Education in a shambles

Dreaming a uniform curriculum



We know that Prime Minister Imran Khan has held a meeting with his team working on education reforms under the guidance of education minister Shafqat Mehmood. The PM was told that they have come a long way in fulfilling one major electoral promise ie uniform education syllabi across the country.

 The government must be appreciated for thinking of other things while all its attention and energies are focused on nothing else but coronavirus, a pandemic that has brought down the whole world to its knees.

 The education reform team is taking a phased approach to this critical and complex issue which is only wise. The first phase is half complete as the curriculum has been agreed but it will take it one more year to be implemented. Details are not out yet. So one could only surmise that this one year is meant to take the stakeholders on board. The provinces shall also need to agree and legislate accordingly, so that part also remains. The first phase is for grade one to five. The second shall deal with grade six to eight whereas the third shall cater to grade nine to 12.

 Might we suggest that the government has taken a wrong approach to it? Might we predict that this would not work? And while we reach the end of the PTI government’s first tenure of five years, we shall be where we are now although many a consultant will have filled their coffers with hefty paychecks by then. The ministry officials too will have something to show in terms of meeting minutes and to and fro movement and all.

 As good as the slogan is, this is not feasible and the current team probably knows it better than anyone else. That they continue to pursue it baffles the mind. In part this drive comes from our ideological moorings that demands of every single individual to think themselves as one. They want everyone to sing from the same song-sheet. That ensures for us the homogeneity that we have hankered after since the creation of this country. Diversity or various ethnic and linguistic shades do not enrich the tapestry in the policy makers’ view. Hence the need for one syllabi. 

 As for the approach it is not demand driven. Two of the three segments do not want any change in the way things are. The madrassa system has its own elaborate syllabi, a continuity of centuries old tradition of teaching. The parents who chose to send their children there know what choices they make. A tiny part of those parents who may be compelled, for financial reasons,  to send their children to a madrassa may need to be helped in ways other than this. They should have financial means to send children to school of their choice.

 The so called elite system too has no intention of climbing down the ladder they are on. The parents who somehow manage to pick up the tab would never wish to see the educational standards coming down, allowing the public school students to catch up with them.

 Public sector schooling.  Yes that is where the problem is and this should be addressed head on rather than trying and failing at yoking together the three disparate groups. The government should do whatever it can to improve its syllabi and pedagogy. It should invest in teachers’ training and improve infrastructure. It is as simple as this. By the way, why fuss over syllabi which probably shall be redundant by the time it was finalized. We need to remember we are in 2020.