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Uproar in KP: more political than academic?

Reforming the curricula for elementary and secondary schools in KP

Uproar in KP: more political than academic?

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is on course to accept all recommendations recently suggested by its coalition partner, Jamaat-e-Islami, in changing and reforming the curricula for elementary and secondary schools in the province.

Weakened by the dissension in its ranks over its decision to resign from the assemblies as part of its ongoing agitation against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and on path of confrontation with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-headed federal government, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) seems keen to oblige one of its few allies and is, therefore, ready to bring changes in the curricula as desired by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).

The new curricula formulated for government schools under a reform process initiated in 2006 became implementable after the provinces were granted autonomy to develop curriculum, syllabus, centres of excellence and standard of education under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan.

The previous coalition government of Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) started gradual implementation of the new curricula in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2011. At the time, a committee of educationists, writers and scholars was constituted to remove any violence-promoting lessons from the textbooks. The committee also recommended replacing stories of Arab heroes with those of local ones, including the Pakhtun freedom fighter Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, commonly known as Bacha Khan, his son Abdul Ghani Khan who was a known Pashto poet, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, Sufis and saints and others with roots in the history of the region.

However, most of the changes were criticised by religio-political parties which expressed reservations over the removal of verses on jihad from Islamiyat textbooks and the deletion of stories about Muslim heroes from the Pakistan Studies books for different grades. The Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba (IJT), the students’ wing of the JI, staged protests against the changes in the course books. The JI too kept up the pressure on the government at the time to withdraw the decision to reform the selected chapters in the textbooks.

The JI got its chance to make the necessary changes in the curricula when it joined hands with the PTI to form the coalition government in the province after the May 2013 general election. Apparently the education committee set up by JI had proposed to the PTI to reincorporate a number of Islamic chapters and verses from the Holy Quran in the textbooks and remove certain scripts that it deemed objectionable. The committee also wanted inclusion of lessons on JI founder Maulana Syed Abul Aala Maududi and the party’s late head Qazi Hussain Ahmad who died last year.

 The timing of the JI and IJT protests was indeed interesting as they wanted the changes proposed by them to be incorporated in the textbooks before the printing of the new ones.

Talking to the media, additional secretary elementary and secondary schools department, Qaiser Alam Khan says that it seemed odd for the JI and its students’ wing to protest against the curriculum in September when the new textbooks were yet to be printed and the old books were still being taught in the schools. “It seems more of a political issue than an academic one. This is the best curriculum that the country has ever had. It is in accordance with international standard,” he adds.

The timing of the JI and IJT protests was indeed interesting as they wanted the changes proposed by them to be incorporated in the textbooks before the printing of the new ones.

Shah Zaman Durrani, the IJT nazim for the University of Peshawar Campus led some of the protests against the curricula changes made by the previous ANP-PPP government. He tells TNS that the IJT was against the replacement of texts about leading Muslim figures with the personalities whose teachings were contradictory to Islam. “Why does the government need to replace chapters on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar bin Khattab, Imam Hussain and others with Nelson Mandela, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Mao Zedong and Vladimir Lenin? These are not our heroes and they have nothing to do with the history of our region,” he argues.

Shah Zaman adds that their protests were not against the removal and replacement of Islamic texts only. “We also protested against the removal of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) from the map of Pakistan on the title page of books. “What message do we want to give to our children by showing AJK as part of India in the map on a title page of a book? This mistake should be corrected and not repeated again and again,” he says.

According to Shah Zaman, replacing the topics about Muslim scientists with their Western counterparts in Physics, Chemistry and Biology books for class 9 and 10 was also unjustified. “No one can deny the services of Ibn-e-Sina, Muhammad Ibn Zakariya Al Razi, Jabir Ibn Hayyan and other Muslim scientists. What is the need of replacing them with Newton, Einstein and other European scientists? They could be mentioned together in the same book. There is no harm in it,” he stresses.

Read also: Schools under watch

Former provincial education minister Sardar Hussain Babak, who belongs to the ANP, tells TNS that after the 18th Amendment, their government set up the directorate of curriculum in the province and tried to purify contents of different academic subjects through legislation. “We asked many experts to review the curriculum and make changes according to the need of the time. The aim was to make each subject book purely in accordance with the need of that subject. Islamiyat should have only lessons about Islam. Similarly, history and social sciences should teach what these really stood for,” he adds.

He reminds that prior to the changes recommended after the 18th Amendment, Islamiyat was taught in only two classes at the secondary level. “Our education committee recommended it should be taught at four levels. It decided Islamiyat should be taught to students of class 9 and 10 in schools and those of first and second year in colleges. This required a separate book that teaches purely about Islam. That is why Islamic lessons from other subjects were incorporated into the Islamiyat book,” he explains.

He says that it was decided by the education committee to include lessons about religious and political leaders, freedom fighters and other heroes of the soil in the social studies books. “Some religious parties did not like the idea of inclusion of the names of Bacha Khan and Ghani Khan in the textbooks. We wanted to include lessons about freedom fighters Haji Sahib Turangzai, Jalal Baba of Hazara, Bacha Khan, Ghani Khan, Mufti Mehmood as well as Ranjeet Singh as they had influence in the area and are part of our history,” he adds.

Senior education department official Qaiser Alam Khan points out that the content of textbooks was developed according to the guidelines of the curriculum and the review process continued throughout the year to remove mistakes and improve quality of the books. “The content of textbooks is developed, updated and improved in quality on yearly basis in accordance with the needs of the time. This process continues throughout the year as we want to improve the quality of the course books,” he says.

It is obvious that the ongoing tussle over affecting changes in the curricula would now continue with change in the government. The ruling PTI and JI, both parties of the right, are out to undo what the secular ANP and PPP, now in the opposition in the province, had done and it won’t be surprising if the process is repeated in case of another change in the government.

The article was published under the title Out of course on Sunday, October 5th, 2014. 

Arshad Yusufzai

The writer is a Peshawar based freelance journalist and has worked for Voice of America and The ICRC. Connect with him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ayusufzai.

One comment

  • Great effort brother. Keep it up.

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