Pakistan madrassas 'do not stoke militancy'
- 24 June 2010
- From the section South Asia
Islamic schools - or madrassas - in Pakistan are not stoking militancy or extremism, a report by a leading US think-tank has concluded.
The Brookings Institution report says that while religious schools are often cited as a cause of extremism, they "appear not to be a major risk factor".
The report says that fewer than 10% of Pakistani students attended madrassas.
It says that the real cause of militancy in the country is the poor public education system.
Report co-author Rebecca Winthrop, a Brookings fellow, said that number of militant madrassas was not increasing.
She said that most Pakistani parents preferred not to send their children to school at all rather than to enrol them in madrassas.
"We do need to take the militant madrassa issue very seriously," she said at the launch of the report.
"We should really leave the question of the role of Islam in the Pakistan education system to the Pakistanis to debate. This is not something that I think is fruitful if outsiders - us here in the US - start weighing in on."
The study found that the most urgent priority was to increase the supply of schools in Pakistan, where a literacy rate of 56% is among the lowest outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
The researchers said that low enrolment rates were "a risk factor for violence" and that demand for education inside Pakistan "far exceeded the government's ability to provide it".
Furthermore, Pakistan's public school system was "highly corrupt" with teaching positions handed out in return for political favours and teachers paid regardless or whether they turned up for work or not.
"The way the education system is set up is contributing to support militancy," said Ms Winthrop.
"Historically education in Pakistan has been used as a tool by successive regimes in pursuing narrow political ends."
She said that the curriculum and teaching methods in public schools promoted the dissemination of intolerant views and did not prepare students in their search for employment.
The report said that this turn frustrated youngsters and increased the pool of militant recruits.
"The almost exclusive focus on madrassas as a security challenge - which is especially prevalent in the west - needs to be corrected," the report said.