Pakistan Textbooks Don't Make the Grade on Plurality

2 Reports Critical of Country’s School Programs

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, DEC. 1, 2004 ( Textbooks and school programs in this country do not take into account the religious plurality that characterizes Pakistani society, say two new reports.

One report was prepared by Islamabad’s Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), which warns that there must be a reform of school programs if religious discrimination is to be eliminated, according to AsiaNews.

According to the SDPI’s analysis, for two decades the curricula and officially mandated textbooks have contained material that is directly contrary to the goals and values of a moderate and progressive Islam.

A report by the Human Development Center, directed by Father Bonnie Mendes, agrees, stressing that school curricula are biased against minorities, especially Christians.

Both reports state that textbooks and school programs fail to acknowledge the religious pluralism that exists in Pakistan.

They explain that «teaching ‘Islamiat’ (Islamic studies) is compulsory only for Muslims, but most textbooks are in Urdu, the language Pakistanis of all creeds must know, and these books deal exclusively with Islam,» according to AsiaNews. Even «English-language textbooks have a high religious content» that is geared toward Islam.

The reports also reveal that textbooks promote Pakistani nationalism, whose main tenets hold that non-Muslims can be neither Pakistani nor even good human beings. According to Pakistan’s Constitution, reading the Koran is mandatory only for Muslims but, in practice, it is imposed on all students, the reports state.

In its March 2002 curriculum revision, Pakistan’s Education Ministry failed to address the problem of old school programs still in use in schools. In its report, the SDPI said that some of these problems have worsened.

About 97% of Pakistan’s 159 million inhabitants are Muslim.

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