What makes NCC problematic?
- As a result of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the subjects in the Concurrent List were devolved to provinces including Curriculum. Besides capacity issues, working separately on Curriculum by provinces and areas not only created disconnect between the education and training of the children of nation but also affected quality and standards. For a nation to build itself, there was a need to adhere to a certain common sets of lessons based on Islamic ideology enunciated in the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan leading to national cohesion. Hence, there was a great need to devise and maintain common curricula in every field.
Placement of words in this text indicate the Federal Ministry’s expression towards devolution of education. However, this particular text could only be deemed irrelevant if NCC had not been strengthened so much over the years, despite being a non-constitutional, unrequired entity in post 18th amendment scenario. A lack of understanding of the constitution and procedures also point towards serious administrative incompetence on part of the architects of this council. A petition at Lahore High Court has already challenged single national curriculum implementation on factual grounds of it violating the very rules of business of Punjab under PCTB Act. Another lie that has been placed in the above text relates to “capacity issues” of the provinces. ANP led government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province made phenomenal progressive education reforms, which sadly had to be wrapped up with the incoming PTI-JI coalition government in 2013. Balochistan started making progress under 18th amendment and developed curriculum standards and scheme of studies, but all that had to be revoked when the center started corresponding and deliberating on its Single National Curriculum in the last three years. Sindh never acceded to SNC until it partially did recently, whereas Punjab always followed suit without asserting for its right to autonomy. It is important to mention that before the SNC was introduced, Punjab had developed its scheme of studies that laid out options for public school students in subjects that were comparable with O level Cambridge education systems. Unfortunately, that work for providing competitive options to students had to stop. What is most unfortunate is that there really has been no strong resistance to how the new curriculum standards were getting imposed from the NCC at the center. Their role should not have extended beyond Islamabad Territory or those areas falling under federal administration.
The third lie in the text relates to the NCC justifying its establishment to ensure that ideology of Islam is incorporated in the curriculum as is a requirement, it assumes, by the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The truth of the matter is, the said requirement is not under enforceable fundamental rights chapter of the constitution, but under its Principles of Policy chapter which is subject to the availability of resources. What is being conveniently ignored here is the violation of the fundamental right under article 22(1) which ensures safeguards to religious minority communities from receiving religious instructions other than their own at academic places. Instances of religious content of instructional nature inserted in compulsory subjects is a blatant human rights violation, and no satisfactory answers have been provided by officials from the Federal Ministry for Education on that front.
What is making NCC so strong? Why is it resisting provincial curriculum wings taking ownership in developing curriculum standards? The answer might lie in their insistence of linking the need for centralized curriculum with national cohesion.
“Whenever there is a talk of national cohesion, it usually means it is being linked with national security”, said one curriculum department official on the condition of anonymity. From what started off originally as an eight member council to now a 43 members on state’s payroll, questions about budget allocated for it at a time when education sector remains starved also rise.
Was Council of Common Interest used for Inter-provincial Coordination?
No. Although, the CCI did once set up a taskforce to develop quality standards for higher education in 2017 under its supervision. Over the last two years, no meetings have been convened. The constitutional provision for interprovincial coordination was laid out only under the Council of Common Interests, a statutory body that could work as a facilitator to ensure smooth inter-provincial coordination over matters requiring consensus, without compromising on provincial autonomy. The forum that was instead used was the IPEMC, which falls under The Federal Ministry for Education and Professional Training, which interestingly, does not have a national mandate. The National Curriculum Council, a non-constitutional, non-statutory body has kept using IPEMC endorsements for its curriculum development, processes and implementation, while remaining fully aware of 18th amendment provisions. At the time when IPEMC was revived and NCC was getting established, the then Federal Minister for Education Balighur Rehman of PML-N was warned by the opposition political leaders from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of the pitfalls of NCC, but their concerns were ignored. The aim of NCC, it was assumed back then, was to devise framework for quality standards in education that could be adopted by other provinces until they could build capacity to develop their own. Initial work on quality standards was also laid out. Meanwhile, the IPEMC continued to function under Federal Ministry for Education without anyone noticing the major anomaly of NCC’s establishment and functioning under IPEMC. There was a political silence when NCC arbitrarily changed the objectives from setting quality frameworks to developing and prescribing national minimum standards in 2018 under PTI-led government. NCC overstepped its boundaries by unilaterally leading on the initiative it had no authority over under any provision of the law.
Miscommunication and Non-transparent Conduct by NCC?
What could be the consequences if the NCC Anomaly is left ignored?
Political Way forward
Tag:18th Amendment and Education, Barriers to Education, Constitutional Violation, Council of Common Interests, Devolution of education, Education and Politics, Educational Barriers, ibtidah for education, National Curriculum Council, National Curriculum of Pakistan, NCP, Political Mistakes, Single National Curriculum, SNC