Judging a book by its cover!

Pakistan's ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) launched its revised Single National Curriculum (SNC) in August this year, deeming it "a milestone to end disparity in the education system". The curriculum more or less fails to promote and include gender equality, religious minorities and cultural diversity. Women Action Forum released a statement, condemning the SNC as "based on ideological imperatives rather than pedagogical ones and will seed society with divisive thinking."



The cover of the Grade 5 English textbook depicts a father and son studying on a sofa, while the mother and daughter study on the floor. Both the mother and daughter are also covering their heads with a hijab and most of the covers of the textbooks show even young girls donning the hijab. In the same textbook, women leaders are cited as "supporters of men." Girls and women are also mainly depicted as mothers, daughters, wives and teachers. They are not included in acts of play or exercise. Only boys are seen playing and exercising, while girls are included in images where they are mere bystanders.


The messaging around girls' clothing in the textbooks follows the messages the government has already been giving citizens about women's modesty and dress- PM Imran Khan has made several comments linking the rise in sexual violence to women's clothing. These stereotypical depictions exist because no gender or intersectional lens has been utilized in the design of the books. Books that are meant to shape young minds and need to have a consistent theme and tone interwoven into the curriculum, the SNC is lacking that. If a gender lens was applied at the design, we would definitely have very different messages and learning. Due to the lack of an inclusive perspective, the SNC does not reflect the "rich diversity" of Pakistan, especially when it comes to the multiplicity of women's experiences. In Pakistan, the female population already disproportionately suffers from discriminatory customary traditions, by losing autonomy and subject to violent threats, the symbolism of head covering as a norm can lead to greater systematic violence against women.

The SNC is supposed to promote creativity and critical thinking but it is instead much of the same curriculum as the past years and is not of the quality to produce a generation of free-thinkers and innovators.

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