Right after the independence of, formulation of educational policy got importance for the fact that education is perceived as a means to mould the nation of a country and the society to achieve the desired goals.
The same was seemingly done in the First Educational Conference 1947, in which Pakistan was perceived as a country having deep religious roots, hence educational policy was developed in a certain way. Development of religious values was ingrained in the educational policies at the cost of plurality and Western values.
Whereas, at the time of developing and creating dominance of religion in education, the policy makers forgot and set aside the dream of the nation’s founder of a “united nation in which people considered as citizens of Pakistan irrespective of their religious identities”.
However, being five to seven percent in total population of Pakistan, the representation of minorities and even their efforts towards the progress of the country have been forgotten in the educational discourse.
Ignorance and missing details in forming educational policies is not a new phenomena but a process started from First Educational Conference 1947 to the Educational Policy 2009. Such suppression of minority representation was started even before passing of an official Constitution of the country.
In Objectives Resolution, prepared by the Constituent Assembly on 12th March 1949 as a base for the formulation of first Constitution, Pakistan was designated as a state which raised concerns about the minorities of that time and this act was criticized by them in terms of being transferring them into second class citizens.
Other than neglecting minorities’ representation, the mention of religion in a dominant way in educational policies in general and in course book in particular has not only pushed religious diversity into social exclusion but helped in submerging their identity even as citizens of Pakistan.
How minorities were deprived of their identities of being Pakistanis and being diverse can be seen in various education policies.
In the “National Plan of Educational Development 1951-1957” inclusion of religious teachings was envisioned as necessary tool for ideological shift of newly developed nation. However, in the “Commission of National Education (Sharif Commission) 1959”, certain measures were taken for children form minorities along with children of the majority.
The commission also declared that non-Muslims should be taught according to their own religious beliefs in a subject called Dinyat (religious studies).
Nonetheless, the educational policy formulated in General Ayub’s period criticised in almost all of the subsequent educational policies. While keeping in view the criticism as most important factor, the educational policy 1970 took a step further for non Muslims with nationalization of their missionary schools.
“National Education Policy and Implementation Programme 1979” fueled the factors of conservatism, obscurantism and sectarianism in the nation and thus skewing the space for minorities to live in the country.
In the same policy, factor of religion was also introduced in science course books like biology, chemistry and mathematics. The decision of separate electorate system for people of other religions was also taken under this policy.
The “National Education Policy 1992” of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s regime while widening the circle of “Ideology” in education sector included teachers along with students. The policy had a special emphasis on teachers to become an ideal religious teacher for students. Teachers’ training programmes, on-service and pre-service, were designed to prepare them to become a focal point for preaching of religion and values.
The “National Education Policy 1998-2010” was drafted, again, during Mian Nawaz Sharif’s time. In this policy, apart from making the subject of the book compulsory from grade I to B.A, B.Sc levels, students from other religions got attention and they were provided with “Moral Education/Ethics” as an alternate subject.
While following the same pattern “Education Policy 2009” also talked about separate Ethics book for minorities. Moreover, removal of any type of material against religion or against any cultural or linguistic minority was also there in the policy.
This article was originally published at: The News
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.