The Federal Ministry of Education has decided to add Zoroastrianism and Buddhism along with five other minority religions in the subject of religious studies in the Single National Curriculum (SNC).

The other five religions in the subject are Baha’i, Christianity, Hinduism, Kalash, and Sikhism. The curriculum experts of each of the seven religions are being asked to provide the scope and sequence of Standards and SLOs of each religion. 

A draft curriculum for the Buddhist religion was accepted by the Single National Curriculum on March, 4th. The progression grids of five of the minority religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Kalash, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism) are in progress. However, according to information provided by the Federal Ministry of Education, the progression grids of Baha’i and Christianity are complete. Whereas, curriculum guidelines of all the faiths are in progress.   

This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that such steps are being taken by the Ministry of Education. It was explained on the SNC website that extra time is required for these curriculum guidelines to be completed as there is no work in the field ever done before. For example, the religion Kalash is totally based on oral traditions and there are no documented standards available about it. The religions, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism have very few followers in Pakistan so the decision to add them to the curriculum took time. Moreover, the experts of the respective religions are difficult to find after it is decided to add them in the SNC.

Talking about the cause, Parshant Singh, a Sikh curriculum developer, and the first Sikh officer of Punjab University, Lahore said that if we exclude Buddhists from the secluded castes, they make the third biggest minority of Pakistan. He further said that none of them represents their community as lawmakers. ‘Still, we thank the government for involving minorities in designing their curriculum,’ he told a media outlet.     

At the same time, the Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Peter Jacob said the inclusion of religious studies in the Single National Curriculum is a big achievement. He further said, ‘the holistic inclusion is a breath of fresh air. Finally, the government is addressing monolithic views and learning. Now we can go to parity,’ he added, ‘It’s a step forward.’  

Moreover, Professor Anjum James Paul, a member of the Ethics Review Committee of the SNC, said while talking to a media house, ‘some Muslim members of SNC review committee questioned the absence of the chapters of interfaith harmony in religious education. I argued to include it first in Islamic studies where there is no chapter on interfaith harmony.’ 

There is no doubt in the fact that while designing curriculums for Islamic Studies, no one ever considered adding chapters like interfaith harmony. It is sad to see that this decision of teaching the minority religions is taken after so long and still people from the majority religion sound unhappy about it. 

Mr. James Paul further said, ‘our books must be under the constitution of Pakistan that prohibits teaching a religion to students other than their own and the protection of minorities. Removing discrimination and biases is perhaps the most efficient and inexpensive way forward to improve the quality of education.’ He added, ‘inclusive education and religious diversity can ensure the return of peace in Pakistan.’

Single National Curriculum is supposed to be a uniform education system that will provide equal educational opportunities to all people irrespective of what class or religious group they belong to. Thus, adding subjects like religious studies sound like an important step of this measure.

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