Textbooks of the Future

Posted by sepoy on December 07, 2004 · 5 mins read

Nitin, at The Acorn, recently had a discussion over the EU-ization of South Asia. While I agree more or less with his views in the debate, I believe that there are certain trends that point towards a markedly different South Asia in the next 10-25 years. Look at the world around you: Corporations have no geographical boundaries; the problems of the 21st century (enviornment, terrorism, fair markets, human rights) do not have statist solutions; NGOs like Amnesty, Red Cross, Without Borders play the role of extra-governmental watchdogs and organizers of reliefs and right-protections; monolingualism is quaint; techno-intelli-elites inhabit several international cities, dropping from one continent to another wondering what Pico Iyer smokes; technology is drifting inexorably towards OpenSource standardizations devoid of exculsionary intellectual rights. All trends pointing towards a re-allignment of the nation-state duality. This is not to say that India and Pakistan and Bangladesh can let go that easily of their blood-soaked pasts or that dissolving borders in South Asia would even be a good idea. But, a NAFTA-ish, Commonwealth-ish future is a clear possibility, if we can manage to tone down the ISI freedom fighters and the hate-mongering. Some progress on the first front is visible. And there are incentives visible for change on the second issue as well.

The Two Nation Theory, however suspect historically, is a founding myth in Pakistan. Spurred to the forefront during Zia's Islamization project, it sustains itself by erecting the spectre of the demonic Hindu. The Hindu that I was taught in school textbooks was a cunning, duplicitous, aggressive, honey-tongued rakshah bent on destroying Muslims. As part of my dissertation deals with textbooks, I have looked into this issue and I can tell you that there is a marked difference in the history taught before and after Zia.

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) released a report late last year that sharply criticized Pakistani textbooks for cultivating hatred against the Indian citizens [full report pdf]. The response to the report ranged from death threats to the authors to MMA-sponsored mass demonstrations against the Institute. Amid the hoopla, the report caught the eye of the Congress and scholars.

Congress passed HR 4818 on Sep 23, 2004:


(a) Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees

(1) describing the strategy of the Government of Pakistan to implement education reform in Pakistan, and the strategy of the Government of the United States to assist Pakistan to achieve that objective;

(2) providing information on the amount of funding--

(A) obligated and expended by the Government of Pakistan and the Government of the United States, respectively, for education reform in Pakistan, since January 1, 2002;

(B) expected to be provided by the Government of Pakistan and Government of the United States, respectively, for education reform in Pakistan, including any assistance to be provided by the United States pursuant to the commitment of President Bush to provide $3,000,000,000 in assistance to Pakistan during fiscal year 2005 through fiscal year 2009; and

(3) discussing progress made in achieving education reform in Pakistan since January 1, 2002.

(b) DEFINITIONS.--In this section--

(1) the term ``appropriate congressional committees'' means--

(A) the Committees on Appropriations and International Relations of the House of Representatives; and

(B) the Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Relations of the Senate;

(2) the term ``education reform'' includes efforts to expand and improve the secular education system in Pakistan, and to develop and utilize a moderate curriculum for private religious schools in Pakistan.

The scholars are meeting Dec 8-10 in Islamabad at the 7th SDPI conference with a panel on textbooks in South Asia. It is a promising start that such a dialogue is taking place within Pakistan and one more indication that winds of change are blowing.

Will Congress and some academics change Pakistani textbooks? Considering that the guy in charge is the former head of ISI, the answer has to be unqualified hell no. Yet, the dynamic is slowly shifting away from the mullahs. India's economic rise and its shining democracy is attractive to a lot of Pakistanis who question their own sordid state. Just look at this essay by cricketer cum politician Imran Khan.

I am hopeful that the stick of Congressional money and the carrot of a shining India can give us a new history of Pakistan in the textbooks of the near future.


Rezwan | December 09, 2004

I also think that South Asian unity is required for a mutual development of this region. Even the SOuth Asian leaders approved a regional bloc to stand upto US, EU & ASia (http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2004/12/9/latest/20076SouthAmer&sec=latest) But for organizations like SAARC to succeed we need to drive away the ghost of two nation theory from the minds of our people. Hindu Muslim dichotomy is deeprooted in peoples perception hindering progress. Thats why even after the bitter experiences of 1971 war of liberation inflicted by Pakistan Army and Indias trmendous support, many Bangladeshis favor Pakistan more than India. We need to overcome the past logically and in todays context looking forward to a good relationship of trust so that we can capitalize on regional trade and tackling all the threats to this region. We should not let the egos creep in us and hinder good relations in the region.

sohail | December 11, 2004

The Book Group (www.bookgroup.org.pk) have done a fair bit of working on producing quality textbooks for children. I came to know about it through Mr. Sami Mustafa, principle of the CAS school in Karachi.

fariha | March 07, 2006

can i have mr sami mustafa's schools phone number. my email is fariha_shah@yahoo.com