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Education in Pakistan

- before and beyond the SNC-

By Ahmed Raza

To keep up with the current world, quality education is necessary. A good education allows people to gain valuable skills that will help them succeed in the work market. But, before that, it's critical to remember that education should be affordable and accessible to individuals from all walks of life. If we examine the literacy statistics,

we can see that not only is our general literacy rate static at 60% since 2015, but it also differs by province. Furthermore, challenges such as infrastructure, equality, and affordability plague Pakistan's educational system. Inequity exists in many areas, but when it comes to excellent education the difference is rather prominent. The degree of teacher training and the quality of books available in public schools is significantly lower than in private schools. Moreover, Madrassas, which are primarily responsible for religious instruction, are chronically underfunded, and as a result, they are falling behind in the information necessary to survive and compete in the contemporary world. Let’s look at the basic breakdown of it. Types of Education in Pakistan:

In Pakistan, there are primarily two types of educational systems. Public and private schools, colleges, and universities make up the modern educational system. The government is responsible for upholding public institutions, which are sometimes disregarded as a result. The second group is private institutions, which are owned and run by private corporations. There are two types of private institutions as well. Students from these schools take provincial board exams, and one offers HSC/SSC certification. While O/A level certification is available from some high-priced private institutes. Intermediate is the equivalent of A level, and Matriculation is the equivalent of O level. The University of Cambridge offers an O/A level, which emphasizes comprehension rather than rote learning, drawing upon the British educational system. On the other hand, our matric and inter students must pass their board exams purely on the basis of what they remember from the texts. These two approaches, coupled with other factors such as teachers, extracurricular activities, and more exposure, enable O/A level students to thrive in terms of learning outcomes when compared to HSC/SSC students in private and public schools. When individuals from very diverse educational backgrounds meet at universities, this gap becomes even more apparent. Students in the A/O level have already developed their reasoning and critical thinking skills, but students in the HSC/SSC levels have less knowledge and confidence when it comes to expressing their personal opinions and thoughts. In both circumstances, the teaching style and classroom environment are diametrically opposed. Because education in Pakistan has become a business, institutions that offer O/A level courses charge higher prices to ensure the quality which a poor person cannot afford. Then there are the Madrassas, which are at the bottom of the food chain, with children who do not know English and who receive their education entirely in Urdu. Due to a lack of finance, these institutes lack awareness, contemporary instruments, and well-educated teachers, preventing them from progressing. Despite their strong moral convictions, these children are lagging behind in terms of academic achievement.

SNC: To eliminate the discrepancy between educational systems, Prime Minister Khan's government chose to create a Single National Curriculum (SNC). The purpose is to standardize and combine religious and modern educational systems in order to bridge the gap between them. SNC aspires to instill moral qualities in children through Islamic teachings, as well as elevating madrassas to the status of modern institutions. The current system, according to Shafqat Mehmood, the Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training, benefited just a select set of people, while public school and Madrassa students were lagging behind, and SNC is here to help. He also stated that students will develop a sense of nationalism as a result of the introduction of a consistent curriculum. This SNC will eliminate inequity and class differences by drawing inspiration from the educational systems of the United Kingdom, Japan, and China.

In an interview on Shar Tariq's show Thinkfest Pakistan, Dr. Maryam Chugtai, Director of the National Curriculum Commission, highlighted the positive aspects of the national curriculum. She stated that the new curriculum is aligned with worldwide standards in order to meet the needs of the national education system. In contrast to previously outdated content, the 5th grade English book includes a chapter on entrepreneurship, which is a relatively new area in Pakistan. According to Dr. Maryam new curriculum defines basic minimum criteria for each grade, guaranteeing that children acquire the same content and receive equal treatment regardless of where they obtain their education. A third-grade pupil, for example, should be familiar with fractions whether he attends a school or a madrassa. Moreover, provinces and religious factions are better served by a common national curriculum. Also, Pakistan Study has been replaced with General Knowledge for grades one to three, according to Moashrraf Ziadi, a weekly columnist for The News International. While all of this appears to be quite beneficial, SNC has been heavily criticised since its release for primary schools this fall. Behind this upbeat exterior, there are underlying problems. Ramifications of SNC: So far, overburdening subjects with Islamic content and making them essential to pass in order to advance to the next level has been a big source of worry. This is a problem for Pakistani minorities: will they be able to memorize everything and pass the exams? Furthermore, in standardising the explanations of Islamic principles - all of which are of course, subjective - the SNC could further fuel sectarian violence and division, which is precisely what it seeks to eliminate. These concerns can also be applied to other subjects, where rather than stimulating debate and critical thinking, standardisation can result in a tunnel-vision like approach.

In the past, our assessment system can be blamed for the development of a rotten learning culture. Improved assessment methods that can examine knowledge rather than retention are necessary to ensure that students grow by learning how to think, rather than what to think.

Another key source of concern is the people in charge of driving change and putting SNC's vision into action. Are teachers, particularly those from public schools, capable of putting this together? Are they qualified to teach sensitive topics? Are they open-minded enough to respond to students' critical questions? Finally, if the government truly cares about education, why is our education budget so low? To really provide equality, public schools require better infrastructure and modern classrooms, while Madrassas require the installation of computer laboratories and other up-to-date equipment to perform according to SNC's vision. Conclusion: SNC is currently facing a lot of opposition and criticism. Will it be able to disprove all of these fears? Will SNC be the first step towards equality in Pakistan, despite hurdles such as a wide range of educational systems? Or, like other initiatives, will it be forgotten? Is revising the curriculum likely to have a positive impact on Pakistani children's education in the future, or is it just another pipe dream? Time will tell, but for now, let's hope for the best and strive to make an influence on a personal level.

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