The government wants to impose religious studies as the single national curriculum, so students of madrasas and schools study same books.

Unscientific approach of the syllabus and controlled curriculum have adverse effects on society, due to which students do not acquire the required knowledge to compete in the modern world.

The federal government wants to impose religious studies on students as part of the single national curriculum, after which students of madrasas and schools will be studying the same books. Inaccurate history is being taught at schools, and warriors are being glorified instead of local heroes who served humanity.

These views were expressed on the second day of the three-day Sindh Literature Festival during a session titled ‘Hum Bachchon Ko Kya Parha Rahay Hain’ (What we have been teaching children). It was moderated by the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science & Technology’s Faculty of Social Sciences Dean Prof Dr Riaz Ahmed Shaikh. “When I was studying at school, I read many subjects, and a lesson about Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai,” said Prof Tauseef Ahmed Khan, senior faculty member of the University of Karachi and the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology.

“I kept thinking Shah Latif could have been an Imam-e-Masjid of the Barelvi sect. Later on, when I joined college and read a book by Ghulam Murtaza Syed, I came to know Shah Latif had written about life, and his approach was very realistic.”

Prof Khan pointed out that the syllabus introduced by the central government was actually started in 1835, saying that it destroyed the minds of the people and eradicated from society the realistic approach to thinking.

“It created the worst mindset to scientific approach. One particular example we’ve been observing since last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic emerged: a majority of the people have been denying the reality of the pandemic because they’re not willing to believe in science.”

He guessed that Pakistan is perhaps the only country, or at least the only Muslim country, where the people have resisted the implementation of the standard operating procedures against the coronavirus.

“It means that our minds don’t accept thinking scientifically and accepting realities. On the other hand, a specific kind of syllabus was introduced for children,” he said.

“The result is that our new generation can easily turn into suicide bombers, killers and even be fooled in the name of religion. Despite this, promoting extremism is a weapon of the deep state for achieving its goals at every level,” he added.

“In this process, the syllabus plays an important role. The second important thing is that the provinces had started introducing new and important lessons in the syllabus after the 18th amendment. But unfortunately, the federal government now intends to control the syllabus again so that the deep state can use the syllabus for its own set agendas.”

He continued: “As an academic, I conducted a survey about those teaching biology at universities. I found that only one teacher talked in favour of Darwinism, while the remaining spoke against it. They said they’re forced to teach it, otherwise there’s no need to teach this at educational institutions.”

He pointed out that if teachers do not believe in scientific approach, how can students accept science. “Such teachers believe in teaching even science subjects like religion. This is what happens when the syllabus is controlled from Islamabad.”

“[Thomas Babington] Macaulay’s syllabus introduced in 1835 was also taught in London back then,” said nuclear physicist, human rights activist and analyst Prof Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy.

“But with the passage of time, they changed the syllabus and the system. According to their needs, they shaped the system of education. We initially adopted Macaulay’s system, but later on, sidelined it and started our own system of education, which led the nation in another direction,” he added. “We tried to relate everything with Islam in Zia-ul-Haq’s era. Gradually, the system in which science somehow persisted, and due to which some Pakistani scientists, doctors and engineers achieved global recognition, like Dr Abdul Salam, is being eradicated from history.”

He continued: “Now the federal government wants to implement the single national curriculum. Its aim is to produce a narrow-minded generation and put it in only one direction. They want to impose their agenda on everyone, including individuals and provinces. Now they wish to convert all schools into religious seminaries.”

According to them, he pointed out, the examinations of public and private educational institutions as well as madrasas will be the same, and the books will also be the same.

He said that the owners of expensive and elite schools have approached the federal education minister, who has allowed the administrators of those institutions to develop their own curriculum.

However, he added, the agenda to impose the single national curriculum on other schools is still under consideration, and they will include more religious studies in the syllabus to be taught at schools. “I wonder that after students who study such subjects, what kind of jobs they would get after graduation. The rest of the world has been producing doctors, engineers and robots. They’re working on the latest technologies, and we’re moving away from the basic aspects of modern education.”

Dr Hoodbhoy said that a proper syllabus enhances critical thinking of the students. However, he lamented, the current syllabus and critical thinking are moving in different directions. “It’s quite amazing to me that memorising 200 Hadiths is mandatory in the single national curriculum for an intermediate graduate. Now the question is what will minority students do. They want to increase the differences among the people.”

Regarding local languages, he said that the implementation of Arabic at the expense of the local languages is not a good decision. “Arabic is the language of our religion, but Allah knows every language. Thus, we should give importance to our own languages in the curriculum.”

‘Inaccurate history’

“We study and teach the inaccurate history of Pakistan. Those who struggled for Pakistan have been presented as the enemies of the country, while those who did nothing are presented as heroes,” said educationist Dr Naazir Mahmood.

“The modern world needs neither robots nor angels. It needs good and competent humans. For the past many years, on the one hand we’ve been trying to produce robots, especially at expensive private schools, and on the other, we want to produce angels from madrasas. No one is serious about societal needs.”

He said that all of us know who Tipu Sultan was, but none of us knows about the local heroes like Sardar Behram Khan or who the Tulpers were.

“They deliberately enforced a syllabus to teach our children the history of those who were not locals. Science learning isn’t an actual problem, but societal and political understanding is also very important for children.”

Teaching methods

“We don’t teach our children that Pakistan is a multicultural, multi-religious and multinational country,” said Dr Taimur Rahman, associate professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

“The method of teaching also lacks scientific and critical thinking, and logical approaches. We don’t teach our children how to love books and knowledge. We don’t teach academic integrity to our children,” he added.

Schoolteachers are unaware about creating and art, and they don’t teach how to do things practically. We don’t appreciate the mistakes of children despite the fact that they learn from their mistakes.”

Originally published at The News