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).

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

  1. Naveed its an open debate with open hearts without inviting sarcasm and offense.Offcourse what you mentioned about Mohammad Qasim was not taught in sind text book boards.

    You might have taken me wrong about “Open your eyes” statment.There was no intention to demonstrate my superiority and insulting you.Its very severe that influence of Western media is spreading day by day.If you ever notice BBC news.they always show difference in muslims as Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims and we ignore it as nothing happens.You actually blamed Pakistanis in recent London plit which i despised because it was not proved at all and world knows how these zions and necons(which you are not willing to know about them) work against their *enemy*.IN past communism was their target and now Islam.You must be more aware and knowledegable about different things but only reason to disagree was your statment about those pakistanis.

    Yes we do have different opinions and I respect my opposition.I certainly dont buy your theory that Relgion should be involved occasioonaly rather in every field of life.

    @Shivaram:Sorry but “you” didn’t mean yourself.Here you means your state.Sorry its like my habbit and do accept my apology if you think i was targeting you.

    Yes we have nukes too but you dont know how *expensive* these nukes are for us and how many kids we sacrificed at the cost of those missiles when we coudnt provide them roti and daal.


    In fact, unlike India, Pakistan does not have a ‘no first use’ policy about nukes

    AFAIK,There is no such documented policy at both end and yes few people did talk about first use of nukes due to weaker strength of Pakistan against India.Indian army stayed on Pakistan border for an year but we didnt fire a single bomb over them so its kinda fictitious tht we are eager to play with nukes.


    A recent news report said that Pakistan had moved nukes

    Would like to know the source.Offcourse not sepiaMutiny or other Indian website.Unlike India Pakistan have mobile setup of nukes so nukes can be move anywhere on earth.


    Then gain, many Indians would say that ‘you’ blow us up every day – most recently, 178 of ‘us’ in Mumbai.

    They have aleady said.Thtswhy i said that according to you Indian books dont preach haterd ,still we see movies like HINDUSTANI and others in which Pakistan is offended.We see movies like Sarfarosh in which Pakistni legendary singer Mehdi Hasan is offended who is even worshiped by your singer Lata.How many times did we make movies against India and insult Indian singers?we rather invited them in our country and in return they came out as moron and offended us in our own land.I do get in touch commin Indians online via different forums so I do get chance to know what they think about Pakistan.

    Speaking of Mumbai blasts,your govt coudnt provide any proof to Pakistani govt at all.They even coudnt provide proof of 2001 delhi parliment attack and i often read in papers that Indian muslims are being harrased by local officials despite of their opposition.

    Anyway this thrad gonna be yet anther Indo-Pak thread so I must stop here.I would just say one thing that both countries must accept each others existance openly.Look we are not part of India anymore,its past now so why not just quit hating each others status and move on?

    I do preach about friendship but not one sided.What i believe that if India is not willing then Pakistan should be least bother to worry about any friendship with Indians otherwise what’s the use that we keep bowing and other side just keep seeing us with infinite doubts.

    You are most welcome on any Paksitani forum but you should also make your efforts to lower the gap.I really admire people like Arudhati Rai and Amit Verma of guardian who took postive stand during recent bombay blast and just didnt blame India by ignoring that there are no saints live within Indian land.

  2. Shivam says:

    It is a pleasure to interact with Pakistani bloggers and only emboldens my ambition to visit Pakistan some day.

    I have not seen a single Pakistani textbook, and what I’m saying is based on the impressions I have got from reading about ‘textbook hatred’ in India and Pakistan. My impression – and yes, I may be wrong – is that the degree of anti-India/Hindu hatred in pakistani textbooks is comparable in India only to the curriculum in schools run by the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). I admit, I may be wrong.

    As for anti-Pakistan films like Ghadar, we are talking films, not textbooks here. My own asessment is that anti-Pakistan expression in India has gone down tremendously since after the Kargil war. It’s a little funny: films that are anti-Pakistan and films that preach bhai-bhai candle-lighting have both been successful. So which ones do Indians like?

