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POLICY BRIEF January-March, 2023

Book Cover: POLICY BRIEF January-March, 2023
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In a push for inclusion in religious education, Pakistan National Curriculum Council (NCC) recently issued no-objection certificates for the publication of religious textbooks for students from seven minority groups. This will allow publication of books on the Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Bahai, Zoroastrianism, Kalasha, and Buddhism. The development has been lauded as a milestone for the country’s religious minorities who face discrimination, prejudice, and neglect within the education system. Though constitutionally the minority students have rights to education in their religion, they have mostly been restricted to studying Islamic education or “Ethics” at schools.
Records indicate minority students barely opt for Ethics. According to a study by the Centre for Social Justice, only 0.07% of minority students opted for ethics at Grade-5 level, while 0.06% opted for it at Grade-8 level. Out of a total of 15,917 minority students at matriculation, 80% studied Islamiat and only 20% studied ethics. Out of 7,405 non-Muslim students at intermediate level, 90% studied Islamiat and only 1.7% studied ethics, while 8.8% studied civics. Considering these statistics, the creation of a religious minority curriculum can be viewed as a much-needed positive development.
The no-objection certificate issued on March 3 has boldly asserted that the new textbooks “[are] free from all biases related to cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of the people of Pakistan.” According to news reports, the curriculum is prepared by the NCC “after getting detailed input from all seven communities, who with consensus, agreed on the draft curriculum.” The textbooks which will soon be published and available to roll out in the upcoming academic session. The NOC further reads that, “In the textbooks, there is nothing against any religion, Pakistan, and organs of the state. All the references of the holy books are authentic. All the maps used in the textbooks are approved by Survey of Pakistan and the National Book Foundation,”.
The NCC’s has announced that the National Bank Foundation will improve, update, and revise any part or the entire textbooks based on feedback from the field during the implementation process and will submit improved versions for approval. The government will reportedly publish 35 books (one each for the seven religious minorities) for classes one to five and 21 books for classes six to eight based on the number of enrolled students.

Publisher: Pak Institute For Peace Studies (PIPS)