Aimed at standardising and modernising Pakistan’s education system, the new education policy enacted by PM Khan may instead cause further regression
Pakistan, under the Premiership of Imran Khan, has most unfortunately suffered reverses on almost all counts but the glaring criticism among his slew of failures which is going round is the flawed education policy. The policy likely to be implemented in the third year of Imran Khan's tenure i.e., in 2021, is marked with several serious gaps and they are also seen as unprecedented.
The recently announced Single National Curriculum (SNC), as part of the education policy, is thought to be more damaging than what was introduced by General Zia ul Haq during his despotic reign. A section of the Pakistani academics feel that the policy though superficially looks good, but it is beaten out of shape by the short-sighted persons now in charge of the Government. Lamentably, they are viewed as akin to adhere to a madrasa kind of education. To put things in perspective, it must be said that prior to his becoming the PM, Imran Khan was criticised in 2016-17, for supporting huge grants to late Samiul Haq — then head of Taliban, who was murdered.
Under the new proposed education policy, SNC plans for class one to five are in the public domain but the huge religious material it contains beats them all. There are two madrasa systems prevailing in Pakistan today. Tanzeem Ul Madaris and Rabatul Madaris. And, they reveal surprising facts due to considerable or excessive religious content they are meant to impart. Under the new policy, ordinary schools will henceforth impose more rote learning than any conventional learning. SNC calls for summoning a lot of people who are thought to be educated religious clerics — Hafizs and the Qaris as paid teachers inside the schools. The perceived push for a uniform material curriculum seems to be false and flawed. Here, a quality difference comes to the fore. Geography, social studies, etc., have to cover the same topics.
Experts feel that teaching methods of the new Pakistani education policy need to be strikingly modern and more scientific. They also estimate that the expectation that the new policy will equalise the gap between a private and a public school remains a false notion. Affluent and the poor schools will continue to maintain a wide gulf between them. As it is, madrasas appear reluctant to teach subjects like English, science and computers.
Critics of Imran, meanwhile, also allege that under Imran's rule, only the defence sector has received handsome grants while the educational segment stands marginalised with discriminatory treatment from the Federal Government. Although post 9/11, madrasas were described by the US security and intelligence agencies as terror breeding entities and under US pressure, Pervez Musharraf also caved in but the enforcement was half-hearted and remained largely complied to only on paper.
By a conservative estimate, Pakistani students perform very poorly in all national and international competitions especially in the subjects of science, English and mathematics. This is in sharp contrast to students of India, Bangladesh and even Iran. Most of the Pakistani students find it difficult to express themselves coherently and in a grammatically correct manner.
They are noticed for not reading enough so they remain ignorant and out of tune with current happenings. Significantly in Pakistan, Shias and Ahmadiyyas are exempt from Islamic studies but only at the cost of losing marks in tests and other competitive exams. A consensus against the religious minorities, therefore, remains a possibility.
There are also apprehensions that the SNC awaiting implementation in April 2021, is highly utopian. Imran detractors have also alleged that Imran Khan and his PTI's decision to make Arabic mandatory and translation of Quranic verses in the State of Punjab, is likely to adversely affect the churning out of professionals like doctors, engineers and scientists.
As Pakistan's newly proposed Education Policy is coming under severe criticism, Prime Minister Imran Khan is also being chided for his ridiculous remarks coming out of utter ignorance of elementary knowledge on various subjects. Very recently, speaking at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, Imran committed a faux pas by saying that the Soviet Union failed because it's a system of punishment and reward ended there. At the same event, interestingly, but not altogether surprising, Imran praised China for being the most advanced for its 'meritocracy'. This remark exceeded all limits and his own countrymen are finding it difficult to reconcile.
Similarly, as demonstrated on different occasions, his half-baked knowledge of believing that Turkey ruled India for six hundred years or Germany and Japan shared common borders or staying confused with the profiles of works of Khalil Gibran and Tagore speak poorly of the Prime Minister of a country which is known notoriously more for being regressive, for manufacturing terror and for stressing more on religious extremism and buckling under clerics' and military pressure. Amid these factors, the education policy under reference looks gravely flawed with a potential to take the country towards a crevasse of more backwardness.
The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are personal