In modern times, Political Stability is one of the key components in governing any society and country. There is hardly any aspect of human life and endeavor that is not affected by the policies proposed and implemented by Politicians. And out of all, education usually is affected most by non-stop political interference. Hence, the Impacts of Political Instability on Education in Pakistan are way too many. And every time, after coming into power, the first attack of every regime is on education because they know that through their education policies, they can control the minds and bodies of most individuals they are about to govern. Since Pakistan got its independence from the British in 1947, it has never seen political stability for a long period of time. Often, the Political process was disrupted by the dictators which resulted in weak civilian governments.
What’s education have to do with Politics?
At first, we all need to come out from this thinking that the effects of Political Instability are only limited to the realm of politics and economics. In a country like Pakistan where military dictators have this habit of toppling the governments anytime they want, the importance of Political instability cannot be stressed enough. The example of SNC is right in front of us. The initiative of a Single National Curriculum (SNC) was launched by the government of PTI under the supervision of Dr Mariam Chughtai. The program had the following key objectives:
- To give all children (across the board) a fair and equal opportunity to receive a high-quality education.
- To ensure inter-provincial mobility of students and Teachers.
- To endure the equity
- It vowed to provide equal opportunities for upward social mobility for all students.
The program was further divided into three phases, the first phase was to design and disseminate the primary curriculum, and in the next two phases, the focus would have been on secondary and high school. But due to the political instability, the project evaporated into thin air after the ouster of Imran Khan while it was still in its embryonic stage and only the curriculum for primary had been finalized. There was a lot of hues and cry around this subject and the discourse around SNC attracted people from both sides of the aisle to share their thoughts. People from the left, the likes of Pervaiz Hoodboy saw this whole activity as an attempt to radicalize the younger generation just like it happened under the military regime of General Zia, because according to him, under the guise of “equality”, the focus of SNC was more on “ideology”, as it contained huge volume of religious material which beats all previously designed curriculums in Pakistan’s history. SNC was severely criticized too, for proposing that those who are graduates of Madrassah, could have the opportunity to be hired in public schools and colleges to teach Quran and Islamic Studies. But Dr Mariam, who was in charge of this whole initiative, saw this as an attempt to bridge the gap between the traditional Madrassahs and modern schools. She also said in an interview, that in later stages, the government will be registering all the Madrassahs across the country, hence bringing them into the mainstream, designing a curriculum for them that will help the adjustment to the mainstream economy after they graduate from any institution. There was some sense in this argument that mostly, the people who chose to send their kids to Madrassah do so simply out of economic reasons, and when they get out, there are very few opportunities for them.
We can have a debate about the pros and cons of SNC all day long, but no one can deny that it was an effort of its kind as it got the conservation started between different groups of people and provided them with the opportunity to exchange their views and ideas about the education and in this regard, this initiative deserves nothing but praise.
But sadly, it also could not save itself from the Political turmoil followed by the Vote of No Confidence and the impacts of political instability on education were dire, though the PTI government in Punjab did try its best to keep this project alive as education after the 18th amendment is a provincial matter, in Punjab too, when the government of PTI was replaced by Hamza Shahbaz led PDM government, the first causality was education. Right after he took an oath, he announced several committees, to reevaluate the whole approach of the government towards education and media. Though the government never lasted long enough to discard the whole project the dent was enough to make it never see the light of day and it stands halted till date after the curriculum of the primary was released. Now imagine the situation of students who will be reading the modern curriculum in primary but will be forced to read the same old when they will go to high school. This shows the impact of Political instability on education.
Educational Policies: The Way Foreword
All things aside, there is a lot to be learned from the country’s latest experience with SNC. From General Ayyub to General Musharraf, every military dictator and every civilian ruler has attempted to design and formulate the educational policies that will prolong their rule and as soon as their rule ends, it takes their all educational policies with them because of their short-sightedness.
The need of the hour is to have a wider debate and discourse around the impacts of Political Instability on education with all the stakeholders, especially the politicians as they have the potential and the power to not only make policies but also to turn the opinion of the masses into their favor. And this has to happen beyond the political divide. Sadly, we see the polarization has just gone through the roof and the political divide has just gone worse after the events unfolded in April. And every side has termed the other as evil and the place to find the common ground for working is just non-existent. I see no harm in suggesting that education can be very subject to bringing people from different political biases together and can help stabilize the crises at hand. On the contrary, the state of education will be much direr as a result of a never-ending tussle between the two groups.
The Impacts of Political Instability on Education in Pakistan are multifaceted and have various dimensions. The country’s troubled Political History, its romance with military dictators, civil and martial administrators, and now with “hybrid” regimes, says a lot about its education whether we talk about schools in rural areas, the dire situation of campuses all across the country, the never-ending cycle of violence in universities, the gap between academia and industry, the sheer lack of interest in producing good research, it all comes back to one and only one thing “Political Instability.” All the ills can be traced back to this, and if we ever are serious about giving our next generations, a better and sound future, we have no choice but to come to an agreement that there will no “personal score-settling” on the topic of education and we will have to ensure that every government in place must have complete freedom to ensure the implementation of the policies they have envisioned. And we will have to be more politically mature to give time to our political opponents and wait for their policies to bear results instead of just outwardly rejecting them. If only we are really serious about learning from our own historical experiences.