This is with reference to the article by Pervez Hoodbhoy ‘Education: PTIs plan exposed’ (July 18). There are a number of inaccuracies in it. To begin: I would like to clarify a misstatement. The writer asserts that the Single National Curriculum calls for “summoning an army of madressah educated holy men — Hafiz and Qaris’ as paid teachers inside schools.” This is wrong. The SNC does not mandate any such thing. It is a curriculum proposal, not a job allocating format. In fact, the federal government, which is leading the curriculum exercise, has no role in recruiting teachers, which is done by the provincial governments.

Having said that, if a provincial government chooses to hire madressah educated Qaris to teach Islamiat what is wrong with that? Why this bias against institutions that have been teaching the poorest of the poor children (by one estimate about three million) without taking a penny from the government. They may not be doing a perfect job but is everyone else?

Some of this other assumptions are also misplaced. A national curriculum is being made not because it is considered a panacea for all ills afflicting our education system but to try and begin righting a basic wrong: a class-based division of education in Pakistan.

Three distinct streams of education have emerged largely based on income. The elite largely studies in English with foreign certification. It is most advantageously placed, because the language of government, courts, corporate, higher education and more is English. The second tier is of low fee private schools and the large number of government schools that lead to matriculation but the medium of instruction is Urdu. The same is true of madressahs, the third tier, with the added disadvantage that their degrees are not recognised.

This division into different streams is not only unjust for the majority who have difficulty competing with the elite but it also fractures the national psyche. Education provides a way of perceiving the world and with different curriculums and modes of instruction colouring these perceptions, the nation gets divided with huge consequences. English is now not just a language but a class in Pakistan. The SNC is an attempt to remove some of the injustices and also reduce the perceptual differences within society that have so hurt us.

One last thing: it is ridiculous to assert that SNC kowtows to the madressah establishment. They have been consulted, as they should be, as have provincial governments, academics and all segments of society.

Shafqat Mahmood

Federal Education Minister

Islamabad

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2020

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