Education and Attitudes in Pakistan: Understanding Perceptions of Terrorism

Author: 
Publication Date: 
April 2015
Description: 
USIP Special Report
Project: 
Civil Violence Project
Document Type: 
Articles and Op-Eds
Report summary • Pakistan’s official education system does not equip students to counter the prevailing, problematic narratives in society and the media in any way. Instead it both creates and propagates them. • Pakistan studies textbooks forge an identity exclusively based on Islam and derived in opposition to India. The United States, mentioned sparingly, is portrayed as having betrayed Pakistan at key points in its history. • Textbooks are memorized verbatim and class sessions do not permit questions from the students, teachers’ presentation of evidence, or discussion of alternative sources. • A common Pakistani narrative of terrorism pins the blame on the United States and India. Explanations range from conspiracy theories to justifications of militant action as retaliation for U.S. policies. • A second narrative interprets the militants’ cause as primarily religious and supports it on this basis. • Pakistan needs curriculum reform to follow an international-level curriculum that incorporates rigorous analysis and critical thinking and to create tolerant and analytical global citizens. • Official textbooks need both to be reimagined to include a full view of history and to be authored by international scholars. • In addition, the government needs to find a way to halt the circulation of terrorist narratives from both mainstream media and madrassas.