History Textbooks, Ideology, and Attitudes in Government and Elite Pakistani Schools
19 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2015 Last revised: 10 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 9, 2015
Since the 1980s, Pakistan’s official curriculum, and especially its history textbooks, have been criticized for being biased, portraying a one-sided historical narrative, and inculcating negative views toward other religions and countries. Attempts at curriculum reform have failed. This paper looks at a parallel system within Pakistan that caters to the elite: the British, Cambridge board-run O Level. The paper compares the treatment of various issues -- including other religions, the United States, India, and terrorism -- in the Cambridge board Pakistan Studies textbooks with the official (Matric) board books, and finds the substance and the style to be superior in the O Level books. In contrast to the official Matric books, the Cambridge textbooks are objective, present both sides of the story, and engender critical thinking. There is suggestive evidence that the different curricula result in different attitudes -- O Level students have “better” views on jihad and are more tolerant toward minorities than Matric students. Given that the Pakistani government approves the Cambridge curriculum, this paper recommends that the government switch to Cambridge board Pakistan Studies textbooks as a feasible way to ensure reform.
Keywords: education, curriculum, textbooks, ideology, Pakistan
JEL Classification: I2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation