Speakers urge complete reorientation of policy toward youth

KARACHI: Speakers at an event on Friday said that the present education system in the country is flawed and there is a need for complete reorientation of policy toward youth to end violent trends and promote critical thinking as well as reasoning among them.

They said this at the launch of the report “How Youth in Sindh View State, Society, Religion, and Politics” released by Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) here on Friday. Lawmakers, academicians, students, journalists, human rights activists, and representatives of civil society participated in the event.

The report is based on a three-fold assessment including workshops providing the youth of Sindh an open forum to share their views and observations, and pre-and post-event surveys conducted by PIPS. Arsalan Taj, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s MPA, speaking on the occasion, said that there was an ever-increasing social divide in the society which is also reflected in their education system. “Our education system discourages questioning among our students,” he said.

“The same was necessary to promote critical thinking among youth.” Mangla Sharma, the Mutahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s MPA, said that the youth usually shape up their thoughts at the primary level and they need to focus on this system of education.

She deplored that the present education system was flawed in a way that youth also see everything from the telescope of religion. “Content of civic education was absent from the present educational curriculum.” Senior journalist and intellectual Ghazi Salahuddin said that education was the only means to provide equal opportunities to citizens. “Education is meant to be an equalizer, but it has become a divider in Pakistan.” Kapil Dev, a rights activist, said that the slogan of state was not inclusive as it represented the majority only.

“The state should make its slogan inclusive. This could help the youth to become diverse and inclusive.” Senior journalist Wusatullah Khan said that the class difference has increased in the wake of the rapid growth of private schools in the country’s education sector. He stressed that the policymakers should look into this problem.

Earlier, Muhammad Amir Rana, PIP’s executive director, in his introductory remarks said that the purpose of the exercise was to identify loopholes in the education system and the issues faced by the youth.

“The purpose is to share the same with the policymakers, and lawmakers to help them bring necessary changes in the curriculum and introduce new policies for the betterment of the youth,” he said. Ahmed Ali, PIPS’ program manager, shared the findings of the report with the participants. The report underlines that Sindh, the second largest province of Pakistan, has been seeing an upsurge in incidents of violence against religious, sectarian, and ethnic minorities since the beginning of the 21st century.

The province, which has the largest Hindu population in the country, is also grappling with issues like forced conversion of Hindu girls and vandalization of Hindu temples, according to the study report. The research study says that there is a massive need to upgrade the education system by making classes more interactive and inclusive. The curriculum must be sensitive about the portrayal of minorities, and it should encourage critical and rational thinking among youth, it adds. “Teaching of key articles and provisions of the Constitution including those relating to fundamental rights and basic functions of the state should be made a mandatory part of the curriculum.” The report says the teachers should be trained to “build a more inclusive environment in the classroom.”

It says that the discussion on women empowerment and gender rights should extend beyond the recognition of economic and political rights of women, and the transgender community to more sensitive issues of societal treatment of these groups. The state should adopt a robust response to the hate speech directed against religious and sectarian minorities, concludes the study.

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