Islamabad (AsiaNews) School programmes must be changed if religious discrimination is to be eliminated, this according to a report by Islamabad's Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI). For over two decades the curricula and the officially mandated textbooks have contained material that is directly contrary to the goals and values of a moderate and a progressive Islam, the report said.
The Human Development Centre (HDC) under Catholic clergyman Fr Bonnie Mendes, agrees. In its own report, the HDC stresses that school curricula are biased against minorities, especially Christians.
According to both reports, textbooks and programmes fail to acknowledge the religious pluralism that characterises Pakistani society:
- teaching Islamiat (Islamic Studies) is compulsory only for Muslims but most textbooks are in Urdu, the language Pakistanis of all creeds must know, and they deal exclusively with Islam;
- English-language textbooks have a high religious content;
- textbooks promote Pakistani nationalism whose main tenets are that non Muslims not only cannot be Pakistani but cannot even be good human beings;
- according to Pakistan's constitution, reading the Qu'ran is mandatory only for Muslims but, in practice, it is imposed on all students;
- all students in Urdu and social studies classes are taught Islamic rites such as prayer (namaz) and ablutions (wuzu).
According to the SDPI report, school programmes and textbooks encourage violence and militancy by glorifying war and the use of force. All this is intended to prevent students from developing their critical faculties and exercising their free will.
In its March 2002 curriculum revision, Pakistan's Education Ministry failed to address the problem of old school programmes still in use in schools. In its report, the SDPI said that some of these problems are now even worse.