CSJ issues annual fact sheet “Human Rights Observer 2023”

CSJ issues annual fact sheet “Human Rights Observer 2023”

Human Rights Observer 2023

The annual fact sheet titled “Human Rights Observer 2023” has called to combat the discrimination against minorities in the education system in the country. The fact sheet was issued by the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) which showed concern of minorities over the increasing religious content in curriculum and textbooks, and several perennial and new challenges in the education system during 2022.

The fact sheet further explained that the education system in Pakistan is marred by multi-layered religious discrimination which unfortunately remained unchanged during 2022. In March 2021 after a complaint filed by CSJ, the Supreme Court ordered the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training to submit a report on whether the content of textbooks developed under the Single National Curriculum (policy of 2020) complied with Article 22 (1) of the Constitution of Pakistan which guarantees that “No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.”

According to the factsheet, in May 2022, contrary to the facts, the officials of the Ministry claimed before the Supreme Court that the content of school textbooks was compliant with the requirements of the constitution.

 In 2022, a group of concerned parents filed a petition in the Lahore High Court stating that the Single National Curriculum and textbooks approved by the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) for all schools of the province are biased, discriminatory, and unfair, hence, ultra vires to the fundamental rights guaranteed under articles 22, 25-A, 36 and 38 of the Constitution. Moreover, members from all ethnicities and religious minorities, and independent experts were not included in the board while devising the curriculum, which lacks diversification and transparency. The court issued notices to concerned authorities for their responses.

In August 2022, the Federal government approved the subject of religious education for minority students as a substitute for lslamiyat and Ethics and notified the curriculum for seven religions i.e. Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism (Grades 1-X), Baha’i (Grades I to VIII), Kalasha and Buddhism (Grades I to V). In March 2023, the Federal Ministry of Education issued no-objection certificates for publishing textbooks for the subject.

However, the textbooks for Religious Education are yet to be printed, therefore, none of the provinces had adopted religious education for 2022-2023. The Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board, otherwise the fastest implementer of Single National Curriculum, issued a notification in disregard of the new scheme, therefore, the subject of ‘Ethics’, as an alternative to lslamiyat was in use while the Board increased 100 marks for studying the translation of the Holy Quran.6

CSJ in the Human Rights Observer 2023 also presented some recommendations for the federal and provincial governments which include avoiding introducing any legislation, or policy measures in disregard to the constitutional protection of religious freedom and non-discrimination under articles 20, 22 (1), and 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Implement Supreme Court order No: ii (SMC No: 1 of 2014) regarding developing curricula at school and college levels to promote a culture of religious and social tolerance. Ensure that minority students are not reprimanded for not wanting to study lslamiyat. Ensure the provision of teachers to teach minority students their respective religions to implement the policy decision under the single/ national curriculum of Pakistan.

The minorities lag in literacy rate in double digits, therefore starting special projects focusing on enhancing literacy and quality education for over a million children belonging to minorities.

Related: Civil Society shows concern on out-of school children

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