The Federal Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Shafqat Mahmood, has announced that non-Muslim students will be taught their own theologies in lieu of compulsory Islamic Studies at educational institutions.
He stated this at a meeting with the British High Commissioner, Christian Turner, during a discussion on the Single National Curriculum (SNC) and other issues.
Minister Mahmood said that separate religious studies subjects for the students of the minority Christian, Hindu, Sikh, and Kailash communities have been prepared in consultation with their religious leaders and scholars, and that they will be taught accordingly.
He also said that English, Mathematics, and Science will be taught in the English medium, and Urdu and Islamic Studies will be taught in the Urdu medium up to the fifth grade. The fifth grade syllabus will also include Social Studies, and General Knowledge in the Urdu medium, and English terms will be included in these subjects. The English language components in these subjects will be increased gradually from the sixth grade to the eighth grade.
Additionally, students can opt for an International Qualification or National Qualification of their choice after the eighth grade.
Minister Mahmood said that private publishers have been allowed to publish books, and the provinces and private educational institutions can teach from any book. However, the Federal Ministry of Education has mandated that the books from private publishers should be consistent with the uniform curriculum, and that no offensive or hateful material should be included in the chosen books.
He further said that everyone has the right to comment on the uniform curriculum, which is why it was first posted on the website of the Ministry of Education. He remarked that many observers had criticized this syllabus without reading it and studying its comprehensiveness and usefulness. He said that since it is rare to get a full consensus in a democracy, there will be some who will continue to criticize this high-purpose move for their own reasons and interests.
Regarding the uniform curriculum until the eighth grade, the minister said that the provinces and private educational institutions have also been allowed to teach additional materials. Furthermore, the elite private schools are free to add music and dance classes to their courses, and the madrassas are also at liberty to teach additional materials.
While speaking on the topic of the registration of the madrassas, Minister Mahmood said that registrations are in progress across the country and that 16 offices have been set up under the Directorate General of Religious Education — a subsidiary of the Ministry of Education — and so far, two thousand madrassas have been registered. He added that some madrassas had demanded the formation of new education boards, and five new boards have also been formed accordingly.
The minister explained that the function of the madrassas is to impart education, but their affairs had previously been managed by the Ministry of Home Affairs. He stated that they have been brought under the Federal Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, and that while the application of a uniform curriculum for madrassa students has opened the door to the best careers options for them, it will be ensured that no provocative or hateful literature is taught in any madrassa, and that no political leader will use madrassa students for their political purposes.
He also discussed the UK’s support for education in Pakistan with the British High Commissioner.