    I’m sorry if I am going off-topic here (I just love to chat with Pakistanis!) but MSk, you touch on a number of subjects. Yes, a lot of Indians do feel the creation of Pakistan was regrettable and I know this is a greater sore point for many Pakistanis than Kashmir. I will not elaborate on why indians see Pakistan as a ‘mistake’, because it’s obvious, but point out to you another funny thing: the extreme right-wing does not see Pakistan as a mistake! They say that it was a good thing so many Muslims separated from India, and the ones who are still here should follow suit.

    MSk wrote: You are right about India having as many Muslims as Pakistan.

    Nope, there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan.

    And Adnan, may I politely object to the language you use? When you say, “…and few wars we fought against you,” it sounds as if I am party to the game. Individuals contain in themselves many identities; please don’t make it sound as though I was culpable in the wars India ‘waged’ against ‘you’ or ‘you guys’. I’m sorry, I’m not waging wars here!

    But Adnan, you are right. If indeed Indian textbooks started preaching hate against Pakistan, the results would be far more disastrous than they already are. And when you say, “You guys might go to blow us up next day,” please remember that ‘you guys’ have nukes too, and you could blow ‘us’ up anytime as well! In fact, unlike India, Pakistan does not have a ‘no first use’ policy about nukes. A recent news report said that Pakistan had moved nukes during the Kargil ‘war’ – which, by the way, was not ‘waged’ by ‘us’. Then gain, many Indians would say that ‘you’ blow us up every day – most recently, 178 of ‘us’ in Mumbai.

    with warm regards,
    shivam

  3. Naveed says:

    Adnan, thanks for acknowledging that you did not know the side of the story on MBQ that I have posted. This goes to show that if impartial accounts of history are included in our books, our children would have greater chance of success being world-citizens respecting people of other faiths. Reference to your advise that I “open up my eyes”…..I hate western media and its bias against islam as much as any impartial viewer of the news but not sure if i follow your presumption of my ignorance :)…infact this presumption permeates your logic that someone different than you has their eyes closed

    Obviously you and I have different opinion of the same events & we can leave things at that

  4. MSk says:

    One more thing, to both Shivam and Adnan. The textbooks in neither country actually teach to ‘hate’ the Pakistanis/Indians. You will find nothing in Pakistani textbooks that says “go and hate Indians.â€

  5. MSk says:

    Dear Shivam. You are right about India having as many Muslims as Pakistan. That point was made and cleared early on in this discussion.

    It is not as if Indian textbooks are without controversy. You hint at the deep controversies about how history is or ‘should’ be treated in Indian textbooks. The case is not closed at all and has recently reached US shores with attempts to influence California textbooks in certain ways. Here are just some examples of this.

    http://www.sacw.net/India_History/index.html
    http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1822/18220820.ht m
    http://www.pathfinder.com/asiaweek/99/0326/nat7.ht ml
    http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/textbook/PressCo verage.html

    But this is not the place to discuss what India is doing. This is for INDIANS to discuss and talk about (from the links it is clear than many of them are). Just like the Pakistani textbook debate is most productive for Pakistanis to undertake ourselves. And this post proved that we are. (If we began ranting about what India should be doing on a blog called ‘All Things Pakistan’ it would be inappropriate and will only smell of India-hate even to friendly Indians. I, at least feel that way with many rant threads about the ills of Pakistan on Indian sites, even when some of the points they make are correct).

    The point is that the climate of hate and distrust has been carefully constructed on both sides. Even if to different degrees. As a Pakistani I am always offended at the intensity with which even progressive Indians assume that Pakistan was a ‘mistake’ (the more extreme then insist that this ‘mistake’ has to be somehow ‘fixed’). That deeply held view comes from many places including how history is constructed and presented.

    The lesson for Pakistanis who feel offended and angry when confronted with that view (which many of my Indian friends take for granted as a ‘fact’) is to also think about the similar ‘artifacts’ of history that we have constructed to flame our own passions. Like the idea that Mohd Bin Qasim was the first Pakistani. Think about the implications of that idea and where that takes us! Or, what this post was really about I think, the idea that Pakistan is ONLY for Muslims. That is very different from a view that it is a place where the MAJORITY is Muslims. The later view immediately forces you to think about and find ways to accommodate those who are not.

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