HRCP seminar demands focus on civic education


LAHORE: Primary and secondary education of civics must begin at an elementary level to instill in students a sense of good citizenship and primary curriculum and textbooks must instill tolerance, gender equality and human rights, speakers at a seminar on ‘Civic Education in Schools’ organised by the Human Resource Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said. The seminar was attended by educationists, curriculum experts and human rights observers.
The speakers noticed the fact that civic education at schools now starts in the ninth class and urged a review of the curriculum to carefully introduce education in civic matters at the primary level. The participants also recommended that civics should be made a compulsory subject due to its significance for good citizenship, regardless of the profession one chooses.
While the participants generally criticised the overloading of textbooks with essays on religion and moral preaching, one teacher argued that since Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and the curriculum provided for religious instruction even outside the religious courses, teachers could not be blamed for the prevalent focus of education.
A government official argued that the main issue was not curriculum, but divisions, fissures and disconnect between instruction in schools and social reality. He also made a point that not much could be achieved by curriculum reform because only the very poor people sent their children to public schools and they did not merit much more than what they were getting.
The seminar recommended a critical evaluation of the 2006 social studies and Pakistan studies curriculum in respect of citizenship education. They demanded that the government ensure that primary curriculum and textbooks sow the seeds of citizenship education, containing religious and political tolerance, gender equality, human rights, basic principles of citizenship and care for the environment.
The government was asked to remove the time gap between policy formulation and implementation. The need for organising periodic refresher courses for teachers on social studies and to improve the examination system to discourage learning by rote was stressed. The seminar recommended that the government take out the chapter on Islamic education from the National Education Policy 2009.
The participants strongly urged the government to revise the National Textbooks and Learning Material Policy 2007 in view of the 18th Constitutional Amendment. The participants recommended recourse to courts to challenge the violations of religious rights in learning material.
The seminar decided that an expert group would be formed not only to carry out a detailed critique of civic education in schools but also to prepare an alternative and model learning material.