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Educational Reforms Must In Pakistan To Protect Lives Of Mashals and Sabeens

Many problems that plague Pakistan today are a direct result of our weak educational system, and the apathy of our policymakers in connection with this issue has only made matters worse.

The curriculum taught in the educational institutions here has been designed in a way that it supports the point of view manufactured by the ruling class. And the rulers have a notorious history of framing policies per their restricted worldview and by keeping their long-term interests in mind.

The curriculum taught in all provinces of the country, especially in Punjab, heavily promotes the state narrative and is non-inclusive of the views held dear by the citizenry. It also promotes racial hatred, discourages critical thinking among young impressionable minds and encourages rote learning.

Critical Analysis Of Pakistan’s Education System

The quality of a country’s education system can make or break a modern nation-state and the Pakistani society is a microcosm of the larger problem of a failed educational system. This observation is supported by heart-wrenching events that have been ongoing for decades.

The failure of our schooling system can be gauged from the fact that children are not provided the space to develop critical thinking and question the rigid views that have been imposed on them by the ruling elite.

When the culture of exercising one’s right to question is bulldozed by the state, then a young mind can easily fall prey to extremism. A weak mind readily absorbs negative ideologies, which if left unchecked can create havoc in society.

In recent times, the murder of rights activist Sabeen Mahmud in Karachi and the lynching of the young and enterprising Mashal Khan in Mardan by fellow students are just two examples of the brutal mindset that has taken firm roots in our society.

The public lynching of two brothers in Sialkot, the murder of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer at the hands of a police guard and countless other incidents of similar nature from our sordid past is evidence of the mainstreaming of extremist thinking here in the country.

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Before moving forward, let the following reality sink in: Sabeen Mahmud was murdered by a BBA graduate from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi. Meanwhile, Mashal Khan was brutally murdered by fellow students with whom he would interact every day during university hours.

Apart from these, there are other cases where well-educated youth embraced militancy. The case of Noreen Leghari, a young medical student at Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS), is a good example in this connection. She joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and was ready to carry out a terrorist attack on a Church on Easter before her arrest by security agencies.

What Role Can The State Play To Overhaul Our Education System?

The curriculum taught in Pakistan’s educational institutions since the inception of the country is not only outdated but has also proved ineffective.

The first step towards reforms that can be taken by the ruling elite is to get back to the drawing board and improve the existing curriculum per the demands of modern times. Inclusivity should be the cornerstone of future educational reforms agenda, meaning that all ethnic and religious minorities living in Pakistan should be treated equally. Diversity in outlook and thought should be given preference above the tunnel vision approach adopted by our policymakers.

Leaving Behind Our Checkered Past For A Bright Future

It is the duty of the state to develop and introduce a counter-narrative in educational institutions by discarding the obsolete curriculum taught here. The rulers should also realise that critical thinking does not break countries but rather makes them internally strong.

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Other steps that can be taken by our policymakers include, lifting of the ban imposed on student unions in educational institutions. In the past, these unions acted as counterweights to extremist narratives while promoting universal and progressive views. Student unions have also provided this country with some of the best political minds in the country. Therefore, the government should not be afraid of youngsters who are politically aware because they can play an instrumental role in shaping the future of this country.

The debate about educational reforms has been raging since long. Unfortunately, no concrete solution has so far been implemented by those whose decisions matter.

Like the past governments, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, had made tall claims of introducing reforms in the country’s puny educational system once they were in power. After coming into power, they have more or less followed the path of past governments by only providing lip service to this burning issue.

One doesn’t have to remind the government that extremism should be discouraged because it has exposed the country to an existential threat that can actually break us. Let’s moves towards reforms fast because we can’t afford another Sabeen or Mashal getting killed for their enlightened views in the ‘land of the pure’.

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