One major problem presently facing the Pakistani nation is the disadvantages of the current education system. Of these, three call for immediate action.
Firstly, the current education system in Pakistan is gradually distancing our nation from its cultural tradition. A short discussion with the members of the young generation makes one realize that it will not take more than a couple of decades before we will have lost our memory as a nation. Our ignorance of and indifference to the Arabic language has already cost us our memory of fourteen hundred years. A similar attitude towards the Persian Language has removed from our minds the record of about twelve hundred years of our history and culture. The same is now happening with Urdu. Three hundred years of our cultural tradition are coded in and, therefore, depend upon Urdu for their presence. Having dissociated ourselves from this language, we will definitely loose each and everything related to our precious cultural tradition. It is only language which guarantees continuity of cultural traditions in a nation’s life. It is only language which works as the most effective vehicle of flow of the cultural values and traditions to the next generations. Losing protection of such an unparalleled asset would lead us to a great tragedy. It would mean that our coming generations would no longer know the names of the major pillars of Muslim scholarship and literature, not to speak of studying and grasping them. Those who appreciate the role of cultural tradition and its effects in a nation’s development can well imagine the magnitude of the threat.
Secondly, twelve years of basic general education creates in the students the ability to develop their skills and embark upon specialized studies in all academic disciplines. Whereas, our education system does not apply this proven role of the twelve year basic education for specialization in the religious sciences. Consequently, the education system does not provide any basic and fundamental knowledge to the students to enable them to specialize in the religious sciences and become religious scholars. Madrassas are a product of this shortcoming in the national education system. They will continue to be spawned as long as this shortcoming in the education system remains. There is no denying the fact that the society needs erudite religious scholars just as it needs scientists, litterateurs, doctors and engineers. The society can itself set up private universities to fulfil this need. These universities will welcome students with basic qualification in the discipline for different programs. The question, however, is: where will the pupil get the requisite basic education for this discipline? They have nowhere to look for it.
Thirdly, the state does not allow, and rightfully so, any governmental and non-governmental organization to set up universities of higher education where they can enrol such students as have not completed general education for twelve years. Therefore, no institute can try to make doctors, engineers or experts in any other discipline of those who have not gone through the basic general education for twelve years. Strangely however, this condition does not apply to those who set up madrassas and produce religious scholars. In these institutions, students are enrolled right from the beginning. Their future role as religious scholars is decided while they have just seen school. Nature may craft a mind to suit to becoming a doctor, engineer, scientist, poet, litterateur or artist. It does not matter to the madrassas. They do not have any regard for what nature decides about a child. They are interested in and intent upon only and only making of him a religious scholar. This they do without giving a least consideration to his ability, disposition, aptitude and inclinations. Thus they rob the pupil from an option to consider these factors after coming of age, think for himself and decide any alternative future role and trade. Those made into religious scholars by these madrassas are so disposed as to behave like aliens in the society in which they were born and to the environment where they grew up. What else can be expected from depriving them of twelve years of general education?
This state of affairs is very grave. It calls for immediate extraordinary measures. To address this, we propose the following steps, if only those on the helm of authority were to take this issue seriously.
1. All the parallel education systems should be abolished or radically reformed. There should be no English or Urdu schools. Nor should there be two different types of schools one offering pure religious education, as in madrassas, and the other secular and purely mundane education, as in most private schools. All social sciences should be taught in the Urdu language; sciences proper and mathematics should be instructed in English; religious content, however, should be taught in Arabic.
2. As for religious education, in the first five years, the students should be made to memorize the last two groups of the Qur’anic surahs (51-114), supplications made in the Prayers and talbiyah said in the ḥajj. Arabic language should be taught from class six onwards. After teaching the pupils basic Arabic grammar, the Holy Qur’an should be used as a reader. The students should be made to complete its reading with the completion of class twelve. Islamiyat and Pakistan Studies should no more be taught as compulsory subjects. These should be replaced by the subject of history. The syllabus of history should include topics on international history and Muslim history, including, of course, that of Pakistan.
3. Persian is very close to Urdu. Basic grammar of this language can be taught in three months at most. This language too should be taught as a part of the Urdu language from class 9 onwards.
4. Like the science and arts groups, Islamiyat group should be introduced from class nine. In this group, students should be offered the subjects of the Arabic language and literature, history, philosophy, international literature, different major approaches to and interpretations of the religion and the shari‘ah, at least to the level of basic introduction. The purpose is to afford those wishing to become religious scholars an opportunity to equip themselves with the required qualification for the higher education in the discipline.
5. Madrassas should be acknowledged as institutes of higher educations like institutions of medical and engineering sciences. They should, however, not be allowed to enroll pupils who have not completed twelve years of basic education. The religious madrassas that provide acknowledged and recognized standards of higher education may be allowed to award degrees to their graduates for BA, MA, MPhil and PhD programs.
(Translated by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi)