Curriculum and textbook politics

Published: October 15, 2015

ISLAMABAD: The public education system needs to foster a tolerant citizenry, capable of competing in the labour market and supportive of democratic norms within the country and peace with the outside world. This can happen if there are reforms to a deeply-flawed national curriculum that promotes xenophobia and religious intolerance. Reflecting the state’s ideology, the current curriculum over-emphasises the importance of national cohesion at the expense of regional diversity. The histories of the provinces that comprise present-day Pakistan, and regional languages and cultures, are largely absent.

There is an excruciating mismatch between the National Curriculum 2006 (on which public school textbooks are based) and Article 22(1) of the Constitution. This Article says: “No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instructions, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.”

Despite this sacrosanct injunction, the National Curriculum 2006 required children of all faiths from grades one to three to be taught and proselytised at the expense of inclusive religious diversity and broad-based plurality. The distorted version of Islam taught to children that contributes to intolerance and sectarian tensions is one result. Pragmatically, provincial governments and civil society should work collectively to reinvent a narrative for Pakistan. Only then will education help children become informed citizens who reject the mantra of ‘kill and be killed’ and support peace within the country and in the outside world as well. The state, both a victim and an incubator of violence, better fix this anomaly sooner rather than later.

Saeedullah Khan Wazir

Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2015.

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