Don’t mess with education!

Posted on August 10, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Education, Minorities, Religion
44 Comments
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Adil Najam

In late July, the Daily Times broke the story about about how the new Ethics textbook published by the Punjab and Sindh Textbook Boards for class IX do not have a chapter on Christianity and Jesus Christ.

The good news was that there was an immediate uproar from some politicians (Senator Aitzaz Ahsan) and major Pakistani newspapers (Daily Times, News) wrote scathing editorials condemning the omission.

I have waited ten days now to find out what has been done on this. Yet, unless I have missed something — and I really hope I have — nothing seems to have been done yet to rectify the situation.

To be fair, the text books are slowly becoming better and more balanced than they used to be. This is largely because of the pioneering work being done by many civil society activists. Indeed, the fact that the text book in questions does have sections on Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Krisha, and Guru Nanak is great news (these were not there when I was in school).

But as this incident points out, because of our past negligence, the challenge is much bigger and there is a need for continued vigilance. At issue is the education of our cchildren, but also the shape of society and the treatment fo religious minorities in Pakistan.

The News, for example, pointed out:

Mr Ahsan is spot on as far as his remarks on the Christian community are concerned. Unfortunately, he has also hit the nail on the head when he says that the community has been persecuted since the days of General Zia. The reason for this has a lot to do with the fact that the country has become conservative since then and because that military dictator introduced laws that tended to target Christians and other minorities, especially the laws relating to blasphemy. Other policies introduced by General Zia — and which successive governments have failed to discard in many instances — were even more overtly discriminatory. For instance, many public-sector educational institutions give applicants extra marks or credit if they have learnt the Holy Quran by rote. Indeed, if such a policy is to be followed in college or university admissions then applicants of all faiths should be allowed to benefit from it — otherwise it should not be instituted in the first place because it reeks of discrimination….

The News is exactly right. For too long and on too many issues, Pakistan has taken its minorities for granted. An immediate stop must be put to this and we have to learn to treat all Pakistanis, irrespective of their religion, as equal citizens with equal rights. The insensitivity that officialdom and society at large shows to the religious beliefs of non-Muslims must be reversed and meaningful steps should be taken by the government to reverse the trends of discrimination and marginalization.

The misdirected zeal of our curriculum designes has created entire generations who actually think that patriotism is just about trashing the ‘enemy’ and faith is about explaining what is wrong with everyone else’s religion. True, others do it too and there are enough hate-mongers everywhere. But that is their problem. Our responsibility is to our own kids and we must not mess with their future!

Speaking of messing with education, now we hear of more propaganda seeping into the curriculum. A story in the August 2, 2006 issue of The Daily Times points out this incident of curriculum abuse:

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s messages to the nation have been replaced by messages from President Pervez Musharraf and Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi in almost all the latest editions of books approved and published by the Punjab Textbook Board… The Punjab Textbook Board chairman said he had noticed the error in books published by the board and had planned to omit the messages of Musharraf and Elahi from books to be published in 2007-08.

In this case it is good news that the Board plans to remove the political propaganda. Let’s please make sure it is removed.

We have fed our youth canned and erroneous histories for too long. So long, in fact, that I would bet if you asked a cross section of our young who Mohammad Ali Bogra was and gave them two choices — sportsman or politician — most will probably guess he was a sportsman rather than a Prime Minister of the country!

So, whatever else we do or not do, please do not mess with education!

(P.S., also see earlier ATP post on what’s happening to libraries).

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44 responses to “Don’t mess with education!”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    I would bet if you asked a cross section of our young who Mohammad Ali Bogra was and gave them two choices — sportsman or politician — most will probably guess he was a sportsman rather than a Prime Minister of the country!

    And I bet if you asked a cross section of anyone who knows who Mohammad Ali Bogra was and asked them to name two things he did for Pakistan will not be able to name one!

    And I will also bet that if you asked a cross section of youth of most countries of the world and asked them of some of their past leaders (may be even present) will not be able to name them either.

  2. Muhammad Saim says:

    I just wanted to add one thing regarding what Mr Shivam said. He like may other indians think that India and MANY MORE Muslims than Pakistan. One reason for the same is to show how great india is. Well I do agree that India is a huge and a beautiful country and I really like Indians (I personally know many) who are very nice people. However I just wanted to say that Pop of Muslims in India and Pak is nearly the same and if u wanna go in details then u may be surprised to know that Pak has little MORE Muslims then India:

    As per the official website of Indian census, Pop of India as of March 2008 was 1148M out of which 13.4% were muslims thus Muslims in India are at 153.832 Million

    While as per the PAKISTANI POPULATION WEBSITE (Official) pop of Pak is 163 Million of which 96.28% are muslims thus the total number of Muslims in Pakistan comes out to be 156.964M. Hence the total difference in favor of Pak is: 3.104M which can increase further if Pak kashmir is included which has further 5 million muslims.

    Please dont get offended i am not malaigning india but i am tired of some indians singing all the time that “We have more Muslims then u guys” as a measure of My country is better than yours like KG childeren

    U can check the sources from:
    http://www.censusindia.gov.in and go to projected populations
    http://www.statpak.gov.pk/depts/pco/
    plus even wikipedia shows pakistan as the 2nd largest muslim pop in the world with evidences.

  3. Roshan I didn’t know about that movie’s actual message as never tried to watch new pakistani movies but if you compare it with Indian movies and programs,its like Atay me namak se bhe kam.


    The bottom line is that its now time to think with different mindset. Both the nations have suffered a lot and we should move towards Peace and its the only way we can progress in this competitive World.

    Sorry Roshan Its not just our duty to think and otherside keep declaring us terrorist.I do favor friendship but not one-sided.You can’t be my friend unless you show me some positive sign otherwise you will call me “Chipku”,A pushy person.When there common citizen is being bitter with us then why on earth should we dream to be friends?

  4. Roshan Malik says:

    @ Adnan
    “How many times did we make movies against India”
    I saw one movie “Tere Piyar Mein” (zara sheikh & shaan), which gives the same message as some indian movies give.
    The bottom line is that its now time to think with different mindset. Both the nations have suffered a lot and we should move towards Peace and its the only way we can progress in this competitive World.

    There is a wonderful article by Amartya Sen “Finding our common ground” which was published in The Newstatesman http://www.newstatesman.com/nssubsfilter.php3?newT emplate=NSArticle_NS&newDisplayURN=200607310036 but this article is also published by The News in two parts: http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=1977 4
    He threw some light in the grey area where people are more concerned about their identities and ignoring other important features of civilization:
    “civilisational classifiers have often pigeonholed India as a “Hindu civilisationâ€

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