Wednesday February 28, 2024

‘Critical thinking will help build inclusive society’

By our correspondents
August 26, 2016


Teachers should encourage critical thinking in classrooms so that students can ask questions about the world around them. The state, too, should invest in social sciences. These will, in the long run, help nurture an inclusive narrative in the country, says a press release.

These were some of the key points discussed at the launch of the study by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank. The study “Promoting Inclusive and Tolerant Educational Narratives” itself compiles findings of the three 2-day workshops held with 101 university and college teachers, mostly of Islamic studies and Arabic departments, from all over the country.

Sharing the study, Safdar Sial, PIPS, argued these teachers were chosen because, as the study notes, they also steer and influence the discourse of subjects like Pakistan studies, history, and social sciences - subjects often singled out for biases against minorities.

Participants, or teachers, too seemed convinced that a cause of radicalisation inside the country has been education. The study too noted, in the rationale of the entire exercise, how education is one of the key components of counter-violent extremism model.

Yet, some pointed out how many educated people too have been radicalised over the years, with some incidents of highly-educated people carrying out terror attacks. Dissecting the argument, former rector, Islamic International University, Professor Fateh Muhammad Malik, argued these highly-educated radicals often from applied sciences. This by itself, he argued, owes to how state alienated social sciences.

Columnist Khursheed Nadeem seconded this viewpoint, sharing how social sciences were deliberately ignored only recently, at the cost of natural sciences.

Speakers show that as pluralistic spaces shrink, teachers need to learn how to sensitively engage with a diverse set of students. Former chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, Dr. Khalid Masud, called for promoting universal values, instead of narrow identities, including religious ones, which divides people.  These universal values can be achieved through a milieu that encourages critical thinking.

The report called for making existing curricula free of controversial topics and hate material. Jennifer Jag Jivan, Christian Study Center, endorsed the report, calling for a curriculum that involves non-Muslims too.

The study noted that instead of promoting stereotypes, curriculum should highlight positives of all religions including commonalities. Prof. Malik also called for inculcating knowledge that bridges religious and literary education. He asked if the cabinet of Jinnah ever had any portfolio of religious affairs.