitution (which requires the State to provide free, compulsory education to all children between the ages of 5 and 16); (2) eliminating apartheid in education by introducing a uniform curriculum; (3) enhancing the quality of education; and (4) emphasizing technical and vocational education. However, it has chosen to run with one of these four tenets: introducing a uniform curriculum, vs introducing a uniform system of education that ensures a poor child the same access to and quality of education as a child attending a good quality private school.
Pakistan currently has the highest youth population ever recorded in its history, with the total population projected to grow further. In order to recognise any dreams of a “Naya Pakistan,” in practical terms, this youth population needs to be well-equipped to enter a job market in which it can effectively contribute towards Pakistan’s overall GDP. The alternative is a disillusioned youth that is misdirected towards less productive paths: crime, extremism and drug use.
As it stands, UNICEF estimates 22.8 million Pakistani children between the ages of 5 and 16 are out of school, the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world. The percentage of in-school girls is significantly lower than that of boys, with only 13% remaining in school by the time they reach class 9, according to a 2018 report of the Human Rights Watch.
According to a comprehensive National Human Development Report (NHDR) report launched by UNDP in 2018, only 14 out of 195 countries spend less on education than Pakistan while nine of these have a lower Human Development Index ranking than Pakistan. Pakistan currently spends 2.4% of its budget on education.
The quality of school facilities and teaching are also broadly abysmal. In terms of understanding literacy levels, only about half of children in class 5 can read a sentence in Urdu, Pashto, Sindhi or English, and do simple 2 digit subtraction. A little more than half of all government schools have usable bathrooms and water. A quarter of schools don’t have boundary walls.
It can be clearly understood that Pakistan’s ‘educational apartheid’: distribution of educational access and quality by socio-economic class, is not an issue of the curriculum. The SNC is merely a uniform curriculum, and not a uniform system of education that addresses a stark discrepancy in quality, access and delivery of education within socio-economic class.
Furthermore, according to the 18th Amendment, the curriculum-planning authority falls under the legislative and executive scope of the Provinces, a matter being outside the ambit of the Federal Legislative List.
PILAP has submitted an RTI application to the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, the Ministry responsible for formulation of the SNC, seeking to hold it accountable on behalf of Pakistan’s citizens and to understand what measures the Government is taking with regards to:
i) Ensuring a larger allocation towards the education budget beyond 2.4% of GDP
ii) Policies towards decreasing drop-out rates for female children. Drop-out rates clearly broaden beyond primary school as female children grow into adolescence, and the presence of a secure school facility equipped with functioning bathrooms becomes essential
iii) Ensuring quality instruction, teacher training and full instructor capacity at government school facilities
iv) Decreasing the gap between in school and out of school children through practical measures
Naya Pakistan rests on practical steps towards improving schooling quality, access and delivery, not bringing everyone under the banner of a single curriculum.