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PAKISTAN

Following is a summary of a four-day dialogue between Muslim and Christian teachers the first week in September, 2003 as part of the Week of Global Interfaith Dialogue. These continuing dialogues are sponsored by the Human Development Center in Jhang.

"I never thought that the syllabus I teach in the school has lots of flaws regarding the themes that we teach. But after the Teachers' Refresher Course organized by Human Development Center, I feel that the school curriculum does not fulfill the requirement to build the character and development personality of the children." Said Ms Farah Gill, a secondary school teacher from Okara.

The Teachers' Refresher Course was organized by Human Development Center, a Toba Tek Singh-based development organization working in the rural areas of Punjab Province, to give teachers an orientation on the themes of Human Rights Education, Rights Based Approach, Citizenship Education, Peace Building and Conflict Resolution.

We have been working in the schools with the children since 1999 on peacebuilding, interfaith harmony and HR education but we felt that not only the parents but also the teachers become hurdle in educating the children on these issues. The reason might be the same background of the teachers as the children are going through. We also felt that curriculum being taught miss lot of important things and it is a prejudiced and biased syllabus. The teachers need an orientation on how the curriculum is developing the attitudes of fundamentalism and religious discrimination among the children. That is why we organized this refresher course." said Atif Jamil Pagaan, Deputy Director of the Human Development Center.

Thirty-five teachers attended the refresher course from eight parishes of Faisalabad Diocese. Among the participants eight Muslim teachers also attended the course. After the orientation sessions for three days the participants spent the whole day in reviewing the URDU (National language) book from class 1 to 10. Despite the time constraint, the participants brought out the important findings from the books, which promote fundamentalism, minimize the role of the religious minorities in the development of the country and are gender insensitive.

The participants pointed the over emphasis of the Islamic teachings in the URDU language book. They also pointed out that woman is presented as an "object" of the family in the books. The participants were of the view that they are not against the Islamic teachings being taught in the syllabus but it should be put only in the Islamic Education and when there is a full subject of Islamic Education being taught as a compulsory subject then there is no need to include it in other books.

As the time was short, the partcipants decided to form ten members team to review all the books in detail and send the recommendations to the president of Pakistan, Punjab Text Book Board, Education Minister and other related departments.

It's a discovery for me that our curriculum lacks many things and it does not present the enough teachings for the student for his formation to make him/her a good citizen and human beings. As a Muslim teacher I feel that Islamic teachings be taught in the Islamic Education subject. We can teach many good things to our children in other books." Ms Saima Adul Rasheed, a secondary school teacher from Samundari, commented after the program.

At the end teachers from each parish prepared the work plan to be implemented after their return to their respective areas. The follow up plans prepared by the teachers focused more on orientation sessions for their colleagues in the schools, regular review of the curriculum, meetings with the parents and integration of the curriculum with the these taught in the refresher course.

Prepared by Atif Jamil Pagaan

Examples of past dialogues

Iran

Jordan

Pakistan

Jerusalem

South Africa

Mozambique

United Nations