BEYOND MADARASSAHS .
Eyes of the World
The eyes of the world have turned to Pakistan many times in recent months and years, and our education system has come under the media spotlight. But our education system is seen through only one prism and this obscures the many colours that make it up. As a result, the world has come to fear what our schools are teaching. Through Towards 2035 we want to start the process of transforming that fear into hope.
According to the World Bank, under 1% of Pakistani school children attend madrassahs – far less than one might think given the amount of media coverage they receive.
The World has come to fear what our schools are teaching.
We intend to play our part in the ongoing
process of redressing such misperceptions.
Will to Learn
In fact, the biggest change in education within Pakistan over recent decades has been the boom in affordable private education. But how many people know this? How many people know that Pakistan has the highest rate of primary private education of any country in the world?
This is, in part, a reflection of a heavily burdened public education system. Yet it shows that amongst the people of Pakistan there is a real desire for quality schooling. Many families make tremendous sacrifices to give their children the chance of an education that will pave the way for a better future.
How many people know that Pakistan has the highest rate of primary private education of any country in the world?
Nevertheless, as things stand, the common perception of Pakistan outside the country reinforces prejudices and obstructs further educational development. We hope that by shining light on the more progressive elements of schooling, we can encourage them to flourish.
The force of fundamentalism, that wish to impede the development of knowledge, are too often held to be anonymous with Pakistan.
The forces of fundamentalism, that wish to impede the development of knowledge, are too often held to be synonymous with Pakistan. The truth is far more complex. In reality, millions of people within Pakistan are struggling to make this nation a healthy part of a global community.
This does not mean turning our back on our indigenous culture. But equally it does not involve turning our back on the rest of the world. A dialogue is needed.
We believe it is crucial that we show the world that we are ready for this type of dialogue, to redress the regressive, repressive image that is weighing Pakistan down. In short, we want to look beyond the madrassahs to the broader horizons of education.
East, meet West
It is often said that the Asian countries that have flourished in recent years, have done so through imitating the Western model. Given the cultural wealth of Asia, this is a terrible shame. If the process of globablisation is to be a journey of mutual enrichment, rather than a struggle of homogenisation; if democracy is to be more than an empty gesture; if freedom is to mean more than the freedom to follow a pre-set agenda, then each country must be allowed to find its own voice.
Education is an ideal forum for this. In the subcontinent, the education system is based on the colonial model. To cling to this in the name of traditionalism would betray both a false sentimentality and a limiting myopia.
While we should not be afraid to throw out anachronisms, we must also not shy from accepting worthwhile ideas whatever their origin. Our aim is to avoid both imitation and isolation – embracing visions from across the world, while staying grounded in local culture. We understand that a nation unaware of its history walks blindly into the future.
With this intention in mind, we hope that Towards 2035 will initiate a dialogue, a dialogue that will illuminate the way for an educational model that has its sights on the future but is grounded in the past.