Thursday, July 19, 2012

“Ethics in education “Column by by Ayra Inderyas in the Daily News in which she has expressed the concerns of PMTA on Sunday, June 19, 2011, reference of PMTA

By Ayra Inderyas
Nazia, a Christian housemaid, couldn’t afford the monthly fee of Rs925 of her two daughters at St.Joseph School (Church Missionary School). She shifted them to Government High School for Girls Napier Road Lahore, where she pays Rs20 per month for each of them.
Apparently she got relieved from the economic burden of school fee, but she faces another kind of problem now. Her daughters who study in classes two and four told her that there is no alternative subject in lieu of Islamiyat studies, which they also studied in their previous school.
“This government school has 700 students, including 40 non-Muslims, and the subject Ethics, a substitute for Islamiyat, is offered only to classes 9 and 10,” says Senior School Teacher Rizwana Javed. Senior Head Mistress Bushra Riaz says, “Ethics should be offered to non-Muslim students, but the government schools are given the syllabus in which ethics is integrated in Social Studies and other subjects that complete the requirement.”
Principal Chaudhary Muhammad Aslam of Government Muslim League High School for Boys, Empress Road, with 1722 students says, “Non-Muslim students do not make any demand to study ethics and feel comfortable studying Islamiyat with their fellow students.” He says that if any non-Muslim student demands the subject of Ethics in lieu of Islamiyat, the school would try to make the availability of the subject possible.
Should Ethics be introduced in schools on student demand or should the government schools adhere to chapter 4 of the Revised National Education Policy (NEP) (August 2009) that says “provision shall be made for teaching of the subject of Ethics in lieu of Islamiyat to non-Muslim children and subject specific teachers shall be appointed according to the requirement.”
The constitution also guarantees that religious minorities will receive religious education of their own religion. It clearly spells out that “no person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instructions, or take part in religious ceremony, or attend any religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.”
Professor Anjum James Paul, Chairman Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association (PMTA), expresses serious concerns over the non-availability of teachers for Ethics in government schools and colleges. He also objects to Ethics textbooks in English instead of Urdu. He further emphasises that Ethics is no alternative to Islamiyat and if religion is to be taught to Muslims then minority students should also be given an opportunity to study their own religion.
One of the policy actions of Education Policy 2009 says that in addition to making Islamiyat compulsory, the teaching of Islamiyat should be made as an integrated subject from Grade 1 to Grade II. The Punjab Text Book Board prescribed Urdu books from classes 2 to 8 which contain 65 chapters based on Islamic teachings and personalities out of a total 268 chapters. The same board produced Social Studies books from classes 5 to 8 containing 13 of the total 40 chapters on Islamic teachings and personalities. Here, one can assess the integration of Islamiyat in subjects other than the compulsory subject.
“The school text books contain material which is insensitive to other religions,” says Text Books and Curriculum Analysis by Sustainable Development Policy Institute Islamabad (2003). The study mentions a chapter titled Islamic Society in Social Studies Book for class 7 on pages 25 to 28, which says, “During crusades, Christians came in contact with Muslims and learnt that the Muslim culture was far superior to their own; Christians fabricated many false stories of sufferings; and Pope declared that Jesus Christ sanctioned war against Muslims.”
Dr Saeed Shafqat, Director Centre for Public Policy and Governance at Forman Christian College Lahore, believes there is a dire need for improvement in teaching methodologies and pedagogical practices in all public sector schools irrespective of religious differences. Points of convergence among people belonging to different faiths should be highlighted in school textbooks and curriculum to build respect for all religions to pave way for peace, tolerance and religious harmony in our society.
Interfaith scholar Leirvik Oddbjorn (2008), while studying the role of religion in school text books of Pakistan in the light of Islamisation, inter-religious relations and equal citizenship, observed that issues of religious indoctrination and intolerance in curricula and textbooks are being freely debated in Pakistani media which might have a positive outcome. The question remains when will the concerned authorities take this issue seriously for integrating the concerns of all segments of society in school education?

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