In a recent meeting with senior officials, Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, makes a bold claim that the new curriculum aiming to be implemented in the next school year will create equal opportunities for all, ending a long-standing class-based system across the country. While government officials may be optimistic about this plan, there are a mass of critics opposed to this ‘new’ proposed system, and also many with conflicting views on the Prime Minister himself.
A longstanding Pakistan-based newsgroup, Dawn News, reported on the meeting. Dawn News is the country’s oldest English-language newspaper and was originally founded as a platform for the “Muslim League,” a political party whom advocated for the establishment of a separate Muslim-majority nation-state throughout the early to mid 1900s. Due to this, it may be fair to assume the news group is lacking in a voice for the minorities of the country.
This article in particular was rather devoid of detail, ironic considering the significance of the change they plan to undertake and the powerful title, “Uniform Education to End Class-Based System.” Instead, the author highlighted the Prime Minister and Federal Education Minister’s mention of how the curriculum will encompass Islam-centered education. The recount of the meeting was short and brief but was sure to mention religious links within the recently developed curriculum. The juxtaposition of the new proposed curriculum and who is reporting about it is no accident.
A contrasting article by the Gandhara news group has a different take on the matter. Gandhara is an English new source in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are part of the Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty organization which is a nonprofit funded by a United States grant. The mission of the group is to promote democratic values and institutions and advance human rights by reporting news in areas where the practice of free press is banned or not fully established.
The author, Zubair Torwali, is a Pakistani activist, research, writer and promoter of indigenous language. At the start of the article, much different to the Dawn article, Torwali includes a photo of around 25 young girls with face masks on, sitting in their classroom on the first day of school. Whereas the photo presented in the Dawn article instead included the Prime Minister Khan chairing the meeting alongside other officials, all wearing protective face masks. This raises the question: who is this curriculum benefitting?
Through his strong and unyielding tone, Torwali states his many critiques against the curriculum implementation citing unconstitutional acts being done, mentioning the lack of sound research on the matter, and questioning the legitimacy of equality that is said will be promoted. Similar to Towarli’s take on the matter, there were countless comments on the Dawn article: “Just what we need. Forced education of Islam on the youth. That is certainly not going to cause radicalization…” And another: “Who are the experts, academics, educationalists who are in the meeting to devise this strategy?” It is evident there are strong emotions about this issue.
For the year of 2020, Pakistan ranked 145 out of 180 countries on the Press Freedom Ranking Index. Additionally, their abuse score was 62.48. Meaning, media reporters can face serious consequences based on the news they report. Whereas a country such as the United Kingdom was ranked 35 out of 180 with an abuse score of 45. This is due to legal binding and laws against the freedom of press in countries such as Pakistan that were identified as “more difficult situations” in terms of press.
It is unclear of when and if this curriculum will be implemented. The aim of the Prime Minister and other senior officials is to put it into effect at the start of the 2021 academic year. While some of the curriculum objectives within the framework are commendable, it is not necessarily clear as to how it will actually create equal opportunities for all students and ensure equity in education. Instead, they might be viewed as baseless statements without much to back them up. It is crucial to consider how in fact these “objectives” would translate into pedagogical practice within the four walls of classrooms. What could the negative effects be of an undertaking such as this? How could this change the face of education in Pakistan? How could minorities be affected by this change?
Written by Alexis Golden
- Abbasi, K. (2020, November 3). Uniform education to end class-based system: PM. Dawn. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from Dawn
- Freedom of the press in Pakistan. (2020, October 24). Retrieved from Wikipedia
- Muslim League. (N.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from Britannica
- Reporters Without Borders. (2020). 2020 World Press Freedom Index. RSF.
- Single National Curriculum (2020). Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training
- Torwali, Z. (2020, November 5). In Pakistan, A Single National Curriculum Equals Indoctrination And Assimilation. Gandhara. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from Gandhara
- [Untitled image of youth in classroom] [Photograph]. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training
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