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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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Khubaib Riasat
Khubaib Riasat
Dec 15, 2021

The motive of implementing SNC was the fundamental value of “equality”. However, it appears that the term equality has local boundaries in the minds of the publishers. The gender bias seen in SNC is inarguable and will root misogyny into the minds of the youth by depicting women as inferior beings. The stereotypical portrayal of women will be detrimental to society. No progressive outlook regarding women is present, which is the last thing needed to be taught to children in an era filled with glaring patriarchy.

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exactly. Only a certain kind of Pakistani female depiction is being shown and misogynistic expectations of women to act that way are being reinforced. If we are to have gender parity, it has to start at a very young age.

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The concept of gender stereotype implicitly emphasized in the SNC undoubtedly reinforces the patriarchal power dynamics of our society. According to the above text, it is pretty disheartening to acknowledge that our political leaders and educational reformers have failed to promote the children's creative, innovative and unbiased learning skills. The segregation of the male and female characters in the textbook highlights the promotion of the concept of gender, specifying separate roles of girls as weak, emotional, and dependent, and boys as strong, independent, and dominant, labeling 'good' or 'bad,' and emphasizing unequal gender values among the young kids. The stereotype portrayed in the textbook relates to the class discussion about gender and sex where according to Butler, gender subsumes sex.…

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And I would like to add on to your thought that our political leaders and educational reformers are lacking Alot in promoting the children's creativity. Because while there are instances of women being portrayed as policewomen or pilots, it is an exception to the rule and adds to the "gendered tokenism" prevalent in the curriculum. And even that I think proponents of the SNC from the far-right are cherry-picking such examples to dismiss criticism and give credibility to an agenda in the curriculum made to appease Pakistan's religious right-wing supporters.

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This idea ties into Hall's perception of how representation portrays meanings and implementations in a society. With the repetition of such images reinforcing power dynamics between the two sexes, it is somewhat instilled in children how they should behave, dress, speak, etc. The SNC perfectly relates to the "good girl, bad girl" dichotomy. With such reinforcements, it is evident how a covered, Muslim girl who doesn't question the prevailing hierarchy around her is the "good" girl. Once you stray from this perception, you're deemed a deviant and a nuisance. You're the standard "bad" example.

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