Earlier this month, Pakistan’s education minister announced a Single National Certification System to address the country’s widening quality gap (between public and private schools), and decreasing literacy levels. It proposes a centralized curriculum as an instrument of academic unity – a move that is likely to give the federal government a central role in framing learning content and pedagogies for provinces, instead of guiding it. The implementation of such a policy in the post-devolution era, where academic curricula is treated as a provincial subject, could prove challenging on many fronts. Firstly, it discourages school curriculum from being personalized to the learning potential of each province. Just recently, the Punjab government introduced digitized textbooks in public schools, as part of its “elearn Punjab” initiative. These textbooks cater to students between grade 5-12, readily equipped with over 13,000 video demonstrations, 500 deductive simulations, and thousands of animations – all intended to exact mathematics and scientific concepts to individual learning needs. Still in its pilot phase, the programme has installed “content servers” across seven cities, which help to extract real-time feedback on learning outcomes – and median time – from student tablets. Thus, some initiative at the provincial level is evident.Similar interventions, in the form of textbook development, are slowly taking root in the province of Sindh. The Curriculum Advisory Committee’s recommendations on the 2006 syllabus, has led to the development of revised textbooks in Sindhi, Urdu and English languages. This comes as part of Sindh government’s larger shift towards e-learning, commonly referred to as “Introducing Smart Teaching and Learning” – Sindh’s equivalent of elearn Punjab. A more plausible approach would be to integrate curriculum design, self-assessment technologies, and infrastructure development into one multipronged capacity-building effort. This way, provinces acquire the hardware needed to address academic challenges specific to their demographics, while retaining a fair degree of discretion in the processThus, interactive curriculum efforts in both provinces are a result of the autonomy decreed under the 18th Amendment to the constitution. A one-curriculum policy would not only disincentivize provinces from investing in on-going interventions but would also limit their effectiveness against the centre’s “one-size-fits-all” approach.There is also the problem of ‘differing priorities’ between provinces. In Balochistan, for instance, the biggest challenge to educational equity is not curriculum development, but school infrastructure. As of 2017, 79% of all primary and secondary schools in the province have been operating under substandard building conditions. There is also an ever-widening gap between primary and middle schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with the latter representing only a fraction of the former. According to the provincial government’s Annual Statistics Report of Government Schools, primary schools outnumber cumulative middle and high schools by a ratio of four to one. This brings into question the province’s capacity to meet Article 25-A of the constitution, which ensures education for all children between ages five and sixteen. Unless the distinct concerns of each province are factored in, it is unlikely that a single-curriculum policy would lead to a just, competitive, and equitable education system. One must also remember how downplaying provincial dynamics have worked out in the past. In 2016, for instance, the development of Minimum Standards for Quality Education did little to correct a 3% graduation rate among public school students. Nor did it help to narrow down a gender enrollment gap – which as of today, remains one of the widest in South Asia.A more plausible approach would be to integrate curriculum design, self-assessment technologies, and infrastructure development into one multipronged capacity-building effort. This way, provinces acquire the hardware needed to address academic challenges specific to their demographics, while retaining a fair degree of discretion in the process. At the heart of these integrative reforms lies the serious need for “student-centred pedagogies.” Only 6% of 34,000 teachers managed to clear the junior elementary school teacher test – an examination conducted by the Sukkur Institute of Business Administration, for filling vacancies in Sindh’s public schools. This outcome underlines a dire need for the National Curriculum Council to plug pedagogy gaps, in order to optimize instructors’ conformity to learning content.Interestingly, some of the leading education systems around the world have constituted “teacher growth models”, to deliver on organic curriculum and pedagogy reform efforts. Singapore, for instance, has deployed teachers’ language development centres, problem-based learning methods, and strong mentorship cultures across public schools. Similarly, a remarkable surge in competitive education across South Korea, Estonia, and Brazil is a direct result of pedagogies given due emphasis in policy design.Hence, the current government must look to integrate distinct provincial priorities, personalized curriculums, pedagogies, and self-assessment interventions into one larger reform policy. It is difficult to construe a single-standard curriculum as a decisive solution to multiple academic impediments. Especially, if the ultimate objective is to make the education system conducive to evolving – both for the students that comprise it, and the teachers that drive its growth.Published in Daily Times, January 25th 2019.