Ignoring the need to reform the education system from its fundamentals, changing the method of examination, increasing resources, providing funds and infrastructure, and working on the growing number of children outside school to increase the country’s literacy; the government has decided to update the ideological parameters of the curriculum.
The days run off into eternity. An endless loop of them keeps turning over and over again. To the average Pakistani high school student, what distinguishes one day from another is the exam he has to give that evening in a coaching academy. A different subject designated for each day helps him keep track of the otherwise uneventful week. Something else that might go unnoticed in the face of his serious dedication to academics is the SNC ‘reforms’ planned to be brought forth. The fact that a student might not notice, much less care, what he is being taught speaks volumes about the pertinent state of education in the country and the illusions of remedies projected to maintain complacency.
Much has been said and written about the Single National Curriculum, its fallible content, and structural fallacies. Elite academics in exclusive universities have opined their insightful critique on the SNC in English dailies. A fraction of the percent of the Pakistani populace now feels enlightened. I do not intend to highlight the hypocritical content or less-than-low quality of SNC textbooks and strategies. Instead, I plan to prove that the SNC as a political gimmick has been highly successful. For populist regimes like that of IK, inducing an image of credibility has been very necessary for the political stability of their reigning party. This is called a cozenage. Historically, it has taken the form of skin-deep economic policies, budget-heavy defense strategies, and rhetoric-based foreign policies.
The education sector has now become a victim of attention by the ruling overlords. It was not a coincidence that they restricted their attention to those means of reforms that did not require a deserving amount of financial spending. Ignoring the need to reform the education system from its fundamentals, change the method of examination, increase resources, provide funding and infrastructure, and work on the growing number of children outside school to increase the country’s literacy; the government has decided to update the ideological parameters of the curriculum. Adding religious lessons in compulsory subjects and teaching bigotry in textbooks might not feel like much of a change to Pakistani students but the government has surely made it look so. An undeserving amount of screen time awarded to the spokespersons of government, effective in basing their claims on lies and seeping them into the public consciousness, has allowed them to pull off such a massive coup on the educational curriculum which in itself is an indicator of the sheer vulnerability of the ultimate stakeholders i.e. students. A massive number of state-influenced news outlets running around the clock were instrumental in increasing the outreach of these narratives.
The opposition utterly failed to put up a good resistance knowing sincerely that it could not do any better and profoundly aware that the affected students in schools don’t have the right to vote despite their huge numbers. The government succeeded in its implementation knowing sincerely that this would guarantee them votes from the population that does not go to school and profoundly aware that the one which does not have the political power to garner any attention. That was not all. Like all political topics in the country, the issue was soon out of date and conversation as nothing had happened.
The key takeaway for us is that the government did eventually succeed in pushing through the curriculum in classrooms without any amendments. A lot of people in the country are under the illusion that the previous government did something for the educational ‘apartheid’ and the ruling party can count on this for its next election campaign. The minds of future generations will be forged by a curriculum that has been discredited by researchers and policy analysts alike. A detrimental change in the education system has happened right under our noses and we don’t care to notice it. The Pakistani high school student will probably drive his motorbike home after the evening academy, fretting over the test he has the next day. He couldn’t care less about the SNC ‘reforms’ brought forth. One reason for that; the SNC was deliberately treated as just another political scandal with the attention span of a few days while it simply wasn’t.
Brilliant pieces by seasoned writers who, luckily, do not have memories of being a student in an oppressive structure of education, indicate that I must conclude my writing with the hint of a solution; a fickle of hope in the ashes of despair. The only problem is that I don’t see the only way out materializing any sooner i.e. greater representation of students in decision making is anywhere close to manifestation. Active and effective student unions seem further down the road while the religion-military alliance, aka our establishment, grounds its tentacles in public and private campuses across the country. I can’t hope for something that couldn’t be further from the truth. I will be graduating from school a year before the SNC is set to be imposed upon higher grades. It’s not as if the current curriculum is worth studying but I feel slightly relieved. Still, I feel for those yet to come. The irony is that they might not be able to feel for themselves. Why would the curriculum ever let any student doubt those very textbooks? All those who might care should brace for the imminent dark. Those who don’t care needn’t worry. With eyes firmly shut, it is already dark.