Home Opinion Op-Ed Goodbye Mr. Chips: A case of political compulsion or lack of vision?

Goodbye Mr. Chips: A case of political compulsion or lack of vision?

“Allah raises of those who believe and those who have been given knowledge many levels.”(Quran 58:11).

Farah Adeed |

According to some media reports, Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board has decided to remove ages-old novel Goodbye, Mr. Chips, taught at the intermediate level across Punjab. The authorities are said to be interested in replacing the said novel with some stories about the life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H).

A working paper has reportedly been prepared in this regard which is likely to be placed before the Board for approval soon. The novel Goodbye Mr. Chips is currently taught as part of English (Compulsory) subject in Part-II of the Intermediate exam in public and private colleges across Punjab and carries 20 marks with short questions and MCQs.

There can be two possible explanations behind the sudden removal of the novel. One, the authorities might have decided to upgrade it with a view to introduce modern, more relevant and insightful stories in order to acquaint students with the dynamins of the contemporary world.

There is a desire to have a good moral effect on students, and a wish to drill them in old-fashioned, worthless information, largely known to be false, but supposed to be morally elevating.

Two, there is no other policy to let the people of Punjab feel the waves of a promised change, therefore, the government has decided to remove an English novel and to introduce something on the life of Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) to appease right-wing Muslims. It is important to note that a considerable number of people want their children to learn about their religion at educational institutions.

A survey in 2003 conducted around the Rawalpindi area by Matthew Nelson, professor at the University of London, discovered a whopping 41pc preference for the statement: “A good school is a school that creates good Muslims. In other words, good schools provide students with strong values and strong religious beliefs.”

As a matter of fact, there is a separate (compulsory) subject at the intermediate level called Islamic Studies which only focuses on learning about Islam and the life of Prophet (P.B.U.H) However, there have been people on social media demanding from authorities to replace Mr. Chips with a lesson about the life of Prophet (P.B.U.H) It appears, the government has made up its mind to placate such demands.

Read more: The state of education in Pakistan – Ali Moeen Nawazish

If the PTI government is going to replace Goodbye, Mr. Chips with a story about the Prophet (P.B.U.H) should we expect going forward removal of Urdu ghazals from the syllabus at the intermediate and high school level? Nasir Kazmi, Mirza Ghalib, and Mir Taqi Mir are not acceptable either for many religiously conservative Pakistanis.

Should we assume that the PTI has initiated a new scheme of turning Pakistan’s education system into a mere religious interpretation of the world? Bertrand Russell has rightly argued that educated must ensure the inculcation of “curiosity, open-mindedness, belief that knowledge is possible but difficult, patience, industry, concentration, and exactness.”

However, he laments that “the idea of old fashioned schoolmasters persists to some extent at universities. There is a desire to have a good moral effect on students, and a wish to drill them in old-fashioned, worthless information, largely known to be false, but supposed to be morally elevating.”

A decision taken to appease a group of people in a society already struggling with the problem of religious fanaticism is likely to push us into an ideologically dark alley.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) promised to bring substantial changes in education and promised it would be part of their overall reform agenda. They had raised expectations that qualitative changes would be brought under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Interestingly, while PM Khan raised expectations of institutionalizing change across Pakistan, what we have seen so far in Punjab is that police uniforms have once again changed, a novel is expected to be removed for allaying religious sentiments and salary of the chief minister is now more than that of the prime ministers. Overall, the PTI government in Punjab is reflecting a lack of ideas, policy, and seriousness.

Education needs to be reformed in Pakistan. But at the outset, it should be determined what purpose our education should serve in the long run? From a religious standpoint, a momin is one who is familiar with his background and takes a keen interest in his surroundings. Therefore, it is necessary to impart critical thinking, ability to question and courage for free thinking in our children at schools and colleges.

Read more: Education: A privilege of the rich

This decision to replace Mr. Chips should be re-evaluated to maintain standard academic neutrality and intellectual freedom. A decision taken to appease a group of people in a society already struggling with the problem of religious fanaticism is likely to push us into an ideologically dark alley.

The government in Punjab needs fresh thinking and new ideas to modernize the education system in order to link it global intellectual and scientific discourse. Finally, the intention of the decision makers must be on increasing interaction with the rest of the world, not self-inflicted isolation.

Farah Adeed is a Senior Research Analyst in GVS. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s Editorial Policy.