State education teaching conformity, subservience: Study
A study released Wednesday by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies says the public education system in Pakistan is producing a politically-confused generation that lacks basic clarity in their political thinking. While lacking interest in the constitution or their constitutionally-protected fundamental rights, the educated youth show only modest faith in democracy, and many of them view politicians as inherently corrupt, the study says. Conducted in Dec 2020 to Jan 2021, the study was part of a wider national program to promote interfaith harmony in Pakistan by sensitizing the youth about the issues that contribute to faith-based persecution.
This particular study was conducted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in which 183 male and female students from different universities of the province were included. The study notes that in the classrooms conformity of thinking is rewarded and deviation from the established narratives is frowned upon. The students’ reluctance and lack of confidence to raise a question indicates a controlled academic environment at educational campuses where teachers mostly act as authority figures, to be respected and feared and not be questioned. The system teaches rote learning and encourages parroting which produces generations of closed-minded individuals, lacking scientific thinking and reasoning skills.
Majority of the university students included in the study were found to be struggling to process simple to moderately-complex ideas rationally using available evidence. The study director, Amir Rana, said critical thinking skills are developed in environments where free expression and exchange of ideas are allowed and promoted. The freedom of expression faces many restrictions on grounds of religious sensitivity, national interest or security. Poor reasoning skills make the Pakistani youth vulnerable to emotional exploitation and propagandistic narratives including those propounded by extremist groups.
Due to the teaching of exclusionary ideologies, the youth usually hold militaristic views of nationhood, and parrot the traditional narratives pushed by the mainstream. The findings also suggest only few students knew about the services and contributions of Pakistan’s Hindus, Christians, and other non-Muslim communities for the country’s development and defense. Many of the students demonstrated a patronizing outlook towards their fellow citizens of non-Muslim faiths. Positive mentions of the Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, and others have either been disallowed or removed from the textbooks. According to Amir Rana, the socio-cultural diversity has been whitewashed at the altar of nation building. Sense of shared citizenship and regard for values of democracy and fundamental rights are largely missing in the contemporary youth, he said.
The full report of the study can be accessed at PIPS official website: www.pakpips.com. Studies similar to this one have also been conducted in other provinces whose findings would be released later this year.
Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) is an Islamabad-based research and advocacy organization. The institute undertakes independent research and analysis, academic programs, and hands-on training that support the following basic themes: conflict analysis and peacebuilding; internal and regional security; and counter violent extremism.