Lahore, Apr 2 (IANS) –According to Education Minister Zubaida Jalal, the inclusion of Quranic verses is no longer a requirement in the curriculum, reports OneWorld.
In the province of Sindh, Quranic verses were shifted from biology textbooks for Classes 11 and 12 to books for the subject in Classes 9 and 10, said Jalal.
When the minister told the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, about the move last week, several opposition legislators, led by members of the religious alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), staged a walkout in protest.
The controversy erupted after an independent Pakistani think tank, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), released a report criticising the overemphasis on Islamic studies in school and college curricula.
The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan observed that the state syllabus fed hatred against other religions and turned schools into centres of Islamic fundamentalism.
The government appointed a committee to review the findings of the report, which Jalal rejected as biased. She dismissed allegations that changes in the curriculum were made to “secularise” education under pressure from the US.
A.H. Nayyer, one of the authors of the report and a faculty member of Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, accused the education minister of not sharing the findings of the committee with members of the National Assembly. He hazarded that either ministry officials misinformed Jalil, or she assumed the report was wrong.
Before submitting the report to the education ministry, nine members of the 15-member government review committee endorsed the report while six expressed dissenting views on some findings.
Nayyar mused: “I don’t know what prompted the education minister to remark on the floor of the National Assembly that the committee rejected the report.”
He pointed out that different governments over the ages were too scared to make any changes in the syllabus, aware of the fact that the move would not go down well with hardliners in this Islamic state.
Nayyar’s claims seem to be borne out by the vocal protests against the move.
Criticising the revision in syllabi, Liaqat Baloch of the MMA alleged, “Under the conditionalities of the US Agency for International Development, all verses containing provisions about jehad or exposing the anti-Muslim prejudices of Jews and Christians are being omitted from the syllabi.”
Hussain Ahmad of the MMA warned the party was likely to move a privilege motion against such government censorship.
In the southern port city of Karachi, school and college students held a protest march against the changes.
The Islami Jamiat Talaba, the youth wing of the Jamaat Islami, organised the event. The protesters carried banners and placards inscribed with demands to include Quranic verses in the syllabi, dismiss the federal education minister and put an end to US intervention in Pakistan’s affairs.
In eastern Punjab province, the main teachers union has threatened to launch a movement against the government if it failed to restore the original syllabus.
Union member Chaudhry Abdul Khaliq Sundho held the US responsible for the changes. The union set April 15 as the deadline for restoring the Quranic verses and vowed to march to Islamabad if its demands were not accepted.
The SDPI report said: “Some of the most significant problems in the current curriculum and textbooks are: inaccuracies of facts and omissions that serve to substantially distort the nature and significance of actual events in our history, insensitivity to the actually existing religious diversity of the nation, incitement to militancy and violence, including encouragement of jehad and shahadat (martyrdom), perspectives that encourage prejudice, bigotry and discrimination towards fellow citizens, especially women and religious minorities, and other nations, a glorification of war and the use of force.”
The study pointed out the syllabus omitted events that could encourage critical self-awareness among students, and included outdated and incoherent pedagogical practices that “hinder the development of interest and insight among students”.
Parliamentary Secretary for Education Dewan Ashiq Bukhari defended the changes in curriculum, saying these were made to reduce discrepancies between the syllabus for private schools and colleges and state-run institutes.
He pointed out the new syllabus aimed at being on par with international standards. The government is emphasising science and computer studies as part of changes in the education system.
But public outrage at the move is snowballing. Already, 22 small Islamic groups have come together to protest the changes in curricula. Their alliance, Tahafiz Taleemi Nasab Mahaz (Save Education Curriculum Front), plans to hold demonstrations across different cities and to organise a convention where people can register their ire.
© Copyright 2001-2003 IANS India Private Limited, New Delhi. Posted on Religioscope with permission.