Single curriculum without textbooks

It’s not just fees but censorship

The Textbook Publishers Association has not just found its members have to contend with prohibitive fees to get a textbook approved, but they have also got to contend with censorship gone wild. The review fees being charged may sabotage the Single National Curriculum (SNC), which is the government’s sole achievement, such as it is, in the field of education. The publishers have to pay Rs 140,000 per textbook for a review, which may push up the price of books. The total cost of the primary syllabus, now Rs 4000, could go to Rs 12,000.

The Association members have to pay not just the Punjab Textbook and Curriculum Board, but also external review committees and the Muttahida Ulema Board. The objections the MUB has raised indicate a kind of censorship gone wild. Objection has been made to the use of such words as ‘markup’ or ‘interest’ in mathematics texts, while diagrams of the human reproductive system have been met with demands that unclothed bodies not be shown. If either interest problems or the human reproductive system are in the syllabus, how can they be excluded from the textbooks? This would mean students would not be prepared for certain exam questions. If they are not in the syllabus, surely the external review committees consisting of subject specialists should point it out.

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The basis of the SNC has been having common textbooks, whether in private schools, government schools, or madressahs, so that even if teachers provide different qualities of instruction, all students learn the same thing. Other, partisan, changes have also been made in textbooks. It might be mentioned that curriculum is a provincial subject, and Balochistan and Sindh are not following the SNC. There is no MUB in KP, with the subject specialists vetting the textbooks for Islamic content. Punjab must rationalise the process of getting NOCs for textbooks, lest the SNC, already in difficulty, fall flat on its face. There will be no point in having the SNC if it merely exacerbates class differences with textbooks afforded only by the wealthy.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]

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