Connecting the Dots: Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan — A Study of Public Schools and Madrassas

· Asia, Education, Human Rights, Pakistan

This study was sponsored by:
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 as an  entity separate and distinct from the State Department. USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations  of religious freedom internationally and to make independent policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

This research study was conducted by:
International Center for Religion & Diplomac y (ICRD)
The mission of ICRD is to address identity-based conflicts that exceed the reach of traditional diplomacy by incorporating religion as part of the solution.
Typically, these conflicts involve ethnic disputes, tribal warfare, or religious hostilities.  Capitalizing on the positive role that religious or spiritual factors can play in facilitating trust and overcoming differences in order to deal with the causes underlying conflict is a trademark ingredient of the Center’s approach.
The Center focuses on areas of strategic importance and partners with indigenous organizations in executing its mission. For the past seven years, in partnership with local Pakistani educators and religious leaders, ICRD has been working with Pakistani madrassa (private Islamic school) leaders to enhance madrassa education through teacher-training programs that promote educational and pedagogical enhancement, with an emphasis on critical thinking, religious tolerance, human rights, and conflictresolution skills. All programs are grounded in Islamic principles and honor the significant educational and social achievements accomplished by madrassas and Islamic societies throughout history. This program has grown to involve over 2700 madrassa leaders from more than 1600 madrassas throughout Pakistan to date.
Since its inception, the Center has also (1) helped end the 21-year civil war in Sudan; (2) eased religious tensions between Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist regions in Kashmir; (3) opened back-channel communications to promote improved relations with Iran; (4) helped secure the release of the 21 Korean hostages from the Taliban in Afghanistan; (5) worked with Middle Eastern and American religious leaders to establish a religious framework for peace in the Middle East upon which political leaders can build; and (6) brought American Muslim leaders together with U.S.
government officials to facilitate working together for the common good in addressing issues of mutual concern.

In par tnership with:
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
SDPI is an independent Pakistani policy think tank which acts as a premier knowledge generator as well as disseminator on issues pertaining to sustainable development. SDPI has worked extensively on various facets of educational reforms in Pakistan. In 2002, along with partner organizations and educationalists, SDPI conducted a study called “The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan.” This study of the curriculum for Social/Pakistan Studies, Urdu, and English from Grade 1 to Grade 12 led to a number of recommendations related to distortions and omissions in Pakistan’s national history and material discriminating against ethnic and religious minorities, women, and other nations.  SDPI, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Education Fund, also conducted a “Citizens’ Review of the National Education Policy 1998-2010,” which examined the foundation of the education system including the objectives, aims, quality, and management of education. It also studied the examination system, private sector education, and higher education. The review included studies across the country and made concrete recommendations in each area. SDPI has also proposed alternative textbooks. In one such effort, SDPI’s researchers, in partnership with UK-based Minority Rights Group (MRG), developed alternative textbooks from Grades 1-10 which promote tolerance and peace between different religious groups. Through its studies and research, SDPI continues to be deeply committed to removing false notions related to extremism and misconceived views of Islam that promote violence and terrorism. The tendency to nurture these views in the education system is a major concern for SDPI, as is the challenge to create sensitivity to religious diversity in the country. SDPI believes that economic and social empowerment cannot be realized  without individuals exploring their full potential.

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