The new education reforms, which are the talk of the town, nowadays are being appreciated by some and opposed by others. The reforms promise a uniform education system across Pakistan (the exception being O/A levels systems). Introduction of a uniform curriculum throughout the country is a welcome step as it would mean better textbooks and good education, providing an even playing field to all students. The reforms aim to streamline religious education as well by improving their current curricula. Under the reforms, the madrassahs will teach the normal educational curriculum alongside the Holy Quran and related religious books.

The reforms will start from class 1 and gradually make its way to the college level. The Education Minister Mr Shafqat Mehmood said that same books will be taught in all educational institutions at primary level by 2021. By 2023 the uniform education system will be implemented up to matric as well as college levels. The education minister clarified that the government would do “necessary legislation” to implement this new education system in the country.

All this sounds good, but the task does not appear to be that simple and raises several questions. Currently, there are several education boards in Pakistan including Federal and Provincial Boards. Does the proposed system intend to merge all education boards and control all educational related activities through one mega Board? If so, how would it bypass the 18th amendment our Constitution which has devolved the subject of education to the Provinces? Furthermore, the proposed reforms aim to introduce concept-based education, but would the teachers in the less privileged schools, who are accustomed to “ratta system” be able to cope with the conceptual education system? Do they have the capability and training for that?

Learning from experience, the new curriculum should be well thought out, error-free and updated on the basis of new research especially in the field of science and technology, which is an ever-changing dynamic area. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that one learns faster and better if taught in the mother tongue. Unfortunately, education has never been a priority of the governments in the past, which is evident from the meagre funds allocated to it (which also do not reach the students fully for the reasons known to all). The Constitution of Pakistan binds us to adopt Urdu (which is as easily understood by all people of Pakistan as their respective mother tongues) across the country for all official correspondence, and hence inevitably education. The honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan has time and again reminded the governments to fulfil this responsibility but to no avail. So while introducing the new education system, the government would do well by making Urdu as the medium of education. This will enable hundreds of thousands of talented youngsters to get educated, who now stay uneducated due to the language barrier erected against them by the English medium of education.

Lastly, it should be ensured that ethics are also taught alongside the curriculum. Without basic manners and values we will go nowhere in life. The developed world has taken care of these embarrassing national habits through education of basic manners at early school levels. We need to learn from their good things (and refrain from their bad things).

HUSSAIN SHEHZAD,

Islamabad.