ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Independent education policy experts and government representatives have found consensus on the development of a national curriculum suitable to the inclusion of religious minorities and towards social acceptance of all religions.
The consensus was reached in a discussion held under the title “Religious Inclusion and Respect for Diversity in Education System” in Islamabad on Tuesday under the aegis of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and with the collaboration of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) and Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE).
Munizae Jahangir, Amjad Nazeer, and Dr. Afshan Huma moderated the panel discussions on different topics.
The Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood was the Chief Guest in the event while other notables included the eminent educationists, researchers and experts in the field i.e. Peter Jacob, Dr. Qibla Ayaz, Muhammad Zia ul Haq, Dr. Baela Raza Jamil, Dr. Nighat Lone, Suhail Bin Aziz, Dr. Sughra Chaudhry Khan, Mosharraf Zaidi, Professor Dr. Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, Tahira Abdullah, and Professor Anjum James Paul.
Speaking on the occasion, the Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood said that the government has benefitted from the best education systems of the world for developing the single national curriculum, and has incorporated input given by relevant stakeholders including the private sector institutions, and the provinces.
The minister noted that the existing system perpetuates division among citizens, and the government is determined to give due regard to inclusion and diversity, and eliminate derogatory and hate material from textbooks.
The Executive Director of Centre for Social Justice Peter Jacob lauded the federal government for recognizing linguistic diversity and giving consideration to the right of students to receive an objective and unbiased education.
Dr. Qibla Ayaz, Chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, said that the curriculum plays a vital role in promoting inclusion and contribute to build an inclusive society.
Dr. Sughra Chaudhry Khan stressed on teaching in the classroom without biases, prejudice, discrimination or any ideology, can contribute to make the school environment conducive and inclusive.
Dr. Zia ul Haq underlined that not curriculum or textbooks, but teachers are the most relevant to promote social cohesion and diversity.
Dr. Baela Raza Jamil and Mosharraf Zaidi underlined that the education system presents a lack of coherence, therefore a shift in the approach and method of education in schools was required to allow educational freedom, life skills and learning needs of the children.
They urged the government to address these challenges, and invest energies and resources towards improving access, teachers training, and incentives for enhanced enrolment, and consider collecting fresh data and improving the capacity of stakeholders involved to make the single national curriculum effectively implementable.
Dr. Nighat Lone and Sohail Bin Aziz said that the government has engaged a diverse group of experts as a member of the National Curriculum Council (NCC), however, the inclusion of regional, national and international languages is indecisive yet.
Dr. Riaz Ahmed Shaikh said that the government needs to include more objective content relating to our history and diversity existing in our country and the region.
Tahira Abdullah and Anjum James Paul stressed that the reforms in education policy, curriculum, and textbooks are needed to address the issues of intolerance, radicalization, and division along religious, ethnic and sectarian lines.
They urged the government to dispel confusion around uniform education, as the implementation of a single national curriculum in diverse contexts might cause furthering deprivation and disparity.