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'Civics taught in schools outdated and distorted`

November 04, 2010

KARACHI, Nov 3: Describing the current curriculum of civics being taught in schools as “outdated” and “distorted”, speakers at a seminar said that the subject's curriculum was neither creating any awareness of ethical values nor promoting love for democracy.

Moreover, the present curriculum of civics was alienating students from ground realities and also sowing seeds of discord among citizens, they said.

They were speaking at a seminar on “education of civics in school curriculum” held at a local hotel under the aegis of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Those who spoke on the occasion included veteran journalist and HRCP official I.A. Rehman, columnist Dr Muhammad Ali Siddiqui, Sindh University Prof Arfana Mallah and senior journalist Zubeida Mustafa. Presenting his paper on “Critique on education of civics in school curriculum”, Dr Siddiqui said that it was a pity that the civics syllabus currently being taught in schools and intermediate classes did not accord with ground realities and, as such, it had become outdated.

“It [civics syllabus] doesn't promote any love for democracy, rather it promotes acceptance of dictatorship as a system of government,” he said and quoted Class XI civics book which presents former president Pervez Musharraf's 2001 devolution plan as the best attempt which has so far been initiated under any dictatorial rule.

“Even the best aspects of Islamic learning which has been spelt out by Maulana Shibli in traditional Madressahs ie inclusion of mathematics and music for the spiritual purification does not find its place in present day Madressah system,” he said, adding that “if our present day Madressah education includes the critics of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Allama Mohammad Iqbal for updating of traditional Madressah system we will be having a very soft face of Islam as opposed to dogmatic prejudices which have been included in today's Madressah system.”

As a matter of fact, the existing civics curriculum was causing alienation among citizens from ground realities and also sowing seeds of discord among citizens by suggesting that minorities could not enjoy equal rights with Muslim citizens of the country, he said.

Describing the civics curriculum as “male-oriented”, Prof Mallah of Sindh University said that civics textbooks discriminated against women and ignored village women despite the fact they were contributing 70 per cent to the country's agriculture sector.

“In fact, much more awareness of civil rights has been created by the civil society than civil rights knowledge being imparted through the textbooks of civics,” Prof Mallah said.

Zubeida Mustafa presenting her paper entitled “Teaching ethics, inter-faith studies and comparative religion to students in our schools” advocated the need for teaching civics at primary level, adding that ethics as a subject should be introduced in schools so that schoolchildren could be apprised of moral values whereby they could develop the habit of respecting elders, tolerance and a civic sense.

Moreover, civics be taught as a separate subject and not as part of social studies, she suggested.

Emphasising the need for imparting comparative religion education in schools, Ms Mustafa said that with the inclusion of ethics in syllabus a debate would take place which, she added, would be for the common good.

Summing up the speeches made in both the sessions of the seminar, I.A. Rehman said that social sciences were very much relevant and if civics was not related to society then what was the use of teaching the subject.

Describing the civics curriculum as “outdated” and “obsolete”, he said that no nation which wanted to live in the past could prosper and flourish and if the country failed to update its civics curriculum by including new things, it would continue to regress.