An article from Daily Times forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission
One sided history, false references, half-truths and a biased approach — this is what you will find in Pakistani textbooks. The curriculum that we are currently using in schools and colleges is simply outdated, and does not meet the local needs of the Pakistani society, but is rather imposing a particular brand of nationalism. Our present generation is learning the same knowledge that the previous two have learnt.
However, glorifying false researches and highlighting negative points against non-Muslims in textbooks is creating an even worse impact on the young generation of Pakistan. Prescribed textbooks for class four and five, attended by children aged eight to ten, are bursting with anti-Hindu and anti-American themes. By sixth grade, when students are typically ten to twelve years old, the anti-Christian, anti-British and anti-European indoctrination begins. Children are taught that Christians and Europeans were not happy to see Muslims flourishing in life.
In Pakistan Studies textbooks, the wars with India after Partition are labeled as jihad — these textbooks glorify Pakistan-India wars in the name of religion. Moreover, these textbooks portray all non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan sympathetic towards the nation’s perceived enemies; Pakistani Christians as ‘Westerners’ or equal to British colonial oppressors and Pakistani Hindus as Indians — which causes hatred for minorities among the majority Muslim population.
We are all well aware that students in Pakistan are famous for memorizing lessons instead of actually understanding the concept; the drive to attain highest marks compels them to study from these books. We are all also aware that the eighteenth amendment has empowered provincial governments to devise educational policy, and play an active role in the planning of our curriculum. The curriculum and textbook politics has always remained a hurdle in the path of improvement of the education sector. The deeply flawed national curriculum promotes xenophobia and religious intolerance; teaching discrimination increases the likelihood that violent religious extremism in Pakistan will continue to grow, weakening religious freedom, national and regional stability, and global security.
On August 11, 1947, three days before the announcement of the independence of Pakistan, the Father of the Nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah said in his speech, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan.
You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State.”
During previous years, the Sindh Textbook Board has included Quaid-e-Azam’s speech in the eighth and ninth grade syllabus. But, practically, the very province, where Quaid’s birthplace is also situated, and the province of Balochistan, are blamed the most for teaching objectionable material in their schools. Punjab government is yet to make any significant move in this regard.
For this issue, international and national research organisations and individuals have conducted various studies, finding fault with the content being taught in Pakistani educational institutions. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended a review of the Pakistani textbooks, insisting that overemphasis on Islam as being the “only correct” faith in textbooks was against the Constitution of Pakistan as well as the ideals of the Quaid-e-Azam. The report titled “Teaching Intolerance in Pakistan — Religious Bias in Public School Textbooks”, claims that the most recurring trend in textbooks, from all grade levels, is the overemphasis on the glorification of war and war heroes. Another research study, conducted by the Pakistan-based Peace and Education Foundation (PEF), says that in social studies, Pakistan Studies, and History curriculums, students are taught a version of history that promotes a national Islamic identity of Pakistan and often describes conflicts with India in a religious context.
I personally believe that school textbooks are essentially designed as a medium to transmit educational content. However, more often than not, governments distort their clear-cut purpose by using them to build the minds of future generations in accordance with their own political agenda, and Pakistan is no exception to that. In Pakistan the curriculum development is under the jurisdiction of people who lack knowledge on the concept of the ‘Two Nation Theory’. Pakistan needs a curriculum change and this process needs to be constant and thorough. Qualified and professional academics from all over Pakistan should be taken on board for reforming the curriculum and once it is reformed, it should then be used in all Pakistani government and private schools, which use government textbooks. History would be presented as it is written and debated by academic historians, not conjured up by our army and politicians.
The writer is a social and political activist based in Lahore. He has done his Masters and MPhil in Communication Studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect that of the AHRC.