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New Curriculum needs improvement for equitable & quality education: CSJ & WGIE

LAHORE, Pakistan: The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and Working Group for Inclusive Education (WGIE) have demanded a due consideration to the voices of independent experts, and regarding the loaded religious content considering into account its consequences on the worldview of students, teachers, and overall education system in Pakistan.

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The CSJ and the WGIE after reviewing the final SNC Core Curriculum issued last week for classes 6-8.

They observed that the revised curriculum does not incorporate most of the changes that were suggested to the National Curriculum Council (NCC) for the grades 6 to 8 for the subjects English, Urdu, Geography and History.

A seminar by the two organizations on ‘How the School Curriculum Is Evolving’, the CSJ and the WGIE highlighted the gaps in the curriculum and violations of constitution.

The Director of the CSJ Peter Jacob said that the government of Punjab continues to ignore the learning losses incurred due to pandemic and other factors, it is turning the schools into seminaries reducing the scope of education in science, math and social science.

Peter Jacob demanded that the government making Article, 20, 22(1) 25-A, of the constitution of Pakistan the guiding principles for curricula. He further demanded that minority students must not be forced to study Islamiat under any excuse, and teachers must be hired to teach minority students their own religion as alternative to Islamiat as promised in the Single National Curriculum.

Researcher Zeeba Hashmi observed that neutral themes in English textbooks such as; tolerance and fairness are embedded with religious ideals and Islamic principles, which result in making the students with diverse faith backgrounds feel alienated. She noted that the curriculum for the subject of History does not acknowledge religious and cultural diversity of Pakistan, which leaves an impression that cultural, religious, and ethnic minorities are disassociated and disengaged.

According to the final Core Curriculum document, the framework for the Single National Curriculum (SNC) is based on four major areas; civic & citizenship values imparted from content, reflection of diversity of religions and cultures, gender representation and relevance and rationality of approach. Each subject has a set of themes that are based on the main framework but the content has attracted concerns by academia and publishers as the curriculum is problematic.

While Dr. A. H. Nayyar, an academic and a researcher said, “It is extremely regrettable that the government of Punjab is bent upon reinforcing rote learning and imposing religiosity upon the students. This won’t help students explore and polish their creative learning but also create an atmosphere of inequality and discrimination in the class.”

List of Concerns and Recommendations:

English:

  1. Embedding Islamic content under different themes such as tolerance and fairness may result in repetition for Muslim students and alienation of the minority students. Personality development is an integral component of education for civic values which should be universal and neutral, free of religious instruction.
  2. Important issues on harms of discrimination and conflict resolution get overshadowed by other subthemes under Peaceful coexistence and Avoiding Social Evils. A dedicated space to foster importance of harmonious coexistence and solidarity
  3. Theme on Role Models of Pakistan does not leave any room for mentioning Minority Heroes. Prominent Pakistani names should be included as role models from the minorities as a specific theme
  1. Very few women role-models mentioned as sub-themes. Women’s contribution to STEM, arts and culture, democratic struggles, media and journalism, law should be highlighted.
  2. Transgender persons have no representation. Therefore, sensitization against the harms of gender stereotyping and discrimination, appreciation for the presence of transgender persons as equal citizens of Pakistan should be made in our curriculum.

Geography:

  1. An important value of imparting regional-consciousness about neighboring countries and identifying familiar environmental concerns, such as smog, global warming, and internal human displacements, is missing from Human Geography section. Therefore, topics or themes need to be included on neighboring countries, with an emphasis laid on the economic and environmental potential of cooperation among neighbors.
  2. No information is provided on the diversity of religions and cultures in global context. An overview of human geography in all continents should be given, where sense of society in relation to geography can be developed.
  3. Women and transgender persons are not portrayed in any of the topics or sub-themes in the curriculum. Women as a population group, their ratio to men and also their role in economy, commerce and trade industry should be made part of the curriculum.

History:

  1. The topic on Constitutional Development lacks its meaningful spirit. Quaid’s 11th August address to first constituent assembly is missing. The activities suggesting mere enlisting of the names of heads of state or governments or just rewriting the salient features of the constitution will propel students towards rote-learning. Need to bring more examples on how a country becomes a sovereign through representation of the people. What the role of the constitution is and why has it been a delayed or punctured process in Pakistan. Harmful impacts of non-democratic moves on development and social fabric of society needs to be discussed in all honesty. The Quaid’s address needs to be added.
  2. Religious and cultural diversity is depicted in the themes/topics reserved for ancient history; however, no such diversity is mentioned in Pakistan’s context. It is important because many cultural, religious and ethnic minorities of Pakistan feel disconnected from taught history at schools. Add more examples on interfaith relationships in Pakistan’s direct context.
  3. No mention of Pakistani heroes from minority groups. Role of non-Muslims in struggle for Pakistan, as well as their participation encouraged by Jinnah as members of first constituent assembly needs to be mentioned.
  4. The class activities suggested do not reflect critical learning and thinking. Therefore, social skills that a history curriculum can train its students also need to be identified. Separating facts from fiction/fabrication—ways to approach different sources of history, which one to consider. Being open to difference of opinions and evaluate information objectively, be introduced to works and opinions of notable historians on Pakistan in its pre and post partition contexts.
  5. Insensitive handling of topics such as partition of India might cause an alienation among the Muslim students and hatred against religious minorities. Guidelines be included for textbook developers and instructors on eliminating the scope of such probabilities.

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