Education ‘reforms’ in Pakistan, privileging Madrassa System?

By Our Staff Reporter

Teachers branded “radical” and “secular” are the first to be made unemployed under the change that is about to take place. Nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy and another science teacher have been sacked as a foretaste of what is to come from a University in Lahore.

Pakistan saw yet another so-called educational reform in July. Imran Khan’s government decided to end its “unification” of the three education “systems” (Urdu medium schools, English medium schools and madrassa) predictably is imposing more of the madrassa on the other two streams.

Teachers labelled “liberal” and “secular” are the first to be rendered jobless under the looming reform. Nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy and another “science” teacher have been sacked from a Lahore University as a foretaste of what is to come. Hoodbhoy’s thesis is that the reform will make the madrassa dominate the other two streams and that an already “religiously oriented” educational system will be further Islamised. Pakistan’s universities are not recognised outside Pakistan because of the heavy ideological content in their syllabi and the daunting presence of religious-fundamentalist elements in them.

The problem with education in a Muslim state is its reluctance to impart “analytical and critical” thinking. When a Pakistani educationist sits down to frame textbook content, he is scared of the “critical” trait of the human mind. His objective is to prevent the student from applying a “critical” yardstick while analysing “ideology”.
The recent law allows the Punjab administration to form vigilante groups that could assault publishing houses to cull “objectionable content” and destroy it and subject the publisher-writer to punishment.

Pakistan is not alone among Muslim states in having a system of education hostile to “free knowledge” Equally crippled is the Arab world, with Iran and Turkey succumbing to Islamism and its anti-knowledge ideology. The other negative factor in the Muslim world is the recurrent occurrence of war that upsets educational academic conditions and replaces them with “propaganda.”

There is also the rise of Islamism that damages the edifice of rational learning. Boko Haram, an Islamic revival terrorist organisation active in several states in Africa, attacks “rational” (read English-medium) institutions and translates its own name as “English-medium education not allowed”. The other factor negating education is the incidence of violence in the shape of war and civil war.

In the case of Pakistan, after “fighting” or “preparing” for wars there is no money left and there is absolutely no money left in the kitty for education after meeting the armed forces expenses. There is constant fighting in the Arab world too, during which nobody cares about education.

Teachers are a problem too. Most of Pakistan’s primary school teachers are madrassa graduates who have gained knowledge that no secular occupation equips with them. For most state-funded colleges, children get bad math and history instruction as fact-based narrative.

The state sector education mostly relies on brainwash as teaching methodology. Looking for good teachers is a problem of the Islamic world where war and high birth rate outstrips the capacity of the state to produce good teachers capable of imparting “modern knowledge”.

In an article in Arab News, Zaid M Belbagi wrote: “Compounded by record levels of teachers reaching retirement age alongside unprecedented numbers of children entering the education system, UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics indicated that 1.6 million new teaching posts will need to be created in the Arab world if universal education is to be achieved. This figure is likely to increase.”

Huma Yusuf in Dawn (May 7, 2018) states: “The threats to critical thinking and debate come from many sources: So-called state functionaries, student wings of religious political parties, firebrand students wielding blasphemy charges,
politicised academics, complicit university administrators, and even right-wing media commentators who name and shame educational institutions, forcing them to go on the defensive and resort to self-censorship to protect students from mobs.”

It is interesting that English should bother Imran Khan, who often lambasts modern “liberal” Pakistanis, and his “logical-sequential” discourse. His clubbing of the three education systems in Pakistan together and extracting “one system” out of them is characteristic of the Muslim educator, who hates English as a supplier of critical thinking.

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