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“Teachers can foster harmony by promoting critical inquiry”

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Social harmony, which is direly needed these days, can be achieved by two-way dialogue. But the culture of dialogue is missing, in part because we do not listen to each other and in part because we do not even know what to ask from others, and how. This results in mutually-held misperceptions among members of different faiths and communities. Teachers can help foster dialogues by encouraging culture of critical inquiry, which involves introspection and which leads to social cohesion.

 

These thoughts came in a two-day dialogue with college teachers, on “Role of Teachers in Social Harmony”, organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank. Around 40 teachers from different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with sessions led by leading scholars, educationists, and opinion makers.

 

Chairperson of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), Dr. Qibla Ayaz, shared asking a proper question is a skill unto itself. Teachers should know how to ask proper questions, and to impart this skill to students. That skill alone can promote culture of dialogue in diverse environment of Pakistan. Dr. Rasheed Ahmed said that real wisdom in speaking at the level of the audience, with the context in mind.

 

Earlier, educationist Khadim Husain linked asking questions to producing knowledge. “Unless there is tradition of asking questions, no research can be done and no new knowledge produced”, he said. Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed, Vice Chancellor of Sargodha University, said it is because of asking question that we can achieve tomorrow what is not is not possible today.

 

Speakers argued a problem of education system is its less focus on raising critical inquiry.

From the start, a student is expected to learn the written. Today, the culture of research is being replaced by the culture of rot-learning.

 

 

The dialogue also deconstructed the oft-desired goal of imposing “uniform education system”. Some hailed the idea as the way forward, but others termed it counter-productive. Syed Jaffar Ahmed, Karachi University, stressed upon unity in diversity. He narrated how every now and then, 18th amendment is criticized for delegating education to provinces, which may share their own policy, it is said. There is nothing wrong in it, he said. What is required is more inter-provincial coordination. Additionally, it was said, focus should be on quality of education. Barrister Zafarullah Khan, former state minister, said we need to assess which level of education do we need to change: primary, secondary, or higher?

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