The way forward
Senator (R) Sehar Kamran (TI),
“To celebrate citizenship is one way for society to show that it is something valuable which strengthens the community.” – Jens Orback
Civic education strives to encourage citizens’ political participation by providing them information and basis to make conscientious decisions. In modern democracies, the objectives of civic education include imparting knowledge about political institutions, raising political consciousness, encouraging political participation and inculcating respect for laws of the country. It has direct bearing on citizens’ understanding of their rights and duties to their country. A broader understanding about rights and duties is important in fostering social responsibility. The best way to disseminate such knowledge is by making civic education mandatory at educational institutions. In Pakistan, civic education should be a prime concern, as the development of an aware and responsible citizenry is vital in nurturing democratic values and country’s aspired future with equality viz a viz provision of fundamental human rights to all strata of society without any discrimination . But there existed no such institution to carry out such functions. Therefore, I decided to introduce a Bill to achieve such purpose.
I discussed the idea of initiating a legislation on Civic Education with Mr. Zafarullah Khan, Executive Director, Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services and received a very encouraging response, we concluded that:
- Citizenship education is important and it is not only confined to schools, colleges and universities but to all young people,
- There should a centre for citizenship education which should go beyond textbooks and should adopt practical approach to inculcate civic values vital to promote democracy, constitution etc,
- Making young people ‘active and effective citizens’ is an investment in future-not and it should not be considered a huge financial burden,
- Civic Education has to be a life-long learning for our nation,
- A Commission would be proposed that shall involve PTV and radio to facilitate Civic Education for out of school youth-as they too get right to vote at 18,
- Germany has a Federal Agency for Civic Education
- In USA the federal government provides grants for civic education in the country.
I envisioned the Bill with technical assistance provided by the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) and introduced it in the Senate of Pakistan on 22nd January 2018. We have a dilemma in Pakistan that regardless of the greatness of the idea, it is always discouraged by the executive branch with arguments of unavailable resources to perform the said objectives. The same happened with this bill. At the committee stage, the Bill was opposed by the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, which is supposedly the custodian of people’s right to universal education in the Federal territory. However, the Committee was highly convinced by the supportive arguments that the Bill was recommended. The Bill was finally passed by the Senate of Pakistan on 19th February 2018. After passage by the upper House, the Bill was piloted by Honourable MNA, Syed Naveed Qamar in the National Assembly and was passed on 8th May 2018. After the Presidential assent, it became an Act of the Parliament on 22nd May 2018.
The National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018 strives to promote civic education by creating awareness about fundamental rights and obligations of the citizens. The objective of the legislation is to educate the young people about the Constitution, civic sense and respect for laws of the country. For promotion of civic education, the Act establishes a National Civic Education Commission. The Commission is supervised by a high-powered Board of Governors.
According to the Act, the Board of Governors shall control management and supervision of the affairs of the Commission. The Board shall meet at least once in each quarter of the year. The Act provides that the Honourable Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training shall be Chairman of the Board and the following shall be its members:
- Three Senators to be nominated by the Honourable Chairman Senate of Pakistan.
- Three MNAs to be nominated by the Honourable Speaker National Assembly of
- One MPA to be nominated by the Honourable Speaker of each Provincial Assembly.
- Three Civic Education experts to be nominated by the Government.
- Two representatives from media.
The Director General, who shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, shall be appointed by the Board of Governors.
The National Civic Education Commission established under Section 3 of the National Civic Education Commission, 2018 has the following functions as provided in Section 7 of the Act:
- to develop the understanding of the principles and objectives of the Constitution, fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution and inculcating respect for the rights of women and minorities in the students;
- to educate and encourage the citizens to defend the Constitution at all times, against all forms of abuse and violations;
- to develop courses for realizing the objectives of the Constitution;
- to create awareness amongst citizens about civic responsibilities and an appreciation of their rights and obligations as citizens of Pakistan;
- to take special measure for promotion of civic education in rural areas;
- to organize capacity building programmes on civic education for academicians;
- to achievement of true democracy arising from the existing inequalities between different strata of the population and measures necessary for redressing these inequalities;
- to propagate counter narrative to violence, terrorism and extremism;
- to promote cleanliness and respect for environment;
- to develop the narrative of unity, faith, discipline and tolerance amongst the citizens; and (k) to inculcate respect for laws especially traffic laws amongst the youth.
The Act also makes it mandatory for schools to take initiatives for imparting civic education to the students. These initiatives include imparting knowledge about the organs of the state, creating awareness about national and international events, enhancing student participation in school management and highlighting the importance of democracy in the country. Section 7 of the Act makes it responsibility of Schools to ensure imparting civic education to students through lectures, tutorials and practical work in the following manner:
- formal instructions regarding the role of Legislature, Executive, Judiciary, Law and Democracy;
- guided discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events;
- active learning experiences where students perform community service;
- co-curricular activities to foster engagement with other schools and communities;
- student participation in school governance; and
- student participation in simulations of democratic processes.
Democratic values can only take root when the citizenry is well-conversant with their civic responsibilities. Furthermore, it is indispensable to impart civic education to the young generation, as youth has always played an important role in strengthening democracy and rule of law in the country. Democratic ideals and constitutional values could only be entrenched in the social fabric, if the public know about their fundamental rights and their responsibilities towards the community. The National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018 aspires to make Pakistan a strong democratic, pluralist and responsible polity.
The Parliament of Pakistan has played its vital role by legislating on such an important issue of national importance. It is now responsibility of the executive branch of the state to smoothly carry out functions of the Commission provided in the National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018.
The Federal Government shall allocate funds for functioning of the National Civic Education Commission and implementation of the provisions of the Act in the national interest. So that image of Pakistan may reflect to the world as a peaceful, tolerant and progressive nation.
- Roper, Louis. 2006. The local. April 21. Accessed November 5, 2018. https://www.thelocal.se/20060421/3608. (Roper 2006) ↑
- National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018, Section 4(a) ↑
- National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018, Section 4(b) ↑
- National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018, Section 4(c) ↑
- National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018, Section 4(d) ↑
- National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018, Section 4(e) ↑
- National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018, Section 4(f) ↑
- National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018, Section 4(g) ↑
- National Civic Education Commission Act, 2018, Section 7(2) ↑