An independent think-tank

“Education is all about critical inquiry and freedom of expression”

Teachers are responsible for developing critical thinking and positive behavioural and social values in their students. Cognitive processes develop only in an environment supporting freedom of expression and critical enquiry. Teachers should also be able to critically review and challenge the curriculum and teach their students the art of questioning as a basic tool of learning.

These views were expressed by speakers of a two-day dialogue-cum-training workshop organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) titled “Engaging teachers for diversity and dialogue,” in Lahore on February 24-25, 2020. A total of 30 teachers from public sector colleges and universities of Punjab participated in dialogue, which had an overarching goal of influencing the teachers in support of social cohesion and religious tolerance.

Dr. Khalid Masood, former chairperson Council of Islamic Ideology, noted in his keynote address titled “Changing dynamics of radicalization in Muslim societies” that human beings are responsible for their acts including in terms of their relation with society and state. He underscored that the role of teachers should not be restricted to scholarly debates only but they should also educate and train their students in desirable behavioural and social values.

Renowned human rights activist I.A Rehman shared that the Muslim tradition and values emphasize “following the noblemen” but the cognitive processes strengthen only through critical review of history, society, tradition, values and beliefs. He shared few myths prevailing in our local wisdom that have the message of hatred and derogatory ideas about other communities. He said diversity is the beauty of a society. “Teachers should [be able to] challenge the curriculum and teach what he or she thinks is correct,” he underlined.

Sahibzada Amanat Rasool, a religious scholar and head of Idara Fikr-e-Jadeed (Institution of Modern Thought) spoke about society, thinking patterns, and ways of expression. He shed the light on what he called “the global society” and expressed that the celebration of diversity in developed world has significantly contributed in achieving relatively more harmonious and peaceful societies.

Dr. Yaqoob Bangish, assistant professor at Information Technology University, Lahore, emphasized the importance of knowing history. He identified the reasons why this subject was added as compulsory subject in the school and college level curriculum in Pakistan. He shared few facts about the history of Pakistan that are being taught in subject of Pakistan studies with the different view.

Renowned columnist and scholar Wajahat Masood provided some facts about the literacy rates of Pakistan and the ruling elites’ persistent indifference to education. He shared few examples of our social ills that he believed were result of a lack of education. He said teachers have the responsibility to ensure that student have liberty to share his or her views in the classroom. “Teachers should respect the sanity of questioning because questions will lead to new ideas and creative thinking,” he concluded.

Dr. Mehdi Hassan, chairperson HRCP, talked about politics, history and social consciousness. He said a teacher’s research success and his writings should not be considered as his qualities but these things are his responsibilities. He noted that we taught our kids a distorted history, a history that starts with the message of hatred towards other religions. “Curbs on freedom of expression and the right to know are not only against the international law but also against our domestic law,” he underscored.