PESHAWAR: Jamaat-i-Islami, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief Professor Mohammad Ibrahim says the people should not fear radicalisation of curriculum if the provincial education department goes to his party as its education programme is similar to that of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf.
“It is only propaganda. If other countries make their children aware of their (war) history, our children should also know about it. We need to prepare ourselves for the defence of our country,” Professor Ibrahim told Dawn on Tuesday.
People holding key positions in the provincial bureaucracy feel the likely decision to assign the provincial education department to JI may cause more harm than good.
“If given the provincial education department, we will act in line with the basic principles of our Constitution,” said Professor Ibrahim, rejecting fears that JI might propagate jihad in textbooks.
He said there was nothing unconstitutional in the curriculum at the moment, so his party would not bring big changes to the curriculum.
Education experts do not agree with the JI provincial chief’s contention. A former chairman of Peshawar Textbook Board and current vice chancellor of Bacha Khan University, Charsadda Professor Fazl-i-Rahim Marwat, said many changes had been made to curriculum since 2006 to bring in the message of peace and progressive thought. “Everyone knows JI protested against these changes and forced us to reverse changes in the Islamiat and English textbook,” he said.
Professor Marwat feared that subjects, which propagated radical or biased mindsets, should not be present in the education system.
“We have shown invaders as heroes. There exists a specific mindset, which we tried to change but it is still there,” he said, referring to the past efforts to remove gender stereotyping, violence and religious/sectarian biases from the curriculum.“We’d tried our best to change things before putting them in right perspective but the curriculum is now going to be handled by JI, whose inclinations are known,” he said.
However, Professor Ibrahim brushed aside such reservations and said: “Nobody should have any fears about radicalisation of curriculum if the provincial education department goes to Jamaat-i-Islami.”
He said JI leaders had held meetings with the PTI and Qaumi Watan Party on the distribution of ministerial portfolios and they all had showed willingness to hand the education department over to his party.
“If the education department is given to us, we will coordinate with PTI on all educational matters. We will promote literacy and offer free education to children up to the age of 16,” he said.
PTI, which has emerged as a leading political party in the provincial assembly after May 11 polls, had promised in its election manifesto that it would declare an education emergency, increase education spending from two per cent to five per cent of gross domestic product, do away with the divide between the public and private sector, remove gender stereotyping, revise and improve textbooks and curriculum, and involve community in school management, and double female enrollment in schools.
However, there are many in the education department who feel that if given the education department, JI could turn out to be a major hurdle to the implementation of the PTI's emergency steps for education reforms.
“If PTI tasks JI with managing education (department), it might radicalise the curriculum,” an official said.
He said the education department was important because teachers of government schools and colleges and politicians had a nexus to protect each others’ interests.
“Teachers help politicians during elections and politicians help them after coming to power,” he said.
The official said the chief minister should keep the education portfolio with himself to check political interference in the key department.