Pakistan’s educational curricula has been criticized by educationists and analysts for a long time because of its inculcating hatred against the other (non-Muslim minorities, Muslim minorities, and others). Others have pointed out how Pakistan’s educational system does not teach skills relevant to the modern era.
Author, Physicist, and columnist, Pervez Hoodbhoy in a recent opinion piece has critiqued the Imran Khan led government’s Single National Curriculum (SNC) and the appointment of religious clerics as members of the SNC committee supervising all schoolbooks including those of science.
As Hoodbhoy notes, these maulanas “In the name of Islamic morality they have warned textbook publishers not to print any diagram or sketch in biology textbooks that show human figures “sans clothes”. For the teaching of biology this surpasses existing de facto prohibitions on teaching evolution, the foundational principle of biological sciences. Illustrations are crucial to explain the digestive system (with both entrance and exit points) and human reproduction, as well as the mammary gland. Diagrams, sketches and human skeletal forms cannot be draped. Excluding these from schoolbooks reduces the teaching of biology to a farce.”
These “Inhibitions about the human body, of course, have been around for much longer than SNC.” Hoodbhoy points out that “in one book from 1996 I did find a diagrammatised rabbit. But with essential parts fuzzed out, it is difficult to figure out whether it was male or female or the equipment that rabbits need to reproduce themselves. That someone should think an un-fuzzed diagram of this little animal would titillate students or stimulate promiscuous behaviour stumps me”.
This obsession with “sharm-o-haya” means that “females bear the brunt. Culturally, ‘breast’ is a taboo word and so breast cancer cannot easily be called ‘breast cancer’. This makes early detection hugely difficult and accounts for Pakistan’s rate of breast cancer being the highest in South Asia. Most women feel embarrassed in coming forward; only when the pain becomes unbearable and when the cancer metastasizes does a woman finally confide in someone. By that time it is too late. Ovaries? Thousands of Pakistani women die yearly of ovarian and cervical cancer but ‘ovaries’ and ‘cervix’ are words too delicate to ever mention.”
In conclusion, Hoodbhoy notes, “Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries used to be the world’s most stoutly conservative countries while Pakistan was counted among the more open, relaxed ones. This has changed. Presently, Pakistan is not just in reverse gear, it is hell-bent upon moving backward as fast as possible. The kind of mixed-up, confused and ignorant generations PTI’s curriculum changes will produce in times ahead is absolutely terrifying.”