SNC: A Step Towards Modernism or Traditionalism?

The idea of SNC or Single National Curriculum was put forward by the ruling party; PTI, which was basically thought to end the education apartheid in the country by making the curriculum uniform for all educational institutes including public and private schools as well as religious seminaries. The SNC is being developed in three phases. The development of phase one, which encompasses the curriculum of primary classes, started in March 2021. Different responses have come up so far and most of the analysts have criticized the SNC because it looks like this initiative will take the nation backwards.

The introduction of the Single National Curriculum is a landmark initiative taken in the history of Pakistan that is aimed to eliminate class-based educational inequalities. But the gravity of this initiative has a lot to do with the nature of the curriculum that is quite incompatible with the dynamics of the 21st century. The education system needs to be student-centric in this age and requires promoting out-of-box thinking capabilities to produce a generation of non-conformists who have the ability and audacity to question the failing socio-political structure. But this curriculum involves content that will promote rote-memorization and this way, put an end to the analytical capabilities of students.

Another important issue is linked with the ‘Islamization’ of the syllabus. There are most likely the political elements behind the inclination of the curriculum to orthodox and fundamentalist nature. This can be related to Ahmet Kuru’s concept of the “ulema-state” alliance. In his book, ‘Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment’, Kuru argues that the political and economic decline of Muslims dates back to this alliance between the religious dogmas and the state in eleventh and twelfth centuries which led to their backwardness in all aspects. Likewise, the government of Pakistan in addition to taking other steps to empower orthodox religious scholars is also trying to implement the policy of Islamization through curriculum. Furthermore, this will restrict students’ scientific thinking and promote rote-learning which is not a suitable way of learning in this modern era.

Populism is one of the main features of Imran Khan’s political ideology. He has clearly expressed his criticism of Western culture at different moments. Same can be observed in the SNC which focuses more on Urdu and a little on English as a medium of instruction. Imran Khan is following “rejectionist approach” towards modernization and the West; as the term coined by a celebrated political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington. This approach, however, cannot help Pakistan to move forward as it is a third-world country which needs to revive its educational structure in order to take maximum benefit from the advancements in the West as well as produce individuals who have creative minds.

The most important issue which is left unaddressed by the SNC is the percentage of out of school children. According to UNICEF, 22.8 million children do not have the opportunity to attend school in Pakistan. Another grave issue, that is the discrimination in the education sector on the basis of gender, is also not discussed in the SNC. The number of boys enrolled at the primary level is 10.7 million while it is only around 8.6 million for girls. This depicts that the government of Pakistan also needs to come up with strategies to increase the enrollment rate in the educational institutes.

In addition to all this, the SNC debate has also become a conflicting issue between the federal government and the provincial governments. Civil society has also expressed its concerns over the nature of curriculum. Now it is up to government to tackle the sheer chaos.

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