Lahore: Centre for Social Justice organized a conference on education and social justice wherein the education policy and law experts expressed their concerns over the disparity in education, and the regressive reforms introduced in the curriculum and textbooks.

They demanded that educational reforms must not be in conflict with the constitutional protections of religious freedom and non-discrimination, and the government needs to introduce educational reforms to address the disparity of opportunities and treatment contributing to making a positive behavior change in students, and the society at large.

The executive director of the Centre for Social Justice, Peter Jacob observed that the policymaking is taking place in a looming confusion, as different stakeholders and rights bearers including legislative assemblies, education ministries, and the judiciary are making interventions in the education policy without consulting one another. This style of working is a recipe for policy disaster. He emphasized that it is time that forums of policymaking at different levels should work in coordination with one another, and in the interest of quality education.

The CEO of the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi, Baela Raza Jamil underlined that the poor content of textbooks and poor teaching methodologies lead to learning poverty and enrolment losses. She observed that the student competencies in learning Urdu and Arithmetic have declined 55 percent of class 5 students, while the learning levels in English have improved marginally.

MPA Salma Butt said that the provincial governments are empowered to introduce educational policy reforms after the 18th amendment was passed, therefore the federal government must not enforce single national curriculum without debate in legislative assemblies and consultation with independent education experts. The government has failed to achieve the SDG goal no. 4 relating to inclusive and equitable education, hence the government needs to give priority to education, and reserve more funds to improve enrolment and quality of textbooks, and implement right to education laws through notifying rules of business, she added.

A lawyer, Sahar Bandial said that the federal and provincial governments have promulgated legislation for the implementation of the constitutional guarantee of free and compulsory education (Article 25-A), however, the rules of business are not framed as of yet and the laws remain largely un-notified, and therefore it remained an illusory promise. A lawyer, Saroop Ijaz said that social, cultural, and economic inequalities arising from differential treatment need to be challenged by adopting social justice in education, and the government needs to invest efforts to increase respect for diversity, inculcate ideals of tolerance, and treat all students equitably so that they feel safe and secure.

An academic Dr. Sara Rizvi Jafree said that religious education in public schools has failed to inculcate community ethics and human values, and it promoted regressive ideologies in Pakistan. She observed that the SNC has its own limitations including the Islamic content in non-religious subjects. She demanded that the educational interventions contributing to promoting social cohesion and tolerance be executed, while regressive developments need not be put into effect in order to build an inclusive and equitable education system in Pakistan. A researcher, Zeeba Hashmi observed that the tried and tested religion-based nationalism through education must be not endorsed and enforced, as the presence of content on religious instruction in compulsory subjects will end up perpetuating a sense of alienation among students not belonging to dominant religious groups. She demanded that the government needs to consider ground realities, understand people’s choices and preferences for education, and make the system flexible enough to fix the learning crisis in Pakistan.

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