Pakistan’s Educational Policy By Aliya Anjum

Pakistan’s ranking on the Human Development Index (HDI) in 2020 was 154 out of a total of 189 countries.

The HDI employs three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life; access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

The state’s priorities should have addressed hunger and malnutrition before focusing on education. Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan obligates the state to provide free and compulsory quality education to children between the ages of five and 16 years.

Instead, the PM invested in Naya Pakistan, and a five-million unit public housing scheme financed through World Bank’s loans. If we were to increase external debt, we should have utilised it to educate our people.

Imagine if he had built one million well-equipped schools, trained twice as many teachers and given financial incentives to ensure school enrollment/drastically reduce the drop-out ratio.

In just one decade, we could have changed the destiny of our nation.

The SNC objectives can be summed up as socio-religious nationalism, which is a personal conviction of the prime minister, as is evident from his frequent references to Riyasat-e-Medina.

However, the curriculum was not our core issue. Our main impediments were non-existent or decrepit schools, ghost schools, poor quality of teachers, a high drop-out ratio and gender disparity in education.

Zia-ul-Haq’s approach towards religiosity has bred bigotry, intolerance, misogyny and militancy.

None of these issues has been addressed and they collectively stand to undermine any educational initiative.

At present, there are three parallel systems of education in Pakistan: public; madrassah; and private.

Integrating the madrassah system with the public educational system is truly a commendable step. This should have a profound impact upon our clergy’s intellectual capability, which in turn can transform society.

The current curriculum was devised taking on board all stakeholders: All federating units; public sector; private sector; Federal Government Educational Institutions (FGEIs) Cantts & Garrisons; Deeni Madaris (Madrassahs); Cambridge University UK for English, Maths and Science; LUMS; and AKU-IED.

A well-thought-out curriculum, devised by experts and benchmarked against Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian and British standards can substantially raise educational standards.

Ministry of Education’s official website states: The SNC focuses on equipping learners with principles and attributes, such as truthfulness, honesty, tolerance, respect, peaceful coexistence, environmental awareness, democracy, human rights, sustainable development, global citizenship, personal care and safety.

Islamiyat, which is now a separate subject from grade 1, should be the vehicle to teach the above-mentioned values. The Quran-the verbatim word of God-contains verses that clearly command these behaviours and attitudes.

This would bring a positive social change. A Muslim child, who grows up learning these principles as core Islamic values, is going to be a true believer. One, who embodies the highest standards of ethics and humane values. This is possibly partially implemented through the two proposed additional strands of “Husn-e-Muamlat o Muashrat” and “Islami Taleemat aur Dour-e-Hazir ke Taqazay,” but it needs to be the core element of Islamiyat, not an additional strand.

In the 1980s, Zia-ul-Haq groomed us for religiosity emphasising (empty) ritual and rote-learning with hifz, Nazira and hadith narration. However, this approach towards religiosity has bred bigotry, intolerance, misogyny and militancy.

This current mode of religious instruction serves as the breeding ground for militant political Islam. It is single-handedly the biggest challenge facing Pakistan.

A well-conceived Islamiyat curriculum would produce Muslim pupils, whose informed worldview is peaceful, tolerant and progressive.

Religion must then not be interjected in secular subjects, except in the sociological context. The Judeo-Christian west bases its secular history on the Bible and predicates a Eurocentric version of world history on that. An Islamic worldview is global, integrationist and very fluid, as it’s the intellectual trajectory of an Islamic psyche.

This intellectually unprecedented historical narrative will decimate colonial hangovers and equip our nation’s children with self-esteem, impeccable civic sense and a global worldview.

That is how Islamiyat can build a great nation.

Within the secular curriculum, replacing Science and Social Studies with General Knowledge for grades 1 to 3 is counter-intuitive. Science and Social studies are imperative for quality education. This move is extremely disappointing.

The bigger flaw perhaps lies in enforcing Urdu as the medium of instruction for General knowledge. Proficiency in English is a must for keeping pace with the developed world. Compromising the English language skills of the private sector school children to achieve socialist objectives is one step forward and two steps back. The state must not subvert the privileged to create parity with the underprivileged. This is not how social inequality should be addressed.

Under Zia-ul-Haq, the Cambridge system experienced a mushroom growth due to the forcible shift to Urdu as the medium of instruction from 1985 through 1987. It caused tremendous damage to our educational system and increased our reliance on private schools, which turned education into a business.

If we repeat this mistake, the SNC would not be a tenable initiative.

The writer is an independent researcher, author and columnist. She can be reached at aliya1924@gmail.com​

Source: Published in Daily Times

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