Kamran Chaudhry, Lahore
Updated: December 20, 2018 10:17 AM GMT
National Commission for Justice and Peace executive director Cecil Shane Chaudhry (extreme right), speaking at the launch of a research report showing religious bias in the nation's education system.
New research by a bishop's commission reveals that there is an over-emphasis on religion in Pakistan's education system, often with a bias against non-Muslims.
"Subjects like social studies and languages have almost 40 percent religious material which non-Muslim students have to study," according to the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), the Catholic Church's human rights body in Pakistan.
"Except Islam, no other religion or its concepts, are part of education policy."
As well as being communally divisive, this approach to education in the provinces was detrimental to improving literacy levels.
Although literacy is relatively high in some big cities, it was found to be lower than 20 percent in some regions.
The NCJP research found that non-Muslim religions were often referred to in a pejorative way and some teaching material included religious bias, hatred and the citing of historical facts out of context.
"The provincial textbook boards seem reluctant to remove hate and discriminatory material from school textbooks," the NCJP study concluded.
For example, the provincial government of northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province simply remained silent on the issue.
A report on the latest research entitled 'Education: A Pathway to Convergence' was unveiled Dec. 18 in Lahore, capital of Punjab province, in collaboration with the National Commission for Human Rights.
It was the sixth such report on education policies and curriculum development.
The latest research report cites biased material in books approved by provincial textbook boards for the current academic year.
Priests from the past had allegedly received official government support when they intolerably glorified Christianity while condemning other religions, claimed a grade eight social studies textbook in Balochistan province.
According to NCJP executive director Cecil Shane Chaudhry, many curriculum writers had refused offers of collaboration, even issuing fatwas, or religious edicts, against his Catholic human rights' protection group.
He called for the NCJP to be recognised by government education officials as a "partner" rather than as an adversary.
"The hate material has deep psychological effects on students belonging to religious minorities," Chaudhry told ucanews.com.
There had been some positive developments, including a Punjab province school booklet which mentions other religions as celebrating important festivals of Pakistan, including Christmas and Hindu Diwali.
Meanwhile, many members of minority groups have objected to a practice under which extra marks are awarded to students who have memorized the Islamic Quran by heart.