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Last Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
US concern at Pakistan textbooks
By Aamer Ahmed Khan
BBC News, Karachi

Children in a Social Studies classroom (Arif AliI/AFP/Getty Images)
Social studies was replaced with history and geography this year
The United States has described some of the material contained in Pakistani textbooks as "inciteful" and said it was an issue of "serious concern".

The US said it feared the material might "cause people to... lash out with violent actions".

Despite two government reviews of the textbooks, a leading Pakistan NGO says little has changed.

Pakistan's school curriculum has been in the spotlight since the 11 September attacks in the US.

Pakistan and the US are key allies in the latter's war on terror.

US State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, was commenting on media reports that jihad, or holy war, was still a part of school curriculum in Pakistan.

"We have engaged the Pakistani government on... the issue of textbooks and language that... was clearly, clearly unacceptable and inciteful or would cause people to perhaps lash out with violent actions," he told a press briefing on Thursday.

He said the US had raised the matter with the Pakistani education minister during his visit to Washington in March.

Independent review

The administration of President Pervez Musharraf asked the education ministry in March 2002 to undertake a comprehensive review of all textbooks.

Picture in a grade 7 history textbook showing a weapon used by Muslim warriors
Textbooks have been accused of glorifying war

But the review recommended that no major changes were required in the existing curriculum.

This prompted one of Pakistan's most respected non-government organisations, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), to undertake an independent review.

It examined textbooks for Urdu, English, Social Studies and Civics from grades one to 12 (5-18 years) and came out with its report a few months after the ministry's review. The findings created a furore.

It found "falsehoods, distortions and omissions" in all the textbooks, which it said defied Pakistan's declared objective of turning into a modern, dynamic state.

I don't think anything has changed in substance
Ahmed Salim, Sustainable Development Policy Institute

It also found the books "full" of material "encouraging or justifying discrimination against women, religious and ethnic minorities and other nations".

The report said that most of the textbooks incited "militancy and violence, including encouragement of holy war and martyrdom".

There were repeated instances of "glorification of war and the use of force".

The religious parties in particular were incensed at the report and labelled it "paid Western propaganda".

Curriculum change

The report was taken seriously by the government which ordered another review.

Picture from a grade 7 history textbook
Religious parties called the SDPI report 'Western propaganda'

The second review, completed in mid-2004, recommended that references to holy war and the use of force be deleted.

The ministry also recommended that the social studies subject be scrapped.

The recommendations were implemented for the school year starting 2005.

"I don't think anything has changed in substance," co-editor of the SDPI report Ahmed Salim told the BBC news website.

The SDPI is planning to undertake another review which it expects to complete in a month's time.

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