“Political economy, not education focus, behind education policy” | Special report

Jthe Sunday news (TNS): You have been an active critic of the SNC. Can you provide some context for this policy for the lay reader?

Dr. Ayesha Razzaque (AR): The genesis of the CNS is clear. When former Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the SNC last September, he described it as one of the main agenda items in his more than two-decade political struggle to end apartheid. of class. According to him, one of the main reasons socio-economic classes exist is that Pakistan has more than one education system. This is why the initial idea of ​​the SNC was to have a single school system, with a single curriculum taught in the same language. It would have taken the choice away from parents and given the impression that everyone is treated the same. Consider the name of the CNS. They interpreted the “single” in the SNC to mean that there should be one system for public and private schools and for religious seminaries. At first they also thought they could get rid of the O and A level system. Later they realized that was a bad idea. This obviously did not happen, and the idea of ​​the SNC evolved over time.

TNS: What has been the impact of the CDS on children and schools in general?

AR: The deployment of the primary-level SNC has been fraught with pitfalls. You may remember that the first half of last year was spent going back and forth a lot. In particular on the question of the NOC where the government instead of facilitating decided to switch to combative mode, especially in Punjab. This resulted in delays in printing, distributing, and delivering a new curriculum without equipping teachers to teach it and changing assessments to meet its needs.

After the massive disruption caused by Covid-19-related school closures, recent learning assessments, which have been widely publicized, have shown that schoolchildren in grades 4 and 5, particularly in public and private schools at lower level, succeed mainly at the level of a 2nd or 3rd year student. This means that the government should have developed mitigation plans instead of rolling out a flawed and heavily criticized policy.

The botched deployment of the SNC and the fact that the SNC books weren’t that great anyway meant that the hastily implemented policy was doing more damage than anything else.

Here I would like to point out that the Ministry of Federal Education and Vocational Training (MoFEPT) is now launching an ICT learning loss remediation program when classes resume in August 2022. If this program is put implemented in its true spirit at least some good can be expected.

More than the Prime Minister, I blame his advisers who did not advise him to remove learning problems or class division using misguided policy like the SNC is naive and utopian.

There is a need to create economic opportunities so that people can meet their basic needs including education and to achieve this we need to invest in public schools, rather than forcing schools that have performed well to adhere to a lower standard. Also, constitutionally speaking, the federal government can do nothing about education up to grade 12 (except coordination which should be institutionalized by law). It’s out of his reach. The previous government attempted to implement the SNC in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it led the provincial governments, under the leadership of the Prime Minister’s Office. Sindh did not accept it.

TNS: How do you rate CDS in terms of content and implementation?

AR: There were many defects in the CNS. Information available in the public domain suggests that there were issues with the books not only in terms of their treatment of religion and gender, but also conceptual progression and development. There were typos, spelling, grammar. Several public domain articles have analyzed textbooks of various subjects and come to similar conclusions. There is an excessive rush to launch the SNC, especially its second phase (middle school), given the many problems already reported in the first phase (primary level) without properly managing feedback from the first phase. This suggests that it was politically motivated.

For example, according to publishers, the government has pledged to revise its primary textbooks in 2023. The reason for the extended deadline was that publishers were already sitting on stocks of printed books. Forcing a review sooner than that would have risked backlash from publishers who would have to absorb those losses.

The real feedback, whether learning has improved or not, will come from the schools. Anecdotally, teachers say these are difficult books to teach and stimulating when children are already not doing well. Getting feedback from public schools and then revising the curriculum accordingly is now a task for the new government. But the federal government has not put such a mechanism in place.

TNS: Given that the books have been published up to the intermediate level and the academic sessions have started or are about to start, what future does the CDS have?

AR: We know that Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal has asked MoFEPT to organize a National Curriculum Summit. For now, the purpose of this summit is unclear and it seems to be more of a tick box exercise than anything else. Because for a political government to decide whether it is within its remit, after the 18th amendment, to make the program of the provinces, it only needs to read the legislative lists, not to hold a summit. I’m still amazed at how careless most governments are, either because they just don’t care to think or because they think we’re incapable of thinking straight.

An immediate shift is clear, however. They dropped the ‘S’ of CNS; the “single” was removed as per the summit notification. It seems that the government is reverting to the old nomenclature that existed for this document before 2018, when it was still called the “National Curriculum”.

As for what is practically possible at this point, there is very little time to linger and have unnecessary highs, given that it is May and schools will reopen in August.

Books have already been developed up to 8th grade. They are just an update of what already existed and was developed by the National Book Foundation. The government should authorize the distribution of books which will again be delayed, given the lack of time and because the issuance of NOCs has not yet started.

This government can’t change the books now, but it can change the nature of politics that is to say, do not encroach on the territory of the provinces like the previous government. It is a coalition government which includes the ruling Sindh party. Has the government included the Government of Sindh in its plan for the SNC?

Let the provinces decide for themselves which books they want to adopt. We hear news that the Punjab government may overthrow the average SNC. If Punjab cancels the college phase, the SNC will die their own death anyway since Sindh is already not on board.

TNS: What is the right way to go?

AR: This government has not been around for too long. Whether in three, six or twelve months, they cannot and must not introduce a policy that treads on the toes of the next elected government. The best way to use their time in education would be to ensure that primary school textbooks are corrected. Our children are not learning. They can’t read and they can’t write. Focus on that. The frills can come later.

Focus on teachers – train your teachers on the new curriculum so they know what is expected. Fix schools at the level of ICT and fix the non-formal school stream, which is in a sorry state. I know MoFEPT is currently working on a plan to address these issues, but this is only the beginning and there is a long and difficult way to go. Real change takes time and quick fixes lead nowhere. Beware of quick fixes.

Keep people informed and engaged and let them know that the desired change will come with good policies, but it will take time. Give them a roadmap and stick to it. Our last official education policy was announced in 2009. There was one formulated in 2017 but not officially adopted. Whenever the newly elected government arrives, their very first task should be to reimagine how we want to do education in this country, because the current system is clearly not working.


The interviewer is a staff reporter. He can be contacted at [email protected] He tweets at @waqargillani

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