Textbook biases: ‘Our schools are extremism factories’


Following is a cross blog post from Express Tribune

The biases and prejudices in school textbooks are one of the main reasons for the radicalisation of young people and poor quality of education in Pakistan, said academics and civil society activists at a conference here on Wednesday.

“These are not textbooks as much as propaganda brochures which have closed off our children’s minds,” said Irfan Mufti of South Asia Partnership Pakistan, speaking at the conference on ‘Biases in textbooks and education policy’, organised by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP).

“Discrimination is a national issue and these discriminatory texts are a constant threat to our society,” he said. “I believe that all the primary schools in our country are factories fuelling extremism in our children.” Peter Jacob of the NCJP said that school textbooks painted non-Muslims as the enemy. “We want our teacher to tell our children that minorities or people from other religions or countries are not our enemies,” he said.

“People here who used to deny that Pakistan was an extremist society no longer deny it after Gojra and the Asia Bibi and Rimsha [blasphemy] cases.” Other speakers said that the best way to counter the extremism was through good teachers and good schools. “Educationists must play their role in changing minds through education. I believe our generation needs values more than anything else,” said Dr Christy Munir, the principal of FC College.

“The only way we can become a progressive nation is to be an educated nation. We know that the only tool we have against extremism is education and if there is no education, there will be no peace,” said Father Emmanuel Yousaf, a peace activist.

“There is a huge difference between early and current society. Everyone should respect the changes in society and one should not impose his or her beliefs on others,” said Syed Nisar Safdar, a Supreme Court advocate and social activist.

The speakers said that current education and curriculum policy should be reviewed to remove discriminatory teaching materials and practices. Besides imparting knowledge, textbooks and teachers should focus on teaching students universal humanity and responsible citizenship. Religious education should be removed from public schools, or at least minority students should get an equal opportunity to study their own religion. And the role of religious minorities in the creation and development of Pakistan should be incorporated in the syllabus, the speakers said.

Around 100 people attended the event at Ambassador Hotel.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2013.