On August 16, 2021, Prime Minister Imran Khan officially launched the Single National Curriculum (SNC). The newly launched curriculum was prepared by the National Curriculum Council (NCC) and the Ministry of Federal Education, in consultation with the provinces. According to PM Khan, “SNC would transform the nation into a unified one.”
What is SNC?
According to the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, the SNC is a ‘uniform’ system of education, which means the same curriculum for everyone. All public schools, private schools, and madrassas were meant to have the same curriculum so that the learning outcomes are similar and without any discrimination in teaching standards. This is not the first time SNC was imposed in Pakistan. It was previously introduced in 2006 by Former President Musharraf. Whereas the previous SNC was a curriculum-based initiative, the one introduced by the PTI government is imposing the use of the textbooks produced by the provincial boards.
Is it being implemented across the country?
No. Sindh has decided not to implement the curriculum since education is a provincial issue. Only Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have enforced it so far. However, many schools in both provinces — including the prestigious Aitchison College, Lahore — expressed their concerns over the books in the curriculum. The Director of the National Curriculum Council (NCC), Dr Mariam Chughtai, has also said that madrassas will implement the SNC syllabus in five to six years, which undermines the reason why the government had wanted to introduce the SNC in Pakistan – to bring madrassas into the mainstream so students would be able to get jobs in other professions after they graduated.
Controversies surrounding the SNC
After the SNC syllabus was imposed on schools across Punjab, many controversies surrounding the books and the curriculum came forward. From the disparity in gender representation, the reinforcement of patriarchal gender roles, the lack of female heroes, and religious texts in the non-religious books.
To see if the criticism is valid, The Current analysed the following books published under the Punjab Textbook Board (PTB):
Urdu books from grades 1 to 5, English books from grades 1-5, Mathematics books grades 1, 2, 4, and 5, General Science grades 4-5, Waqfiyat Aama grade 1 and 3, Social Studies 4-5, and Islamiat grade 1- 5.
Two books were not available at the time of research. Grade 3 Math and Waqfiyat Aama grade 2, which have not been included in the study.
The analysis here has been divided into two parts.
Part one comprises the data analysis of all the books included in the SNC by the Punjab Text Book board.
Part two comprises the data analysis of individual subjects being taught to the students.
We studied the total number of male and female representations in the books, a comparison of the eastern and western wear of both genders, the presence of religious (Islam and others) content in non-religious books, and studying the distribution of power roles assigned to both men and women.
Here is the list of most common criticism against the curriculum and the evidence we found:
SUMMARY OF CONTENT IN ALL SNC BOOKS
1- Disparity in Gender Representation:
One of the most debatable points in the entire SNC is the representation of men and women.
After a thorough evaluation, we found that the concerns about the disparity in gender representation are TRUE.
The study reveals that a total of 60.2 percent of the books have images of men, including boys and only 39.4 percent of the books have images of women, including girls.
2-Women represented in hijab vs non-hijab, and women in western clothes:
What the women are wearing became a source of contention in the discussion about the SNC, with critics suggesting that the women should equally represent the country in terms of the hijab, eastern clothes, and the choice to wear western wear.
It is TRUE that there is no equal representation of women’s appearance in the books.
Women’s appearance was divided into three categories.
A) Number of women wearing eastern clothes with hijab.
B) Number of women wearing eastern clothes without hijab.
C) Number of women wearing western clothes.
Our research shows that 41.6% of all women and girls in the SNC books are wearing a hijab, 28.9% are wearing eastern clothes without a hijab, and 29.4% of the images show girls wearing western wear. It is important to note that in the western wear percentage, almost all of the images are of young girls. Older women are not shown wearing western wear.
3-Men represented in eastern vs western clothes:
Since the appearance of women in eastern wear and hijab became controversial, we also studied how many times men appeared in western or eastern wear.
A massive 79.9 percent of men were seen wearing western clothes, in comparison to 20 percent dressed in eastern clothes.
4- More men in ‘power roles’ compared to women:
Another controversy suggested that the books did not show women in positions of ‘power’, and they were mostly listed as helpers or homemakers. While there were many images that showed women in ‘inferior roles’ to men, there were women that were shown in roles of power.
This controversy is TRUE.
We defined power roles shown in the books as doctor, pilot, lawyer, police officer, traffic warden, army sports personality, etc and after analysing all the books, we found that a men are given power roles three times more than women. The results in the graphic below are based on the total number of images shown of men and women in all the SNC Punjab books.
5. Religious content in non-religious books
In almost all the books which were studied, we saw the presence of religious references or mentions in non-religious books. Minorities felt their rights were being compromised since books that are not for religious studies should not have references to a specific religion, which may come under the context of ‘preaching’.
In our analysis, we saw a total of 7.77 percent of religious text in all SNC non-religious books, which lends TRUTH to the fact that there is religious content in non-religious books.
Religious content is present in 7.7 percent of English, Math, Social Studies, Urdu, Science, and General Knowledge books.
