Partner: USCIRF, ICRD
Team Member: Afsheen Naz, Fayyaz Yaseen, Muhammad Arif Naveed, Muhammad Salim Khwaja, Gulbaz Ali Khan, Dr Humaira Ishfaq, Muhammad Azhar
Education is widely acknowledged to have a central importance in creating pluralistic societies. This is particularly relevant to Pakistan which is ethnically and religiously diverse society consisting of more than 180 million people. It is the nature of education that can either promote social cohesion amongst diverse groups or create anxieties between them. Most important in this context are the curricula, textbooks and the educators. The messages contained in the textbooks combined with the attitudes of teachers and their methods to deliver these messages greatly influence the values of the taught towards the diversity in the society.
- To find out to what extent religious minorities are represented in these school curricula
- The degree to which biases against religious minorities result from how these minorities are portrayed in the educational system (through both curriculum and pedagogy)
- The degree to which biases that have resulted from the educational systems have led to discriminatory or extremist actions against religious minorities in Pakistan¬—whether at the level of youth, the community, societal leadership, or extremist groups
SDPI, in collaboration with International Center for Religion and Diplomacy conducted an extensive study of curricula, textbooks, pedagogy and attitudes of students towards religious diversity, in both public schools and madrassas in Pakistan. SDPI researchers reviewed school textbooks for Grades 1-10 produced by the four provincial textbook boards (being taught during 2011) as well as selected madrassa textbooks. They also conducted in-depth interviews and focused group discussions with school teachers and students in four provinces, interviews of education experts and case studies of religious discrimination against non Muslim students.
The findings of this study are published in the report “Connecting the Dots: Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan” that was launched by US Commission on International Religious Freedoms. The report reveals that pejorative treatment of minority religions in the textbooks and the biased attitudes of teachers lead to the discriminatory attitudes of students towards religious diversity. Analysis of the data shows the negative portrayal of non Muslims in the textbooks as well as in the teachers’ attitudes towards and their teaching practices – both in public schools and madrassas. This study shows that the role of non Muslims in the formation, development and defense of Pakistan is altogether omitted from the educational discourse. The attitudes of public school teachers are often prejudiced towards the religious diversity and reflect bigotry. The study provides the evidences of prejudiced attitudes of teachers being passed on to the students hence transmitting the negative perceptions and stereotypes in the education system. The report presents the case studies of the discrimination faced by non Muslim students within the school environments, often by their peer groups and teachers, alongside a sheer vacuum of any institutional arrangement to address such discrimination. The study also suggests a number of reforms – for both public schools and madrassas – ranging from the production of new textbooks free from biases, training of the teachers to respect the religious diversity, to establish institutional mechanisms to address the incidents of discrimination against non Muslim students.