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Sunday, June 11, 2006

General :-) Comments on Education

Chief of the ISI during the PPP rule, the present Federal Minister for education, Lt Gen (R) Javed Ashraf Qazi, has said that the current curriculum is being revised and will now aim to bring uniformity in the education system, harmony in the society and meet emerging challenges in the field of science and technology.


Hmmmmm. Don't hold your breath.

This pronouncement was made at a two-day national conference on Pakistani Culture and, although the headline implied that that was what the news item would cover, it went on and on about Education (and the Minister). So I am none the wiser if the conference proposed that we ought to have a pakistani Culture.

The reasons for all these revolutionary and much needed reforms, as stated by the Minister, were: "We have to prepare the young generation according to the teachings of Islam." and "We have to boost up Pakistan's image in the world as a moderate country." Tricky for those who opine "Never the twain shall meet"... but a fair enough target. I sincerely wish him all the luck I can.

Some of the more specific utterances of the Honourable Minister are, for an uneducated person such as I, a trifle difficult to understand. So I am bringing up some points to see if any of my friends - and educators - who visit this blog can cast some light. (Hint: This means your comments are needed!)  OK ... here is some food for thought (The morsels are verbatim, courtesy News Agencies):

1. The new curriculum was being introduced from the first grade to twelfth grade, so that the intelligence level of the students could be judged accurately. Honestly, I cannot make sense of this at all. And I am seriously worried now about all those of us who were not so lucky as to have had this curriculum (which means everyone, I guess, unless certain Academies have been luckier). Can we trust such people, especially if they have been placed in powerful positions as a result of inaccurately judged intelligence, to make such important decisions for us?
2. Islamic studies will be taught from grade three instead of grade four and the subject will be compulsory up to grade twelve for Muslims, whereas Ethics will be compulsory for non-Muslim students. Starting indoctrination early is obviously a great move. I vaguely remember reading that music played to the fetus has a great positive result. But that's only possible in un-Islamic countries, of course, where such immoral stuff like music is actually promoted (would you believe it?). Anyway. To them, their way of life. To us, ours. If we plan to keep this trend going, and start in Grade Two next year, and so on, given that children ARE maturing faster, it gives us enough time to prepare fetus-friendly versions of these lectures that can then be played back to pregnant mothers (or, in Time, pregnant fathers!) on whatever audio-format is popular then. Maybe we can get the Apple-envy Brigade to look at this large potential market and pre-empt Steve by producing a womb-implantable MP3 player.
3. 'The new curriculum subjects, such as Geography and History, would reflect Pakistani culture and the deeds of the country.' For the benefit of foreign readers, that's the newspaper reporting in bad English, I presume. The NEW refers to the approach. Please note that our curriculum already has Geography and History as subjects. And, as far as I could tell from my looking at some of the textbooks used, it did reflect a great deal of Pakistani cuture. And deeds. (Admittedly, it failed to tell us, once the deed was done what we should do with the dagger!) The Minister, on the other hand, feels that it did not reflect it enough, I guess. And I must admit to frequently coming across words like 'dance' and 'women'. Oh, and one map actually had ... er ... how shall I put it ... oh well I guess I'll just have to blurt it out (especially now that the FM has taken a bold first step) ... yes, so one map showed Israel! [Sorry, gentlefolk. Didn't intend to hurt your sensitivities.] The proposed focus will, I now assume, be 'narrower' and make it easier to opt out of becoming part of world citizenry and, soon (and justifiably so by the process of extrapolation), lead to similar incentives in each of the provinces.
4. Objectionable and irrelevant materials were being removed from the syllabus in order to create harmony in the society. This is, of course, just formalizing what has been already going on. An Urdu Textbook has recently been banned. Also, I wonder if they will take more serious cognizance this time of the report on our textbooks that created a minor furore earlier.
And, now for a really sweet dessert:
5. The Minister stated that there was "no significant difference between the cultures of Hindus and Muslims because the followers of both the religions belonged to the same region." One of the few 'educated' friends I have commented via email (and I tend to agree with him, at least on this score) that, had the implication of this statement been "thought through - even at a superficial level - it would be clear that the statement negates the two-nation theory as it has been taught to the Pakistani students, even in its milder form. The whole basis of the so-called Ideology of Pakistan is the two nation-theory which doesn't hold any water if we accept this statement. From religion being at the core of the culture - it's most important if not the exclusive determinant - we are now being told to accept that its role is not significant at all. Without going into the debate of the justification of Partition, this also flies in the face of extant theories of culture." In any case, two-nation theory or not, we are here, as the utterly stupid Nixonic (rhymes with Moronic!) phrase that seems to have inexplicably caught on would state, "at this point in time". Pakistan is a reality. And if the Education Minister's view on common cultural heritages is the new party-line, it is welcome. Should lead to Confidence Building Myths really becoming Confidence Building Measures, numerous cultural exchanges in arts, music, and media, and - hopefully - a stop to the crap that our children (on both sides of the divide) were being fed.


POSTSCRIPT: My initial post had this part in it, too, under #4:

Punjab University English Department has, in the past, moved to scrap great works of objectionable literature (including Gulliver's Travels, for its sexual connotations). Interesting factoid from the linked article above, just to whet your appetite and ensure you read it: A review of the dangerous stuff that was being taught was "triggered by complaints made about the syllabus by the wife of a retired army general. She criticised the inclusion of two poems, including one by WH Auden, which she said promoted [sic] Jews..."
However, a blogger has informed me, and I totally rely upon her statement, that the story is untrue and the reports in the press were skewed or concocted. Her remarks are more reliable because she has personal knowledge of the incident. You can read her clarification in the Comments section on my blog. I could have deleted both, this and her contradiction, but leaving both in may well help - partially - in setting the record straight for the PU.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Butrus-Kefah-Myriam said...

Salam alaykum
Congratulations for your blog

11 June, 2006 13:44

 
Blogger the olive ream said...

"1. The new curriculum was being introduced from the first grade to twelfth grade, so that the intelligence level of the students could be judged accurately."

But what about the intelligence level of those who teach the curriculum, who will judge them accurately?
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"2. Islamic studies will be taught from grade three instead of grade four and the subject will be compulsory up to grade twelve for Muslims, whereas Ethics will be compulsory for non-Muslim students."

So the interpretation of Islam and its related studies depends on the faculty member? I think Ethics class should be for Muslim students as well.
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"3. The new curriculum subjects such as Geography and History would reflect Pakistani culture and the deeds of the country."

Does that include the 'deeds' of the Pakistani army?
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"4. Objectionable and irrelevant materials were being removed from the syllabus in order to create harmony in the society."

So who are the people who decide what is objectionable and irrelevant? Left to the consensus of the leaders of most of our religious parties, we would have no other book left other than the Quran. And even that would be provided with a translation that suits their own interpretation.

11 June, 2006 16:35

 
Blogger vintage said...

i agree with O in everything he's commented so far.

doesn't the *current* pakistan geography&history sylabus already reflect all of our *good* 'deeds' against all the bad bad countries who didnt want to -frandship- with us?

12 June, 2006 12:03

 
Blogger vintage said...

*reads postscript*
Gulliver's Travels.... what sexual connotations? :O

12 June, 2006 12:05

 
Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

"...Confidence Building Myths really becoming Confidence Building Measures, numerous cultural exchanges in arts, music, and media, and - hopefully - a stop to the crap that our children (on both sides of the divide) were being fed."

Amen!

21 May, 2007 23:04

 

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