7.47 percent of books have references to Islam while 0.27 percent mention other religions in all non-religious books.
Dr Mariam Chughtai, while answering a question for The Current about the religious references in non-religious books, did not provide a clear answer but stated that these are model books that require changes.
SNC BOOKS ANALYSIS – SUBJECT ANALYSIS
This section of the report comprises an analysis of individual subjects being taught to students. The subjects under study were, Urdu books from grades 1-5, English books from grades 1-5, Mathematics books grades 1, 2,4, and 5, General Science grades 4- 5, Waqfiyat Aama (General Knowledge) grades 1-3, Muashrati Uloom (Social Studies) grades 4-5.
The graphical representation of the subject-wise evaluation is as follows:
In 668 pages of English books, 58.1 percent have male representation while females have 41.8 percent.
29.7 percent of women are seen with Hijab and 70.2 percent are without Hijab.
There is a total of 9.8 percent presence of religious text in English books. This is based on the total number of pages in English books.
In 672 pages of the Math books, when gender representation was analysed, 51.1 percent of the books have male representation and 48.8 percent have female representation.
A total of 53.9 percent of females are seen without hijab and 46 percent are seen wearing hijab.
The Math books have a 4.1 percent presence of religious text. This is based on the total number of pages in Math books.
The five Urdu books comprising 791 pages. A total of 59.7 percent presence of males are seen as compared to 40.4 percent of females.
58.5 percent of women/girls are seen wearing hijab and 41.4 percent are seen without hijab.
12.8 percent of religious text is present in Urdu books. This is based on the total number of pages in Urdu books.
Out of 310 pages, 76.8 percent have male representation as compared to 23.1 percent female representation.
64 percent of women/girls are seen without hijab and 36 percent of women/girls are seen with hijab.
The General Science books have a 0.96 percent presence of religious content. This is based on the total number of pages in Science books.
Waqfiyat Aama (General Knowledge):
49.5 percent of male images are seen in comparison to 50.15 percent of females.
23.1 percent of females are seen with hijab and 76.8 percent without hijab.
There is a 4.7 percent presence of religious text in the books studied. This is based on the total number of pages in General Knowledge books.
Muasharti Uloom (Social Studies):
From 234 pages analysed, 65.1 percent of men/boys are represented in the books and 34.8 percent of females are shown.
36.8 percent of females are seen without hijab and 63.1 percent are seen with hijab.
10.2 percent of religious content is present in the books. This is based on the total number of pages in Social Studies books.
The last portion of the report highlights the pros and cons, which we have observed in almost all the books. We have provided both positive and negative outcomes deduced from the books after careful analysis.
The positive outcome deduced from the books:
1. The books are locally published and designed. The books are affordable, with a total set for one grade set at Rs. 800 per child according to Dr Chughtai.
2. There is a public service message printed at the end of each book to raise awareness against talking to strangers, crossing the road, exercising, and even information about fighting dengue.
The possible negative impact of the books
1. After analysing the books, we deduced that mostly nuclear families have been shown in the books. No representation of single parents or children being raised by guardians is seen. Moreover, the presence of both parents is seen as almost essential in all stories in the books.
2. Women are mostly shown doing domestic work, taking care of the family, and looking after their children. In stories as well, they seem to come second to their male counterparts.
3. As discussed in detail above, there is the presence of religious text in non-religious books.
4. The stylisation of the books are difficult to understand, fonts and texts are way too clustered. The quality of the pages is not refined, making them unattractive and confusing for students.
According to NCC director, Dr Chughtai, the curriculum is an evolving process and the books can be changed in future publications, based on the response by schools and parents. The biggest hurdle to the books is that the teachers have not been trained in teaching these new books and according to Dr Chughtai, it is up to the school to teach and implement the books. There are no worksheets given with the books and from initial student reactions, students are confused and wary of books that are laid out in a clustered fashion. There is also the subject of a language change. Where students study general knowledge, a precursor to Science, in Urdu, they switch to difficult English in grades 4-5.
While the government should be commended in trying to create a national syllabus, the forced enforcement of the books along with the lack of supplemental information and training will make this very difficult for teachers and students. Moreover, parents should be given a choice as to what they want their children to study. This implementation should be a free choice rather than that of enforcement. What would have been a practical approach is that the government should have improved the structure of the government/public schools, provided better teacher training, spent more on financially improving the conditions rather than lowering the standard for all.
*Graphics credits: Asma Ahmad (Graphic Designer)
How did we collect the data?
The percentage of male characters in the books: Divided the total number of male by the total number of characters.
The percentage of female characters in the books: Divided the total number of female by the total number of characters.
The percentage of Islam: Divided the Islamic pictures or references given in the books by the number of total pages of all books.
The percentage of other religion: Divided the other religions pictures or reference given in the books by the number of total pages of all books.
The percentage of female power roles: Divided the number of female by the total number of characters (female and male).
The percentage of male power roles: Divided the total number of male by the total number of characters (female and male).
The same process/calculation/method was applied to the findings of each book.
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