Centre, Sindh on warpath over one curriculum issue

Published August 18, 2021
Sindh Education Minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah addresses a press conference in Karachi on Aug 8. — DawnNewsTV/File
Sindh Education Minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah addresses a press conference in Karachi on Aug 8. — DawnNewsTV/File

HYDERABAD: Sindh government has disapproved federal government’s policy of single national curriculum (SNC) for public and private sector educational institutions. It believes that since education is a provincial and devolved subject, the federal government could not impose it on provinces.

The prime minister has decided to introduce a single curriculum for the country in line with his principled position on education syllabi – a decision strongly opposed by the newly-appointed Sindh education minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah.

“I think it is a PTI syllabi and PTI should be teaching it in provinces where it is ruling. But I am wondering how can Punjab or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa agree to it at the cost of their provincial autonomy,” says the minister.

The PM has been advocating a single curriculum for a long time. And before the recent decision no meaningful consultation is seen between Sindh and federal government. Friction between PTI and PPP governments over the issues of water and NFC Award is quite evident. The single curriculum introduction is a fresh controversy.

In its manifesto unveiled in 2018, the PTI had talked about “most ambitious education agenda in Pakistan’s history, spanning reforms of primary, secondary, tertiary, vocational and special education. Since devolution of education to provinces, a national consensus on critical matter of equity in education has been evasive. It said that Pakistan’s National Curriculum has not been reviewed or updated in the last 12 years, and no national consensus on the medium of instruction and teaching of languages exists.

“We have Sindhi [language] as a medium of instruction as well,” says education minister. He said that federal government wants ‘English’ and ‘Urdu’ alone as the medium of instructions. “Secondly, the SNC is heavily loaded which children might find it hard to understand,” he said. He argued that “we are also teaching religion but SNC is talking too much of religion”. Mr Shah questions quality of SNC, claiming that it is of low quality.

“I think there is concept of adjusting syllabi in local and region context,” says Inam Sheikh, an educationist. He says that he has not seen SNC but believes that syllabi should be designed in a view that students can have understanding of the local environs. “When syllabi are contextualised in local sense, it helps students understand subjects theoretically and practically,” he says.

Zulfiqar Halepoto, a former PTI activist, agrees with Inam. He points out that Sindh’s viewpoint in the backdrop of devolved subject and 18th Constitutional Amendment is correct. “But I personally stand for one tier of entire education structure in the country to do away with multiple tiers of systems of education,” he argues.

Mr Halepoto says that since there is a tendency that federal government usually does not take provinces on board and prefers unilateral decisions, this is bound to lead to a controversy. Had the PM consulted provinces, it would have been better, he quipped.

“The PM has been talking about one education system and thus has started with SNC. He may now go for having one education system. To me, this is not wrong outright and we have perhaps been pressing for this point,” he says.

He adds that progressive forces have been calling for mainstreaming the seminaries and when the initiative is being taken this controversy has popped up. “Agreements with 3,500 seminaries are said to have been signed to enable them to impart education of other subjects like science and social studies,” he says.

Besides, STB’s syllabi, Sindh’s educational institutions — private ones — are also imparting education based on the Cambridge and Oxford education system.

Sindh education minister also hints at revising STB’s syllabi which he concedes is old, thus needing revision. The education minister wants to consult stakeholders including private educational institutions. He also plans to convene a meeting of curriculum council soon.

“Teaching methodologies are changing and it is the era of artificial intelligence. We can’t work in isolation. So, we are having all these factors in mind and we will soon be coming up with our own strategy on syllabi,” promises the minister while talking to Dawn on Tuesday.

He reiterated that Sindh government had communicated its reservation over the SNC much before he was given the education portfolio again. But he is firm that the SNC impinges on provincial autonomy. “It [SNC] is a matter falling in the Legislative List-II and, therefore, we as a province have to deal with it. PTI can tackle the issue of Legislative List-I,” he says.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2021

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