Appeasing own agenda is the role of our textbooks

Rubina Saigol, independent writer, says there was a vast difference in text books before and after 1965.

Farah Batool February 09, 2014
File photo of Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy.

KARACHI: On September 21, 2013 the Punjab Education Department issued orders to confiscate science books of grade six of the Lahore Grammar School (LGS) after it found out the text books had a chapter on the process of reproduction and termed it ‘provocative for youth’.

Talking in a session titled ‘The Role of Textbooks’, Samina Rehman, principal of LGS Civic Town branch, explained how her school was served with two show-cause notices including a raid on classes of  grade six and seventh students during school time. Their fault? Trying to learn comparative religion for a better understanding of other religions and the natural reproduction process.

“They don’t understand. We live in a society where not everyone is a Muslim, we need to know about other religions, and we do not need to remove the process of reproduction from our textbooks,” said the passionate principle finally having an audience of like-minded people. “They instead told us to write about the reproduction process of frogs,” she added welcoming laughs from the packed room of Karachi literature Festival’s session.

“It is a dominant part in a society that comes out in education,” Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani nuclear physicist, essayist and defence analyst, reiterated, saying initially the notion of bringing religion into everything was rejected, but then students slowly started getting used to it.

In a recent survey, 87% of school and college going students said they want sharia law in the country, he added. Speakers nodded in acceptance to the dire situation of the country where there is no notion of inquiring, let alone challenging, what students are force-fed in the name of education.

Tracing the evolution of text books in Pakistan, Rubina Saigol, an independent writer and researcher specialising in social development, said there was a vast difference in text books before and after 1965. Before, they had Buddha, Christ and other religious leaders teaching peace and tolerance. It was more of a nationalist approach after ‘65, she said adding after ‘71, however, that nationalism turned defensive and militarism came.

The moderator and current Managing Director of Oxford University Press in Pakistan, Ameena Saiyid went on to explain how after ‘62, when the then president Ayub Khan made publishing boards in every province, textbooks started to deviate from teaching and turned into the government’s medium of publishing what they wanted to enforce.

“Everyone has a different notion on what a good citizen is and they argue over the trait but instead, they should be proud of their diversity,” Abdul Hameed Nayyar, a Pakistani physicist and nuclear activist, said adding how text books in Pakistan have failed to educate and to broaden the minds of students. This society’s dilemma, he said, is that it brings religion in everything. “In language, in history, in science - forgetting that there are others who do not have the same religion.”

Disclaiming the common idea, Hoodbhoy said the transformation of Islam we see here is not restricted to the country, it is a globalised defense mechanism against modernism and modern ideas and that has slowly and gradually, but very significantly evolved from text books. He added even Indonesia is going through the same phase we have experienced. He said the situation was graver than one can comprehend, “The question we need to ask ourselves is, what Pakistan would be after 5 or 20 years.”


Nishant | 7 years ago | Reply

@Batt: No country does this, the land known as pakistan today, tries hard and hard to speak urdu, despite the fact that urdu does not belong to this land, punjabi and sindhi have been systematically removed. you can ask any punjabi youngster, and they would confirm that their teachers in schools scolded them for speaking punjabi and urged them to speak urdu. this was tried with bengali language, tried hard to replace it with urdu, and the rest is history

Batt | 7 years ago | Reply

All countries do such things not exclusive to Pakistan..

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