Original Articles

Textbooks – Source confusion and extremism – by Junaid Qaiser


Pakistan’s poor education system and its bias curriculum that often incites intolerance and violence has increasingly become a matter of international concern. The government-mandated curriculum is a major concern for Western observers who say it encourages intolerance, anti democracy, anti freedom, anti minorities and anti peace and a narrow worldview.

Pakistan’s poor public education system and lack of access to quality education, which in turn limits economic opportunity, makes young Pakistanis targets for extremist groups helps stoke militancy, while the religious schools often cited as a cause of extremism appear not to be a major risk factor”, says a report by a Washington think tank. The U.S. report, released by the Brookings Institution, examined a raft of studies to assess links between militancy and education, a priority area for the Obama administration as it boosts development aid to Islamabad. The researchers said low enrollment rates were a risk factor for violence and demand for education inside Pakistan far exceeded the government’s ability to provide it. In addition, Pakistan’s public school system was highly corrupt with positions handed out for political favors and teachers paid whether they turned up for class or not. “The way the education system is set up is contributing to support militancy,” said Rebecca Winthrop, with the Center for Universal Education at Brookings.

An outdated Pakistani textbook

The curriculum and teaching methods in public schools helped create intolerant views and also did little to prepare students for the labor market, frustrating youngsters and increasing the pool of militant recruits, the report said. Winthrop and fellow conflict specialist Corinne Graff said the religious schools, or madrasas, that were frequently cited by the West as causing Islamist militancy, were not as numerous as suspected. Far less than 10 percent of the full-time, school-going population went to them. “Madrasas account for a tiny fraction of student enrollment and they can hardly be cast as the main obstacle to high quality education and stability,” they wrote. “The almost exclusive focus on madrasas as a security challenge — which is especially prevalent in the West — needs to be corrected,” the researchers added. The Brookings researchers cited problems with the curriculum in many schools, with historical facts altered and hatred toward archrival India and Hindus prominent in texts. The curriculum and textbooks include hate material and “encourage prejudice, bigotry and discrimination” toward women, religious minorities, and other nations, especially U.S and India. Pakistani textbooks are silent over a plethora of important social issues and evils. The books do not speak of local domestic issues i.e honor killing, blasphemy laws, hudood laws, rijam (stoning to death for committing adultery), child labor, etc. Thus, the students remain unaware of a number of local and provincial issues. The books of social studies provide no education but indoctrination. Historical facts are distorted. The students have been kept completely ignorant of the facts due to which democracy could never flourish in Pakistan and they are not told about the follies committed by the military dictators. Human rights, women rights and minorities rights are absent from the books, minorities’ sacrifices for Pakistan have been totally ignored. Minorities are described as if they are some “inferior entities” who have been given some rights by the “generous” Pakistanis. Minorities are not described as equal citizens of Pakistan. They are discussed as “second class” citizens who have been given certain favors by the Muslims.The textbooks are full of hatred against the Hindus, India and English. Hindus have been portrayed as the worst people on earth. The Hindus and the Muslims had lived together for centuries. There are several true stories about love and amity between the Hindus and the Muslims. Such stories should be included in the syllabi. If the hate element against India was not reduced, peace and trade between the two countries would merely remain a dream. The Hindus are repeatedly described as extremists and they have always been an enemy of Islam and their set up is based on injustice and cruelty, Islam gives a message of peace and and brother hood and there is no such concept in Hinduism. The Hindus have been presented as “myopic” and “arrogant”” and the bigoted clergy is accused of instigating the Christian rulers to declare crusade against the Muslims” the Roman Pope announced the crusade the Christians, particularly the clergy is told to have “malice” in their heart against the Muslims, who had given the latter every right and freedom. In Pakistan and Muslim countries chapter, an attempt has been made to give the students an impression that Muslim countries are the “friends” and the non Muslim countries “enemies” by averring: “when a Muslim visits another Muslim country, he does not find himself in an alien’s country.”

Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, wrote in Foreign Affairs: “Pakistani schools–and not just madrassas–are churning out fiery zealots, fueled with a passion for jihad and martyrdom.” CFR Senior Fellow Daniel Markey also notes the concern over textbooks. “Rather than actually serving to moderate public views, the education system is exacerbating the problem of extremism,” The textbooks are based on the past history and do not ask the students to look on present and into the future. Many renowned scholars like K. K Aziz, Dr Pervaiz Hood Bhoy, Rubina Sehgol, Dr. A.H Nayyer, Dr Ayesha Jalal, Zafarullah Khan, Ahmad Salim and many others have pinpointed factual mistakes and confusing ideas in the text books. The policy makers who claim to make Pakistan a moderate, liberal democrat state must check and revisit this Confusing educational jungle and remove all factual mistakes, hate speeches and confusing ideas. There is a consensus among the democrats and concerned citizens that what is being taught in our educational institutes is not very supportive of democratic thinking and if we continued with that the destination of democratic Pakistan would always remain a distant dream.

It’s really a good news that the Obama administration has promised to put more money into improving education in Pakistan and has made it a focus of the $1.5 billion in non-military aid allocated annually by Congress for Pakistan over the next five years. “Undoubtedly, a high-quality education system prepares its students to participate in and contribute to economic growth, which leads toward security and stability,” said Rajiv Shah, who heads the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID’s total education budget in Pakistan for fiscal year 2010 is $335 million – with $265 million for basic education and the remainder for higher education. Since 2002, USAID has invested $682 million for education projects in Pakistan. One way in which the money is being used is to offer stipends to families as a temporary measure to offset the cost of education for the poor. Now it’s state’s  duty to make Pakistani educational system liberal and modern.

About the author

Junaid Qaiser

5 Comments

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  • A country founded on religious bigotry is no more than a stool which stands on one leg. Where is your culture and your grammar and your literature? You have none that you call that is home-made. More money in education will mean more earnings to the well -entrenched “intellectuals” to write more nonsense.

  • Indeed, education is one of the largest problems in Pakistan. It can also be termed as the root cause for all the woes our nation suffers today. We – the people’s government – definitely need to start promoting a liberal education system, free of all hypocrisies and inconsistencies. That has confused our youth and corrupted their young minds with bigotry and false ideology of self-righteousness.

  • Democracy and fear do not mix well, add with this mix the “religion” than you are really stumped. By preaching hate, one is brain washing growing brains. When some of those brain washed individuals go overseas they can’t adjust. On top of that greed, corruption and religious bigotry will never ever allow Pakistan to move anywhere but down. There is no answer. This is the sad reality.