Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reforming Pakistan's textbooks

"Awaiting changes to a syllabus of hate", Nirupama Subramanian's excellent op-ed piece in The Hindu (9 June 2009) argues that "the education imparted to Pakistani children is flawed and encourages extremism, intolerance and ignorance."

She cites the influential 2002-study of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad - The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan. The SDPI report details how the curricula of government schools systematically indoctrinate young minds, and just how urgent the task of curriculum-reform is in Pakistan. The report resulted in a new curriculum being drafted, but this has not yet been implemented.

Subramanian cites one of the authors of the SDPI report in conclusion:

Compared to the 1.5 million who study in madrasas, an estimated 20 million children are enrolled in government schools. Dr. Nayyar laments that in the five years since the publication of the SDPI report, children who were 11 years old at the time have completed their matriculation. They read the old textbooks, and learnt a way of thinking about themselves and the world that will prove hard to change.

"Another generation has been lost because the process has taken too long," he said. And until the new textbooks are introduced, millions of children will continue to learn in their Urdu lessons in schools about the differences between Hindus and Muslims in a hatred-generating way, about "India's evil designs against Pakistan" in their Social Studies, and that Bangladesh was a result of a conspiracy by India with assistance from "Hindus living in East Pakistan."

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