Afghanistan is in the news for the Taliban’s refusal to allow girls to return to school but a recent study show that Urdu-language Afghan textbooks are way ahead of their Pakistani counterparts.
According to a survey by academic and public intellectual, Pervez Hoodbhoy “science books for classes 1-12 that cover mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and computer science surveyed by Mr. Hoodbhoy were in his words “clear and pleasing with systematically organized graphs and colored illustrations.” Further, Hoodbhoy noted that the Taliban were unlikely to change the textbooks in use anytime soon. This is because “Afghanistan’s brain drain includes many teachers, writers and editors and the Taliban don’t have the wherewithal to produce a new generation of textbooks.”
According to Hoodbhoy, “Pakistani textbooks are very different. For years my colleagues and I have begged our education authorities to drastically revise locally published textbooks. All are faulty in content, poor in pedagogy and badly presented.”
Abdul Hameed Nayyar, education consultant, who analyzed Pakistan’s educational curriculum noted “Textbooks provided by the state are of abysmal quality, both in content as well as in presentation. Pakistani textbook boards have repeatedly proved unable to provide good-quality learning material.”
Further, Afghan textbooks teach different schools of Muslim religious law separately. They also keep religion out of secular subjects. “The religious textbooks are comprehensive… Special books for use in madrassahs cover usual topics in math, science, English, and world history. But they are simpler and less detailed than those for ordinary schools,” according to Hoodbhoy.
In Pakistani textbooks, however, “religious topics permeate books teaching Urdu, English and general knowledge. Quite senselessly, madrassahs and ordinary schools are yoked together. While all students should know how the modern world works, 99 per cent of madrassah students will never use math or science professionally. So why use the same books and force students to take the same exams? This means the….government is shooting for a lowest common denominator, lower than even the existing one.”
The final irony is that Saudi Arabia, the country which influenced Pakistan’s textbooks and curricula, actually has changed its schoolbooks in recent years.