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History Taught In Pakistan
#74
Taking ideology out of education


AH Nayyar
Including the 'virtues' of jihad in school syllabi is surely an opening for the infusion of militant ideologies and the desensitising of our youth to the extreme brutalities being committed against human beings by the misguided jihadis

If there is one thing the new National Education Policy shows, it is that the PPP-led coalition government, like governments before it, is hopelessly pandering to the mullahs.

Apparently the policy was ready to be launched for some time – and without a chapter on Islamic education. However, the mullahs managed to put a foot in the door. The issue was taken up by a particular lobby which protested that unlike the previous education policy (NEP 1998-2010), the new draft was missing the ‘crucial’ chapter on Islamic education.

Sadly, the government succumbed to this pressure, and added the chapter. Thus, we now have a new policy that has no chapter on science education, or on the teaching of mathematics or languages, but a full chapter on Islamic education.

The most astonishing part of the added chapter is that it comes with a curriculum of Islamiat defined in the policy. No other subject gets this special treatment. The chapter, hence the policy, makes Islamiat a compulsory subject from class I up to class XII, and if one reads carefully, this condition could extend even to universities.

Most importantly, the new policy violates Pakistan’s constitutional provisions, exactly as the previous policy and curricula had done. While making the teaching of Islamiat compulsory from class I, it also says that classes I and II would have an integrated curriculum. An integrated curriculum by definition has all the subjects put together in one book, which means that Islamic Studies will also be a part of this one book scheme of studies. This implies that non-Muslim students in class I and II would be required to learn Islamic studies with the rest of children. This would violate Article 22(1) of the Constitution that 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 .”

Introducing Islamic Studies through integrated curriculum was one of the ways in which Islamiat was imposed on minority students in the previous education policy and curriculum.

The Islamiat curriculum spelled out in the new policy also includes teaching students the virtues of jihad. It seems the ruling parties and the educational bureaucracy have not learnt anything from our previous experiences. They forget that similar provisions in the previous policy allowed curriculum designers to lay an undue emphasis on Islamic learning; that textbooks therefore included chapters on jihad that looked as if they were copied verbatim from the promotional literature of militant jihadi groups. For those who may not remember, let me refer them to the 2003 SDPI report on textbooks and curricula:http://www.sdpi.org/archive/nayyar_report.htm. Some readers may also recall the passionate debates held in our esteemed parliament in 2004 on whether Sura Anfal had more on jihad or Sura Tauba.

Including the ‘virtues’ of jihad in school syllabi is surely an opening for the infusion of militant ideologies and the desensitising of our youth to the extreme brutalities being committed against human beings by the misguided jihadis.

The new education policy also plans to employ well-qualified teachers to teach Islamiat and Arabic in schools. Given the Islamiat curriculum in the policy, it is easy to guess who these qualified teachers will be: graduates of madrassas, of course.It also says that in-service and pre-service training programmes in Islamiat and Arabic will be organised at teacher training institutions. This therefore is clearly a backdoor channel to extend the influence of mullahs, including their obscurantism, sectarianism and militancy, to public schools. If each school employs only one teacher for both Islamiat and Arabic, it will open up employment for nearly 250,000 madrassa trained mullahs in mainstream schools.

The policy additionally says: “Islamic teachings shall be made a part of teacher training curricula and the curricula of other training institutions. Arabic teachers preferably having the qualification as Qaris shall be appointed in such institutions.”

There are no institutions other than madrassas that produce certified Qaris. Hence this provision ensures the employment of madrassa graduates in teacher training institutions also. They are not likely to be just Qaris, but will come with the ideology that has ruined Pakistan, and against which the Pakistani armed forces are currently fighting at such a huge human cost.

But the more alarming part of the above provision is the phrase “…and the curricula of other training institutions”. The policy does not specify which ‘other institutions’ it has in mind. In the absence of any identification, this part could extend to all institutions, including universities. It could extend to, say, the MSc physics and chemistry curricula of universities, or to the curricula of engineering and medical colleges. We are left to wonder if this is not an underhanded way of creating such possibilities in the future.

Regarding madrassa education, the new policy seems oblivious to the failure of the Musharraf government in introducing school subjects in the madrassa curriculum. There is no reason why this scheme would work now if it did not work in the past. The policy makers seem unaware of an excellent proposal from the esteemed religious scholar Javed Ghamidi. Allama Ghamidi argues that madrassa education should be regarded as much a professional education as law, engineering, medicine, etc, and should be allowed after 10-12 years of mainstream schooling. If this concept is enforced, there would be no need for the futile mainstreaming our governments attempt again and again, or to pandering to mullahs.

Dr AH Nayyar used to teach physics at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, and is currently a research fellow at SDPI


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