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KARACHI, Oct 14: Sindh Senior Minister for Education and Literacy Nisar Ahmed Khuhro has constituted a 12-member advisory committee on textbook reforms in the province.

A notification issued by the provincial education ministry on Monday said: “the advisory committee will be reviewing the curriculum of primary schools, from class one to five, in order to identify the missing links, gaps and concepts in it. The committee will later also oversee the preparation of the new textbooks as per the reviewed and reformed curriculum.”

Shakeel Memon, a spokesman for the education minister, told Dawn that Mr Khuhro had formed the 12-member committee with careful consideration. “He wanted people, leaders actually, with expertise in different subjects and who were educationists as well,” he said.“The minister is hopeful that the committee will be able to promote human rights and democracy in the curriculum while eliminating discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity and religion.

“The minister said that while proposing the changes in curriculum the committee will also point out the duplication, overlapping, repetition, bias and other negative values affecting the learning, growth and world view of the students. He also said that the new curriculum for classes one to five for the academic year of 2014-2015 that is to be made available in March will be based on the recommendations of this newly-formed committee,” the spokesman said.

“Mr Khuhro has also received information that the textbooks that are supposed to be issued for free by the government schools are also being sold in the market. He has said that he will himself visit bookshops to unearth this scam.”

The 12-member committee comprises the director of the Institute of Education Development, Aga Khan University, Dr Mohammad Memon (convener of the committee); the director of the Bureau of Curriculum and Extension Wing, Jamshoro, Abdul Majeed Bhurt; the director of the Centre of Excellence Arts and Design, Mehran University, Dr Bhai Khan Shar; ex-vice chancellor of Shah Latif University Dr Neelofer Shaikh; Prof Fateh Muhammad Burfat of the Sociology Department, University of Karachi; Dr Mohammad Qasim Bughio; Dr Parveen Munshi; Dr Bernadette Dean; Prof Fouzia Khan, Prof Zakia Sarwar, Dr Mohammad Yar Khawar, Uneza Alvi and Abdul Faheem Noonari.

Meanwhile, the convener of the committee, Dr Mohammad Memon, said that it was a very good initiative taken by the government for the betterment of primary school education. “Earlier, the textbooks would be produced without getting any input of the experts but now at least we will have a say in the school curriculum and its design. This way the education ministry would be able to streamline the process of designing textbooks and curriculums,” he said.

About the number of members in the committee, Dr Memon said that earlier the Sindh Textbook Board had formed another committee with too many people, which would have made this task rather difficult with egos clashing. “There was an earlier committee with similar duties, too, but I advised them to reduce the number so that no one got in anyone’s way,” he laughed.

About its work, he said: “Well, it is an advisory committee that will review the books and curriculum to recommend what is needed where. Then after we are through with our recommendations, as a second round there will be another committee, the curriculum committee, in place, too, that will be reviewing our recommendations. And after that another committee will also be reviewing the outcome of this initiative,” he said.

With just over four months to March when the new textbooks are to be made available, there is not much time to find the problems in the primary school curriculum but Dr Memon said that although they were all busy people, they would make time for it. “With a shortage of quality teachers and a huge need for improvement in our education we have to make time for a national cause. But we do recommend more time for work on the other coming years,” he said.