An independent think-tank

“Educational institutes should nurture two-way dialogue to promote social cohesion”

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Lahore

 PR/17 January 2019

The culture of one-way communication is so dominant that people tend to talk at each other, rather than talking with each other. To bridge gaps among citizenry, culture of two-way dialogues need to be promoted. Such dialogues can easily be promoted through educational institutes, by channelling diversity of thoughts in the positive direction.

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 35 teachers from central and southern Punjab, with sessions led by leading scholars, educationists, and opinion makers.

Former chairperson of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Khalid Masud said we are living in a world where we are in frequent interaction with diversity. This diversity should be respected and promoted. Unfortunately, he said, diversity is rather subdued in the name of uniformity, which inevitably results in extremism. The tide of intolerance can be reversed if we listened to each other, which can made possible by promoting culture of dialogue among different segments of society. Teachers can significantly help create such culture.

PIPS Director Muhammad Amir Rana encouraged that more and more questions should be asked. “A question”, he said, “should not be tied to any agenda, but should have the purpose of addressing curiosity.” Teachers agreed that the tradition of questioning can enable them to conduct proper research and generate knowledge.

Khursheed Nadeem, renowned TV anchor and columnist, said the debate on relation between state and religion continues. It is for the state, but society, to shape people’s opinions and attitudes. State can merely act as facilitator, providing enabling environment in universities and colleges to promote culture of dialogue and inquiry.

LUMS professor Muhammad Waseem said unless educational institutes promote critical inquiry, the output cannot be termed as knowledge. In the developed countries, teachers and students are encouraged to ask question. Only then can new knowledge be produced. 

Executive Director of Centre for Social Justice, Peter Jacob, said while different groups are facing different problems, non-Muslims in the country often feel alienated from the mainstream. The difference between majority and minority is widening, he said. He called for upholding rights of all, irrespective of their backgrounds, as also mandated in the Constitution. 

Journalist Sabookh Syed said while people often tend to look at the state for solving problems, when it comes to social disharmony, the solution lies as much in the hand of state as an individual like teachers. In the classroom, with their acts, they can help promote social harmony, respecting diversity of opinion and encouraging critical questions.

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