Friday, December 08, 2006

Teaching the children

The Telegraph

Pakistan will change its textbooks to say it was “Muslim deprivation, not religion” that led to Partition.

A new curriculum will give grade IX and X students “less biased explanations” of the subcontinent’s division in 1947

The new curriculum, to be implemented from the 2007 academic year, will “exclude all material that promotes prejudice against non-Muslims of pre-Partition India”. “The changes include enlightened moderation and less biased explanations of the two-nation theory and Partition.”

Educationists and rights activists welcomed the changes. “It is a good move to redefine the two-nation theory in a very objective manner,” rights activist A.H. Nayyar said.

He agreed that social and economic deprivation of Muslims in undivided India was the main concern for Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal, and lay behind the creation of Pakistan. But, he argued, religious groups in Pakistan had hijacked the two-nation theory.

“I believe that the new curriculum will also remove hatred and prejudices created by religious groups against non-Muslims and all those who did not fit into their scheme of things.”

“The new curriculum explains Pakistan’s ideology with reference to the pronouncements of Allama Iqbal and Qaid-e-Azam (Jinnah),” an education official said. The removal of hate material from textbooks is in line with President Pervez Musharraf’s policy of “enlightened moderation” that looks to stem extremism and militancy and promote progressive and moderate ideas.

The redefining of a theory that had been the bedrock of Pakistan’s domestic and foreign policies comes after Washington widened its “strategic dialogue” with Islamabad from madarsa reform to textbook revamp.

The new “Pakistan Studies” curriculum will describe Pakistan’s creation and ideological basis, history, foreign policy, economic development, environment, population, society and culture.

It will cover pre-Partition history and the policies of all governments in Pakistan since 1947, as well as the causes of Musharraf’s take-over and the process of devolution of power he has introduced. It will also deal with Islamabad’s relations with its neighbours as well as the US, Britain, China, European Union, Russia, Japan and the Islamic world.

“This is a wise decision that will introduce our students to the changing global realities and weaknesses of Pakistani society in transforming itself in accordance with the evolving concepts of science and technology,” educationist Dr Khwaja Masood said.

He said the changes would also address the misunderstood issue of “religious ideology”, whose “wrong interpretation… gave birth to highly discriminatory laws against women”.

Physicist and rights activist Pervez Hoodbhoy sounded a word of caution: “How textbooks will be written to reflect the new directives and how teachers will present new materials to students remains to be seen.”


Yves said...

I only know what happened at partition from the film Gandhi by Richard Attenborough, which I saw a long time ago. I had formed the vague impression that partition was a bad thing, made necessary by the unseemly haste of the British to get out without the place descending into chaos and religious war. I am happy if this impression was wrong.

Le Magnifique said...

Hello Rama, long time no see. Personally, I think Muslims remain a deprived minority in India, with an additional stigma of being terrorists as well, thanks to the global war on terror.