Experts urge textbook reforms to cure rising religious intolerance | Pakistan Today

Experts urge textbook reforms to cure rising religious intolerance

Textbooks used in country’s schools these days are rife with factual errors, bias and hate towards a number of religious groups and nations, a development which is only fuelling intolerance and extremism in the society.
Given that the increasing extremism poses an existential threat to Pakistan, the government, civil society, education experts and citizens need to contribute to a serious process of curriculum and textbook reforms to help combat the growing levels of intolerance and violence towards minority groups in the society. During a roundtable discussion on curriculum development and textbook reform organised by the Jinnah Institute in collaboration with the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) in Islamabad, participants highlighted the need for curriculum and textbook reform to achieve a tolerant and peaceful Pakistan.
Raza Rumi, Director of Policy and Programmes at the Jinnah Institute, opened the discussion, pointing out that cooperation between all stakeholders in the education sector was required to achieve better policy outcome and the Jinnah Institute roundtable was an effort towards that. “We need to find a balance between the civil society and government initiatives so that important and innovative solutions to curriculum-related issues can be implemented,” Rumi said.
NCJP Executive Director Peter Jacob shared the commission’s report on biases in textbooks and highlighted examples of hate material in Pakistani textbooks and how such material not only negatively impacted the minds of the majority Muslim students but also harmed the education and growth of non-Muslim students. Participants also highlighted how religion of many non-Muslim students – Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims from the non-majority sects – was ignored while highlighting the majority faith.
Mirza Ashraf, a senior official of the Punjab provincial government’s textbook board, outlined the process of commissioning, writing and approving textbooks. Participants felt the need for devising policy and advocacy interventions for correcting hate material and stressed that a concerted effort needed to be made to review the subtle messages in educational materials with respect to minorities’ and women’s rights, and the freedom of religion and speech.
Haider Abbas Rizvi, MQM’s deputy parliamentary leader in National Assembly, spoke about the damage caused to Pakistani minds by an education system that taught them a falsified version of history. “When students come out of this system and independently look at the world, their minds are struck by the contradictions. Many reject both, then, and become part of a confused generation,” Rizvi said, adding that he would pursue the matter with the education minister in Sindh, where his party was a member of the coalition government.
Samson Sharaf of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) detailed the persecution of non-Muslim Pakistanis over two decades and how Christians and Hindus, the largest non-Muslim communities in the country, had been discriminated against and deprived of opportunities to live as citizens of Pakistan through a flawed and biased education system.

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