There are many issues with the Single National Curriculum (CNS) that have been highlighted by many people in numerous forums over the past few months. Proceeding from the legality of a single study program after the 18th Amendment and why we need a “single” study program as opposed to a “minimum standard” study program, even if the goal is equal opportunities, to issues related to increasing religious content in Islam as well as other subjects, every aspect has been addressed.
The process by which the program was developed has also been questioned. The books that came out of the process have been widely criticized when it comes to issues of gender inequality, stereotypes, religious content, language issues and even poor print quality. The process for approving books as well as the process by which SNC is implemented, or imposed on all, has also been criticized.
Initially, the government’s response to all of this was to push back by saying that the critics were taking things out of context, criticizing issues that were present even in previous national programs (although here the question was whether there was problems with previous programs, if the CNS had not fixed them), and was selective evidence.
Read: The much-vaunted single national agenda is more a leap back than a step forward
Then the officials started saying that those who criticized the SNC were the “privileged” classes and the “mafias” and people with a “slave mentality” who were captivated by the West and the importance of the language. English. While this also raises the question that even if someone is “privileged,” how their criticism becomes less important or valuable is another question. Clearly, the state was unwilling to engage with what the critics were saying.
Has the government collated all comments regarding the SNC?
The tone has changed a bit lately. It became more calming. While there is no engagement with the broader issues of “unique” versus “minimum” and / or the 18th Amendment issue, we have heard statements that have acknowledged that SNC and the books that have been written under it are not perfect, that there can be no improvement and that the program and the books are “living documents” and will be revised periodically in the light of comments. Is this a political step to take the breath away to detractors and their critics or a real offer of dialogue? Only time will tell, but if the history of policy making and reform holds any lessons for critics, there seems little reason to feel good.
The government said that even when developing the current SNC documents and manuals, it consulted “extensively” with experts. It is said that more than “400” experts, local and foreign, were consulted and that their comments and reactions were taken into account and taken into account. This begs the question of why we still have such a flawed document and why, even as the books are sent to schools and the new SNC and the books go into effect, there is already so much criticism.
It also raises the interesting question of what it means to “consult” experts and “respond” to their comments. If you get expert commentary on an issue, is it a “consultation”? If you receive comments but don’t even read them and / or see how things might need to change to respond to the comments, does that still mean that the expert comments have been “answered”? The Ministry of Education website at least doesn’t really give any details on the expert contributions, how they were put together, and how they were handled in the initial process. In fact, I doubt that the “experts” were made aware of how their contributions were handled.
But beyond the expert groups, people have been writing about SNC for some time now. Has the government collated all of the published comments and determined how it will respond to them?
Even now the government has said it is listening, but it has not said how it is listening. They didn’t say what and who they were listening to. They did not mention any process by which reforms will be carried out and criticisms will be brought to the attention of relevant policy makers. They have not advertised any formal process and / or means by which people can provide comments and contributions. They have not announced any means by which people will know if their contributions have been heard and / or received a response. How can there be “dialogue” in such a situation?
Some people mentioned that they had been invited to a stakeholder consultation or stakeholder feedback meeting. But who decides who gets invited? How is it decided? More importantly, how are “stakeholder” meetings a meaningful way to have this dialogue and get feedback? How will people know if their point of view has been heard even if it was recorded at a stakeholder meeting? Usually, “stakeholder” meetings are held only to show that people have been consulted and heard even when there is no intention to engage and no intention to incorporate feedback. What are the government’s objectives in this matter?
The Department of Education is also now working on the curriculum for grades 6-8 and, possibly, 9-12. What process changes do they make, in light of the experience of CNS exercise at the primary level, to ensure a much better contribution and a much wider participation of different stakeholders? If it is recognized that the last process led to a product that “could have been better”, how is the current process changed to ensure that future products are better? We have yet to hear anything from the department on this matter.
If the government is serious about having proper consultation and a feedback loop, it must advertise a credible and transparent process by which it engages and works through feedback. But it is something that is always expected. Other than that, talking about improving the CNS and textbooks is just that: talking.
The author is a senior researcher at the Institute for Development and Economic Alternatives and Associate Professor of Economics at Lums.
Posted in Dawn, le September 17, 2021