Even if local textbooks are updated, their impact will not be widespread until public schools across the board adopt them.
Discussing the curriculum of peace and hate on the first day of the fourth Children’s Literature Festival, Oxford University Press (OUP) managing director Ameena Saiyid shared her experience of updating the curriculum for government schools. The OUP was asked to submit manuscripts but they were not approved due to specific issues with the religious ideologies mentioned in OUP textbooks, she said. “We publish books containing what actually happened while the text books that are taught at government schools have changed the history,” said Saiyid. “Unfortunately, OUP books are only used in private schools and we can only change the mindset of specific readers.”
If a student has developed the hobby of reading from home and school, then he or she will not only read textbooks but also storybooks and novels, said Saiyid. “It is sad to see that teacher dictate questions and answers while student learn them as it is,” she added, complaining about teaching methods.
Writer Rumana Husain agreed. “Our curriculum is politically motivated and our student’s minds are made according to this,” she said.
Seconding her view, journalist Zubeida Mustafa read a verse from a poem she learnt in her childhood, titled ‘Children Learn What They Live’. “Whatever you teach a child, he will only learn it throughout his life,” she said.
Criticising the curriculum, Mustafa said that the textbooks of subjects other than Islamiat also contain religious chapters. “Books for Urdu, social studies and other subjects should not have chapters on religious topics,” she said. Representing the Sindh government, education and literacy department’s curriculum wing head Dr Fauzia Khan mentioned that curriculum reform committees were formed when education became a provincial subject, in the aftermath of the 18th Amendment. After three years of hard work, the education department notified on Thursday the amended curriculum for class six to eight, she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2016.