Promotion of peace through textbooks – Pakistan

Promotion of peace through textbooks – Pakistan

Shafqat Hussain Soomro
(Original article: Shafqat Hussain Soomro, Daily Times Pakistan, March 9 2016)

Many textbooks of social studies, Pakistan studies and languages carry the propaganda of hate, jihad and militarism

In the present world international cooperation is essential for economic, political and social development. This changing environment needs an education system that must prepare students in line to global perspectives. In the process of aligning young generation in the changing context, textbooks of history, social studies and civics are occupying the central position. These subjects particularly are relevant for education towards democracy, human rights and peace among different nations. Harnessing the confronting political and ideological agitation with textbooks started soon after the catastrophic events and outcomes of WWI and II. There are many success stories of joint efforts by former enemy states to work together for the development of joint textbook commissions to liquidate the animosity of past. In this regard first step was taken soon after WWII. With the support of UNESCO, history textbook comparison and collaboration initiatives were taken between US and Canada, Palestine and Israel, and Germany and Poland.

South East Asian states, particularly Pakistan, is still entangled in the conflicts of past. The Pakistani textbooks are still being used to project a biased and stereotypical view of the world in the minds of students. Many textbooks of social studies, Pakistan studies and languages carry the propaganda of hate, jihad and militarism. As a classroom practitioner and educational researcher, I have found that books of social studies and Pakistan studies are one of the main sources to disseminate seeds of hate and violence in the minds of students against regional neighbours and other religions. While I interact with young students to understand their attitude towards marginalised religious groups, neighbouring, such as India, and western countries, it has been found that students have developed hate and intolerance. Most of the students believe that Hindus and western nations are against Pakistan. A few even suggested jihad as a suitable solution to deal with regional and global problems.

This dreadful orientation of young minds was rightly predicted rightly by Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy and AH Nayyar in their 1985 article “Rewriting the History of Pakistan”. They appropriately stated: “The full impact of which will probably be felt by the turn of the century, when the present generation of school children attains maturity.” However, after more than 25 years of this prophecy-turned-reality, our educational apparatus is still pursuing ‘hate promoting’ process in our educational set-up. In 2012, National Commission for Justice and Peace published a report, authored by Peter Jacob, titled “Education or Fanning Hate”. This report shows a content analysis report of the books published by Punjab and Sindh textbook board. It states that the hate content has increased with the passage of time. Many textbooks that had no hate material in their earlier versions now carry such material both in Punjab and Sindh.

The content analysis report on Punjab textbooks states that there were 45 lines containing hate material in books published in 2009-11, which rose to 122 lines in 2012. Dr Ayaz Naseem states in his research paper “Textbook and the Construction of Militarism in Pakistan” (2004) that militarism is normalised by textbooks and curriculum in Pakistan by presentation of wars and military adventures of early Muslim invaders in subcontinent. The stories of three battles between Pakistan and India are also presented to promote militarism in students. The writer states that normalisation of war and violence in textbooks gives legitimacy to support jihadi organisations domestically and internationally.

Recently, I have found while collecting data for one of my research projects, “Students Perception about Pakistan Studies Textbook” that Pakistan studies textbook (Class IX and X) of Sindh Textbook Board Jamshoro and National Book Foundation Islamabad, 2014 edition still have hate-content in its first chapter “Ideological basis of Pakistan”. Moreover, the selected few in Pakistan who are working to bring positive changes in our textbooks are threatened by extremist elements. Recently, according to news reports on 12th May 2015, Dr Bernadentt L Dean left the country due to death threats after an organised campaign started against her in Karachi by Islami Jamiat Tulaba. Dr Dean is the co-author of National Curriculum of Civics (2009) and social studies books of Sindh Textbook Board. Recently, Jamaat-i-Islami has submitted a long list of objectionable material ‘against Islam’ in textbooks of government schools in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This situation reflects that the National Action Plan while securing success against armed terrorists is losing ground to ideological terrorism.

The peace education programme should be added in the curriculum of pre-service and in-service teachers training courses to create awareness among classroom practitioners about peace, tolerance and coexistence.

The way forward is to pursue a two-pronged approach aimed on national and regional level. On national level, government should work with utmost seriousness to revise textbooks with the collaboration of renowned educational institutions to remove hate-content. Moreover, de-linking initiatives from radicalisation needs to be started from policy formation to curriculum and textbook publication. The peace education programme should be added in the curriculum of pre-service and in-service teachers training courses to create awareness among classroom practitioners about peace, tolerance and coexistence.

At regional level, the platform of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) can be used as a ‘peace incubator’ by establishing South Asian Commission for textbook revision on the structure of the Council of Europe Publication. In addition to this, government and educational authorities of South Asian countries need to work out a plan to establish an Asian replica of George Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research Germany, (UNESCO award-winning institute for peace education) under the auspices of SAARC to promote peace and prosperity in the region through textbooks.

The writer is a Lecturer of History/Pakistan Studies, and is the co-author of National Curriculum of Civics. He can be reached at [email protected]

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