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Teachers need to promote critical inquiry for harmony

By Our Correspondent
December 03, 2018

Islamabad : Social harmony can be achieved through a two-way dialogue but the culture of dialogue is missing, in part because we do not listen to each other, and in part, because we do not even know what to ask from others, and how. This results in mutually-held misperceptions among members of different faiths and communities. Teachers can help foster dialogues by encouraging culture of critical inquiry, which involves introspection and leads to social cohesion.

These thoughts were expressed in a two-day dialogue with college teachers, on ‘Role of Teachers in Social Harmony,’ organised by Islamabad-based think tank Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS). Around 40 teachers from different parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa participated, with sessions led by leading scholars, educationists and opinion makers.

Chairperson of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Dr. Qibla Ayaz stated that asking a proper question is a skill unto itself. Teachers should know how to ask proper questions, and to impart this skill to students. That skill alone can promote culture of dialogue in diverse environment of Pakistan.

Earlier, educationist Khadim Husain linked asking questions to producing knowledge. “Unless there is a tradition of asking questions, no research can be done and no new knowledge produced,” he said. Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed, Vice Chancellor of Sargodha University, said it is because of asking questions that we can achieve tomorrow, what is not is not possible today.

Speakers argued one of the problems of the education system is lack of focus on raising critical inquiry. From the start, a student is expected to learn the written. Today, the culture of research is being replaced by the culture of rote learning.

The dialogue also deconstructed the oft-desired goal of imposing “uniform education system.” Some hailed the idea as the way forward, but others termed it counter-productive. Additionally, it was said, focus should be on quality of education. Barrister Zafarullah Khan, former state minister, said we need to assess which level of education we need to change: primary, secondary, or higher?

PIPS researcher Safdar Sial said that the education policies of the country have long been critiqued for being exclusive in spirit, rather than inclusive. He also said that since 1980s, the education system at large has not been receptive towards non-Muslims.

Peace building activist Romana Bashir agreed, saying there is a difference between words and actions when it comes to upholding the rights of non-Muslims. She called for “inclusive decision-making processes” in all spheres of lives, including education, so that all segments of the society are represented. TV anchor and columnist Khursheed Nadeem also spoke on the occasion.