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Gender Stereotypes and the Role of the SNC

The idea of the Single National Curriculum was put forward by the PTI government in 2021. The current SNC covers curriculum guidelines for grade 1, grade 2, grade 3, grade 4 and grade 5. The subjects it covers include all compulsory subjects such as English, Urdu, History, Science etc. The books that are following the Single National Curriculum have been criticized for promoting regressive and orthodox roles for women, both in syllabus and graphic illustrations. The following picture shows how the book for grade 5 illustrates “the ideal daily routine for women to follow”.

It details how a woman should wake up at 5:00 AM to pray the Fajr namaz, then she should make breakfast for her husband and children, then clean the kitchen, followed by ironing the clothes and then immediately start cooking food again at 10:00 AM. The rest of the day goes by similarly; occupied by cooking, cleaning and taking care of the whole family. This type of content is blatantly enforcing gender stereotypes and trying to categorize females into performing certain kind of roles and duties. It provides no room for women to venture outside these gender binaries and there are no examples of the SNC syllabus promoting women as strong and independent individuals.

Another image from the SNC syllabus that has created controversy is this following image:

It shows a family of four people, which includes a father, a mother, a son and a daughter. It shows that son is in the lap of his father reading an English book, while both are on a sofa, whereas the mother and her daughter are sitting on the floor. The objectionable factor is that both the females are on the floor which is not a coincidence. It has been argued that “This is just the way the book was designed, it does not mean anything”. However, you have to be very careful when you’re exposing young impressionable minds to any type of content. It is the responsibility of the lawmakers to ensure that the syllabus they are approving does not contain prejudiced material of any kind. When this image is seen over and over again, it will instill this deep-rooted belief that women are inferior and beliefs like those are what keep perpetuating a patriarchal society.

This is also in stark contrast to Pakistan’s aim to reach the sustainable development goals by 2030, through a unanimous National Assembly Resolution in 2016. One of the goals is gender equality and another one is quality education. If the government wants to reach these goals, there needs to be a serious re-evaluation of the content and syllabus of the SNC to make sure there are no biases against women and that they are being empowered instead of being restricted.

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