‘PTI’s Single National Curriculum (SNC) has it all; except what it should have: a shift from rote to conceptual learning; focus on creative abilities, elaborative assessments; comprehensive laboratory experimentation plan, and uplift from local to international standards of education. 

So, is there any light at the end of the SNC tunnel?

Single National Curriculum (SNC) pivots on the uniformity of the context of the books across the country. What seems entirely missing from the government comprehension is that the uniform textbooks do not guarantee even and essentially a better education. Trained teachers and appropriate assessments do. Giving no weightage to diminish rot learning and superficial assessment culture rampant across the country the SNC seems to be an exercise in futile, a face-saving for the lofty promises made by the government before it came to power. 

A pragmatic approach would be to take inspiration from the British education system (O-Level, A-Level, IB) running successfully in Pakistan for several decades. However, due to the high cost involved; only a handful can afford it. The system’s multifaceted strategy: high-quality latest content of the books, state-of-the-art teaching methodology, concept-building, and rigorous examinations based on knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and application makes it far superior compared to the local system.

Compare a chapter from two books: one from the local publishers for Matriculation/Intermediate and the other from the Oxford university press for GCE-O-A-Level. The quality of these books speaks volumes of their impacts on their users. While the local books are replete with errors and omissions, use thin paper and have poor quality printing; the books from the foreign publishers are a treat to oneself.

Apart from shabby cosmetics; the local textbooks are mostly content with the basic definitions of various topics adding few examples underneath before jumping to the next topic. The references for detailed study are extinct. Contrarily, the books for GCE O-Level and GCE A-Level elaborate every concept at length with relevant examples; giving references to other resource materials: both online and off-line. 

One might argue that both books carry similar topics; in fact, the number of topics in the books for the local examination is greater than in the GCE-O-A-Level books. This is true. However, the varied pattern of assessment of both streams and the “seriousness” with what they are conducted distinguishes one from the other. For GCE examinations, concepts are fundamental to sail through. The questions are ‘unseen’ and are based on critical thinking. Contrarily, for the local examination candidates are assessed for their ability to cram and reproduce. Students are only tested for the questions already given at the end of each chapter; except for the ones having associated diagrams because that costs more to print. ‘Guess papers’ are also there to further reduce the work

This leads to distrust in the quality of local school and board examinations. All the public and private universities have their entrance examination to filter out the students who once have been termed as ‘outstanding’ by their respective boards. Even job applicants have to go through National testing system (NTS) to ensure a minimum level of competency.

Those who are from central Punjab will know it is no surprise to see students from other parts of the country having exceptionally high scores being rejected by the top engineering and medical universities. 

Why does it happen? This is because these students are only trained to cram and never comprehend an unseen question in their twelve years of education.

A formative assessment on the lines of foreign examinations to monitor student learning can be the immediate help. The students can identify their strengths and weaknesses and focus on their deficiencies. Examples of formative assessment include asking students to draw a concept map in class to represent their understanding of the topic; write the main idea of the lecture or turn in a research proposal for early feedback.

Stagnation, neglect, malpractices, and lethargy in the education sector have brought the country at a tipping point where varsities lament for the new intakes and employers are unhappy.

It is a far-shot for the SNC to be a game-changer in education while offering roughly what we already have in the 2006 curriculum by the Musharraf’s government. Hence the quality of learning will hardly change from what it is in today’s public schools.