Is Single National Curriculum a Panacea for all Education Ills in Pakistan?

“The importance of education and the right type of education cannot be over-emphasized”, Quaid-e-Azam. On August 16, 2021, Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the long-awaited Single National Curriculum from Class I to Class V. The Single National Curriculum was branded as One Nation – One Curriculum with aims to make education more equitable among the masses and to bridge the gap between job opportunities and the general public.

For the first time in history, a curriculum would be implemented across three education streams in Pakistan: public, private, and religious seminaries. However, despite ostensibly being a step in the right direction, Single National Curriculum is not a panacea for all ills present in the education system of Pakistan.

There are certain flaws in the curriculum itself. Firstly, critics accuse the curriculum of having a high ratio of religious elements. They quote Article 22 from the Constitution of Pakistan, which provides freedom from religious indoctrination. It is posing a threat to the freedom of religion and expression that this country has wooed to achieve.

In addition to this, it is also said that the curriculum is a means to overburden students and bombard them with too much content. It has not only kept the existing content but has also included new knowledge and subjects which the students will only struggle to manage.

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Apart from this, the implementation of the curriculum is also skeptical. Post 18th Amendment, education is now a provincial subject. In lieu of this, Sindh has already denounced the Single National Curriculum and has no plans of considering it in the future. Furthermore, in the areas where it has been given a green light, the rollout is laden with hurdles and roadblocks. Teacher training, the politicization of the book printing process, and hesitancy in implementation have raised serious questions on the future of the Single National Curriculum.

SNC has no roadmap to improve the female literacy rate of 46% which stands far below the male literacy rate. Women’s participation in education has been a core issue for Pakistan. Flawed religious knowledge and cultural barriers have prevented the inclusion of women in education. At each level of education, starting from primary to tertiary, a pattern of gender-based discrimination is evident in Pakistan. The Single National Curriculum pays lip service to this issue.

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On top of all this, the Single National Curriculum is just a small part of the bigger problem. Pakistan has around 3 million out-of-school children. It has among the world’s highest school dropout rates. Meager budget allocation and ineffective utilization have resulted in a literacy rate of only 59%. The Single National Curriculum in this context is just a small step. It falls short on other education-related promises made by PTI before clenching power.

Pakistan’s education woes require a robust and deliberated solution. An education emergency must be declared, coupled with education being the core topic of Council of Common interest meetings to improve provincial consensus. Also, steps must be taken to improve budget utilization and its access at the grass-roots level, impart teacher training, and motivate parents to send their children to schools. Education is the only sustainable way to change Pakistan’s destiny, the leadership must not squander this opportunity.

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