Friday July 19, 2024

Textbooks must be neutral, bias-free, student-friendly, says study

By Zia Ur Rehman
October 29, 2020

Speakers at the launching ceremony of a study ‘Quality Education vs Fanatic Literacy’ on Wednesday urged the federal and provincial governments to make use of the study in the ongoing review of the curriculum and education, as it amply explains what the textbook should include and what need to be avoided for preparing quality learning materials.

The study was launched at Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST). The speakers, including Peter Jacob, head of the Centre for Social Justice and the study’s editor; Sadiqa Salahuddin, the founder and executive director of the Indus Resource Center; Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, retired Justice Majida Rizvi, the chairperson of the Sindh Human Rights Commission; Abdul Hameed Nayyar, educationist and one of the study’s authors; and Dr Riaz Shaikh, the dean of SZABIST’s social sciences faculty, elaborated the findings of the study.

Speakers said the study, published by CJP, a Lahore-based minority rights body, looks at the potential of religious inclusion, aspect of religious discrimination and portrayal of religious minorities in textbooks. The array of analyses has been published in a sequence to help readers construct a holistic view of the challenges, as well as the potential solutions in order to facilitate the policy decision-makers and implementation in the education system.

The study brings out an analysis by Nayyar, Prof Anjum Jmaes Paul, Shaikh and Tahira Abdullah of the textbooks, curriculum and education policy in use in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and the federal territory.

The study also sheds light on issues related to academic freedom (Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy), and how teaching religion in public education has become a problematic area in South Asain countries (Dr Baela Raza Jamil and Laraib Niaz).

Speakers appreciated and termed the research a valuable contribution that all stakeholders could benefit from, particularly educationists and policymakers, and said today’s education does not reflect the Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of a democratic and tolerant society; therefore, the textbooks should improve in that direction.

They also said the federal government had engaged madrasas in the development of a single national curriculum to ensure the madrasa students received the same education as the other students. However, it should improve the quality of education for schools across the country rather than bringing the quality down, they said.

Speakers also said that no society can progress without emancipating itself from discrimination and biased material. Therefore, they said, education and textbooks have to be neutral, bias-free, and student-friendly in order to allow students to actualise their potential suitable for the requirement for a competition as well as a promising environment.

The study has also presented consolidated recommendations to all textbook and curriculum boards in the country. It has asked them to include structural inclusion of religiously inclusive curricula, learning and teaching tools, honouring the constitutional promise of integration of the subject on ethics into the school curriculum for all students, et al, peace as a priority (introduction of lessons on human rights and peace from primary to higher secondary level), normative parity (inclusion of religious neutral content, such as the Quaid-e-Azam’s August 11, 1947 speech to the country’s first constitutional assembly), unity in diversity (inclusion of a depiction of diversity and plurality in religion traditions and customs and festivals, besides the provincial, linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity while describing Pakistani traditions) and academic freedom (utilise and include textbook and supplementary reading materials provided by private and independent academicians, authors and publishers) and including the excluded (inclusion of acclaimed non-Muslim personalities who contributed to social, political and civil life of Pakistan, such as Jamshed Nussereanjee Mehta and Justice Dorab Patel).

It has also recommended that textbooks should comply with the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan given on June 19, 2014.