The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Educational Curriculum and the Promise of a Pluralist Society in Postcolonial Pakistan

Year: 2019

Author: Khan, Sher, Rahmat

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Pakistan is a postcolonial nation-state whose complex and diverse society makes it an ideal context for realizing the spirit of pluralism, and for developing respect for diversity as a source of strength, not a weakness and threat. However, this potential for pluralism has not been realized. In recent years, religious fundamentalism and violent extremism have taken large parts of Pakistani society hostage, leading to the death of around 65,000 people (Crawford, 2018, p. 1), an economic loss of billions of rupees (GoP 2018, p. 248), along with damaging the international standing of the country. The violence has also created social challenges, including displacement, poverty and lack of access to education. The situation has made the promotion of pluralism and respect for diversity more crucial for contemporary Pakistani society.

My PhD project is developing a critical discourse analysis of secondary school educational curriculum and textbooks materials in year 9 and 10 Pakistan Studies, to identify and analyse the ways in which the cultural politics of curriculum development in Pakistan works to promote or hinder, the Pakistani government’s priority of promoting social cohesion and inclusion. In this presentation, I will identify and discuss some of the major causes of extremism and violence in Pakistan, and the role educational curriculum has in delivering on the promise of social cohesion and inclusion. The discussion will be framed by an examination of the ways in which the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – particularly SDG 4 Quality education for all, and SDG 5 Gender equality – can provide a framework for development in a postcolonial state, and for delivering on the promise of education in promoting inclusion. Drawing on postcolonial theory I will also acknowledge and discuss the ways in which the cultural politics of curriculum in Pakistan continues to be complex, contested, and reflective of the differences and diversity that characterise this postcolonial State.