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Pakistan: Do school texts fuel bias?

The curriculum, critics charge, promotes revisionist views and intolerance. Others say they don't see such imbalance.

Point of View: These 2008 texts, used in Pakistan's Punjab Province but approved nationally, omit references to minority festivals and contain anti-Indian references.

Issam Ahmed

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As Pakistani Air Force jets circled the eastern border city of Lahore last week in a show of strength, journalist Rab Nawaz was despondent. But what occupied him was less the threat of war with India than the things his son had begun saying recently.

"My 7-year-old came home from school one day insisting that Indians are our natural-born enemies, that Muslims are good, and Hindus are evil," the widely traveled journalist recalls. "He asked about the relative strength of our air forces and insisted we would win if it came to war.

"It was only when I asked him whether my Indian friends ... were also bad," he adds, "that he began to realize that things weren't quite so simple."

Public schools, though long neglected, are still responsible for educating the vast majority of schoolchildren. Some 57 percent of boys and 44 percent of girls enroll in primary school, and about 46 percent of boys and 32 percent of girls reach high school.

All public schools must follow the government curriculum – one that critics say is inadequate at best, harmful at worst.

According to Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physics professor at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, the "Islamizing" of Pakistan's schools began in 1976 under the rule of the former dictator, the general Zia ul-Haq.

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