Textbooks used in government schools in Pakistan distort students’ perceptions, limit their critical thinking skills and obscure the real causes of violence and terrorism in the country, claims a report commissioned by the US Institute of Peace.
The author of the report, “Education and Attitudes in Pakistan; Understanding Perceptions of Terrorism,” Madiha Afzal says that “Pakistan’s current educational system does not equip students to counter the prevailing problematic narrative in society and the media.”
Instead, she claims, the system creates and propagates narratives of its own.
Afzal, who is an assistant professor at the Maryland’s School of Public Policy, in her report claims that despite the large scale attacks carried out by the Taliban and other extremist elements in the country, textbooks have so far failed to provide a clear cause of violence incidents, even for attacks such as those on the Army Public School in December last where over 140 pupils were killed. She claimed that this had resulted in a “Confused narrative.”
However, the study shows that overwhelming majority of school students in Pakistan showed no support for the Taliban.
The report further claims that despite the thousands killed in terror related incidents, the ninth and 10th grade students are taught the neighbouring India is a “cunning” enemy, which has been creating hindrance in the Pakistan’s path of progress, and “posed the greatest threat” to the country.
“Dominant narrative that emerges is that foreign influences are responsible for terrorism including India, the US, and their agencies,” said Afzal during a June 9 discussion on the study at USIP.
The study, while pointing out that the textbooks in 1950s and 1960s were more “liberal” and included a well-rounded discussion of the history of the sub-continent as a whole, claimed that during the regime of former dictator General Ziaul Haq a new course by the title of Pakistan Studies was introduced in schools and graduate programs. The authors of these new textbooks were instructed to “guide students towards the ultimate goal of Pakistan – the creation of a completely Islamized State.”
However, after reforms, a new national curriculum was introduced in 2006.
While noting that its implementation is spotty, as it has not been implemented everywhere, the author noted, “ultimately the 2006 curriculum reform has brought about marginal improvements but has failed at any real change.”
“This is unsurprising given that the curriculum is a direct product of state policy and a narrative that justifies the existence of Pakistan with respect to India.”
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