Education reform was one of the top priorities of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when it came to power in 2013.
It wanted to introduce a uniform system, ensure government schools had basic facilities such as toilets. It wanted a higher education budget and to enroll out-of-school children. One other important area was textbooks.
From the very beginning the new government was ambitious as it wanted to revise textbooks taught in government schools to remove content that in any way promoted violence and hate in society.
The government formed a committee of educationists and scholars to revise the textbooks for grades 1 to 10 and suggest changes. But at that point, a few quarters expressed apprehensions over change. The concern was that important lessons would be deleted from the major subjects of Islamiat, Urdu and Social Studies.
The government agreed to tread carefully and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Textbook Board and Directorate of Curricula and Teachers Education jointly started revising books from grade one to 10. Along the way, it made some important discoveries in light of what everyone saw happening in society. It also realized that it didn’t need to reinvent the wheel.
“After analyzing the contents of books for classes 1 to class 5, we realized that there was no need to redo these books from scratch,” said Saeed Ur Rehman, who is a member of the Elementary & Secondary Education Department. “All that was needed was to include topics on life skills, minorities and gender sensitization. Keeping in mind the [rape-murder] Zainab case from Kasur, we included topics on how children can protect themselves and be aware.”
The review was completed in 2017 and as religious experts were to discover, change actually made sense and even improved the books. “If a country’s education curriculum meets the requirements of the time and it is been constantly amended and upgraded, then it is a dynamic curriculum,” says Maulana Hussain Ahmad, who is the provincial nazim of Wafaqul Madaris al-Arabiya Pakistan, a federation of thousands of madrassas. “What should be taught in our schools is a curriculum that not only fulfills the requirements of the time but also reflects our values as an Islamic society. Our children should be made aware of Islamic values, culture and history. Unfortunately, our curriculum is devoid of these values.”
The new government printed the new books and distributed over five million across the province’s government schools for the academic year 2018-19. In the first phase, 15 textbooks from grades 1 to 5 were revised. They then tackled nine textbooks from grades 6 to 8. The last were 10 textbooks from grades 9 and 10 which were eventually distributed among schools in all districts.
The KP Elementary and Secondary Education Department says that the changes help tackle the culture of rote learning by moving students towards developing a more conceptual understanding.