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Religious schools 'need to broaden curriculum'

Religious schools 'need to broaden curriculum'

Author: Amit Roy
Publication: The Daily Telegraph, UK
Date: November 8, 2001

The Pakistani High Commissioner to London has called for urgent reforms to the religious schools in Pakistan and Britain.

On the eve of today's visit to Britain by President Pervaz Musharraf for talks with Tony Blair, Abdul Kader Jaffer acknowledged that Pakistan had made a big mistake by letting millions of Afghan refugees settle in his country and allowing the schools to produce a sizeable chunk of the Taliban.

He noticed with alarm that a significant proportion of Pakistani youths in Britain, as in Pakistan, was poorly educated. "When I noticed this problem in Oldham, I told my government that there were a lot of Pakistanis who didn't send their children for higher education. They hardly did their A or O-levels. Education is the answer for the future."

After this summer's riots in Oldham and Bradford, he told Gen Musharraf that urgent action was needed. Learning about the Koran was all very well, but the religious schools were churning out young men who knew little else.

He has decided, with the agreement of Pakistan's president and education minister, that in future students will have to learn about computers, mathematics, geography, history and English. The commissioner is proposing to set up an endowment fund, financed by his government and rich Pakistanis in Britain. He is particularly keen that girls should be educated.

He was not against religious schools but they had to expand their curriculum. "Students need to know about information technology. Give them computers."

Mr Jaffer was not surprised that some Pakistani youths in Britain had expressed pro-Taliban sentiments. "These are people who have no jobs. These are people who have stopped links with their parents, a basic requirement of our culture."

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