ISLAMABAD: Schools in the federal capital have started teaching the Holy Quran along with a translation of the text, however, teachers say the government has made poor arrangements with unspecialised and untrained teachers asked to teach have been decried as ‘unprofessional’.
“Neither are specialised teachers being asked to teach [the Holy Quran] nor are there sufficient books available according to the strength of the students,” the teachers said, adding that the process had started off in a haphazard way.
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The teaching of the Holy Quran with translation had been made compulsory in schools up to the higher secondary level by the parliament through the Quran Education Bill 2017.
Consequently, the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) — which oversees academic and non-academic issues of schools in the federal capital — started implementing the bill by initiating the Holy Quran course in classes six to 12 from the beginning of the current academic session.
“They have adopted books exclusively designed and donated to the FDE by the Ilm Foundation for the implementation of the Quran Bill, said a teacher who did not wish to be named for fear of repercussions.
The directorate, the teacher said, had asked all teachers — irrespective of their subject — to teach the suggested books for the first 10 to 15 minutes of the period every day.
“This [teachers forced to teach the Holy Quran] means that those teachers who themselves have limited or no expert knowledge of the Holy Quran will be teaching it,” another concerned teacher said.
The teachers argued that given schools already offer Islamic Studies, the Islamiat teachers — who have relevant expertise in the subject —should be asked to teach it after being provided with proper training.
Curiously, the government had conducted a training session for some teachers. But teachers who attended the session said that it was more of an introductory meeting on the move rather than a specialised training which would equip them to teach the Holy Quran to the children.
“An introductory meeting was held for the teachers last week wherein the teachers were briefly told about the course,” said a teacher who had attended the meeting.
Providing details of the training, which was held at a government college in Sector G-6/3 college, the teacher said that the model colleges director was asked why the course was not being integrated with the existing Islamic Studies syllabus and why the already-available expert teachers were not being given the responsibility of teaching it.
At this, the teacher narrated, the director started giving a sermon on the responsibilities enjoined on every Muslim.
When asked why had the FDE decided to dedicate 10 to 15 minutes of a class to this, the director reportedly again emphasised the obligations of a true Muslim.
“We were given a training based on the idea that we are Muslims and it is our duty to teach the Holy Quran. No logic, no proper methodology and no actual training were imparted,” the teacher lamented.
Some teachers, though, have questioned the idea of propagating religiosity in the current times instead of promoting critical and practical thinking.
Other teachers expressed concerns over the shortage of teachers to incorporate the course, pointing out that a sizeable chunk of the teaching staff in the capital’s schools and colleges comprise daily-wage staffers with the organisations lacking sufficient full-time teachers.
“Since the academic session started in April, there are insufficient teachers for important subjects such as computers and Urdu,” complained Umar Butt whose child studies in Islamabad Model College for Boys (IMCB) in Sector F-7/3.
The school, he said, had recently hired a computer teacher on daily-wages.
It was further revealed that the FDE did not have any money to publish the books, hence the Ilm Foundation donated a limited stock of books. As a result, barely three to five books were given out in each class.
The FDE, however, has broken up the course per the level of grades they are being taught in, though discrepancies can be seen with some schools starting the course from grade six while in some schools, grade three were taught Nazra.
Officials clarified that they will not be teaching the complete Quran in school particularly since the books have been designed in such a way that some verses and chapters are taught in the class so that students can read and understand the Holy Quran.
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Responding to questions about teachers of different subjects asked to teach the Holy Quran, FDE officials said that there was nothing unusual about it since everyone has read the Holy Quran in their childhood and they have also been given training for that.
In response to another question about the books by a private donor, FDE Schools Director Shahab Saqib said that the content of the books had been agreed upon by all the sects and that the books have been developed in a simple and easy to read way.
“I do not think teachers will face any difficulty in teaching it,” Saqib said.
“It is a great step by the state that it has taken ownership of religious teachings,” he said, adding, “When students learn the Holy Quran in schools, parents will not prefer to send their children to Madrassahs”.
Currently, the FDE has not introduced any examination system for the newly-introduced religious books. However, teachers believe that gradually, some form of examination system could be drafted for the subject with marks affixed.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2018.