A case for pro­mul­gat­ing ethics ed­u­ca­tion in Pak­istani schools

The Miracle - - Pakistan/kashmir - By:Anika Khan

En­ter a school in Pak­istan and of­ten, you see wall dis­plays com­mu­ni­cat­ing mes­sages about good char­ac­ter and val­ues. But when you look at the cur­ricu­lum of most schools you dis­cover a void: ethics as a sub­ject is miss­ing from class­rooms. In 2007, an ethics syl­labus was in­tro­duced in the Na­tional Cur­ricu­lum for non-Mus­lim stu­dents as an al­ter­na­tive to Is­lamiyat. Ten years later, very few pub­lic or pri­vate schools ac­tu­ally offer ethics so hardly any Mus­lim and few non-Mus­lim stu­dents have ac­cess to ethics ed­u­ca­tion. In fact, the Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa on­line school cur­ricu­lum no longer in­cludes an ethics syl­labus, while the Pun­jab Text­book Board’s cur­ricu­lum in­cludes ethics as an al­ter­na­tive to Is­lamiyat for non-Mus­lim stu­dents, an ap­proach that in it­self is de­bat­able. The slow process of in­cor­po­rat­ing ethics into schools makes it clear that ethics comes low on our list of ed­u­ca­tional pri­or­i­ties. A re­cent ar­ti­cle in Dawn re­ferred to the kind of eth­i­cal prob­lems that can arise be­cause of the lack of ex­po­sure to ethics ed­u­ca­tion in med­i­cal col­leges. This be­comes an even more press­ing is­sue in the con­text of school ed­u­ca­tion where young stu­dents are faced with eth­i­cal dilem­mas not only in the phys­i­cal world, but with un­prece­dented prob­lems re­lated to cy­ber­bul­ly­ing, ap­pro­pri­ate bound­aries of in­ter­ac­tion on so­cial me­dia and the vi­o­la­tion of pri­vacy. While gov­ern­ment cur­ricu­lums do make (half-hearted) at­tempts to in­cor­po­rate eth­i­cal val­ues into some sub­jects, the style is of­ten di­dac­tic and the con­tent is lim­ited. A sec­ondary prob­lem is the way in which eth­i­cal con­tent is ac­tu­ally taught to stu­dents. In most Pak­istani schools, Is­lamiyat classes are sup­posed to de­liver les­sons that build char­ac­ter and teach eth­i­cal val­ues. In ac­tu­al­ity, the teach­ing of re­li­gion is fraught with the same kind of ped­a­gog­i­cal prob­lems that af­fect our teach­ing of other sub­jects which is based on rote learn­ing and dis­cour­ages en­quiry and crit­i­cal re­flec­tion. A pi­lot study con­ducted by me in a lo­cal school showed that teach­ers of Is­lamiyat, with per­fectly good in­ten­tions, fo­cused more on teach­ing fac­tual in­for­ma­tion and re­li­gious rit­u­als and paid far less at­ten­tion to the eth­i­cal val­ues that char­ac­terise Is­lam, such as courage, wisdom, tem­per­ance, com­pas­sion and, above all, jus­tice. While this was a lim­ited study, it is likely that the teach­ing of re­li­gion across the coun­try sim­i­larly lacks a focus on eth­i­cal con­tent. Some ed­u­ca­tors have ar­gued that re­li­gion does not have to be part of the dis­cus­sion on ethics in Pak­istan, but I find this view­point my­opic. Re­li­gion is im­por­tant to most Pak­ista­nis as the medium through which they make sense of life. My ex­pe­ri­ences in teach­ing ethics to stu­dents and work­ing with teach­ers in Pak­istan has shown that re­li­gion of­ten en­ters dis­cus­sions spon­ta­neously be­cause it is the lens through which chil­dren and teach­ers will of­ten view a prob­lem to un­der­stand the right or wrong of it.........

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