Eik Qaum Ek Nisaab and the Curious Case of Number 18

Author: Muhammad Rafeh

“Eik Qaum, Eik Nisaab” echoed through the hallways of Pakistan’s education commission as policymakers put their heads together to integrate the Single National Curriculum into the scheme of studies of all schools across the country. The incumbent government thought that a nationwide curriculum change would bring equality, if not equity, to the nation’s educational sector. However, what they did not realize is that a parent does not pay PKR 100,000 a month to Aitchison so that they can receive sub-par education. The issue here is not the implementation of the Single National Curriculum; it is the ridiculous policy that the government has put forth.

From the Children Rights Commissions to the Educational Boards and Legal Analytics, all have been vocal against inequality in the provision of education in Pakistan for several years. Our dearest Prime Minister, Imran Khan, promised a ‘Naya Pakistan’ where education would become one of the most thriving sectors. Three years later, after keeping that promise unfulfilled, the government now wants to implement a risky strategy to change the education sector of the country. There are two problems that need to be addressed. Firstly, through the channel of SNC, the government is trying to address a problem in the education sector that only very few have an issue with, while bigger problems are left unsolved. Secondly, the authority to implement a nationwide curriculum is no longer in the hands of the federal government.

If one has a conversation about the history of Pakistan with our present leaders, it would go something like this:

Reporter: Can you please trace the constitutional history of Pakistan?

The government: Musharraf left in 2008 and then 5 years after that are a bit blank for us. Then, Sharif came into power in 2013.

The government, at this point, is probably unaware that the number 18 even exists; for Sindh, however, the 18th has somewhat become their favorite number. Many have claimed that PTI is the first national party of Pakistan while the others are in the favor of provincial. Those who agree have failed to realize that Pakistan is not just one nation, but it is provincial with provincially delegated subjects. Education, for instance, is one such subject. Where the government had a viable opportunity to open multiple schools across Pakistan, they decided to do something that wasn’t even in their control anymore; this is somewhat of an ‘at least we tried’ attitude. The problem is, just trying is not enough. In a country where the PM takes pride over the fact that the rate of youth leaving Pakistan rises every year, one cannot help but question if the government was trying to improve the educational structure at all in the first place.

Many of my colleagues who are supporters of PTI have often told me that this is just the beginning and that the government is planning “Eik Qaum, Hazaron School”. I cannot help but wonder if our current government is planning to carry this out within the two years left in power, or are they fully confident that they will be running the show until 2028? Even then, the fact that the authorities do not remember the number 18 leaves a big question mark.

Even when the government is planning to implement the SNC, there is a present shortage of the newly printed SNC books in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In such circumstances, one might also wonder why the educational institutions were closed for a week in these same areas, especially when the implementation of the SNC was in process. Assuming that this is just a conspiracy theory, even if the SNC is implemented in Punjab and KP and not in Sindh (from the looks of it), does that not deepen Pakistan’s problem of inequality in education? Imagine a country where two provinces and the Capital follow one syllabus and the other two provinces follow their own.

Failing to uphold Article-25A of the Constitution of 1973 is set to be a cause of further disparity in a country where inequality is already deep-rooted when it comes to the provision of education. “Ek Qaum, Ek Nisaab” is a catchphrase until the government recalls number 18. When they do, the result would be “Ek Qaum, Hazaron Nisaab” instead of what should have been “Ek Qaum, Hazaron School”.

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