Independence Day: Freeing the Colonized Minds of the Elites
By Riaz Haq
CA

Pakistan achieved independence from the British colonial rule 70 years ago. However, the minds of most of Pakistan's elites remain colonized to this day. This seems to be particularly true of the nation's Western-educated "liberals" who dominate much of the intellectual discourse in the country. They continue to look at their fellow countrymen through the eyes of the Orientalists who served as tools for colonization of Asia, Middle East and Africa.
The work of these "native" Orientalists available in their books, op ed columns and other publications, reflects their utter contempt for Pakistan and Pakistanis. Their colonized minds uncritically accept all things Western. They often seem to think that the Pakistanis can do nothing right and the West can do no wrong. Far from being constructive, these colonized minds promote lack of confidence in the ability of their fellow "natives" to solve their own problems and contribute to hopelessness. The way out of this situation is to encourage more inquiry-based learning and critical thinking.

Dr Edward Said (1935-2003), Palestine-born Columbia University professor and author of "Orientalism", described it as the ethnocentric study of non-Europeans by Europeans. The Orientalists see the people of Asia, Africa and the Middle East as “gullible” and “devoid of energy and initiative.” European colonization led to the decline and destruction of the prosperity of every nation they ruled. India is a prime example. India was the world's largest economy producing over a quarter of the world's GDP when the British arrived. At the end of the British Raj, India's contribution was reduced to less than 2% of the world GDP.
Education to Colonize Minds: In his "Prison Notebooks", Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist theorist and politician, says that a class can exercise its power not merely by the use of force but by an institutionalized system of moral and intellectual leadership that promotes certain ideas and beliefs favorable to it. For Gramsci "cultural hegemony" is maintained through the consent of the dominated class which assures the intellectual and material supremacy of the dominant class.
In "Masks of Conquest", author Gauri Viswanathan says that the British curriculum was introduced in India to "mask" the economic exploitation of the colonized. Its main purpose was to colonize the minds of the natives to sustain colonial rule.
Cambridge Curriculum in Pakistan: The colonial discourse of the superiority of English language and Western education continues with a system of elite schools that uses Cambridge curriculum in Pakistan.
Over 270,000 Pakistani students from elite schools participated in Cambridge O-level and A-level International (CIE) exams in 2016, an increase of seven per cent over the prior year.
Cambridge IGCSE exams is also growing in popularity in Pakistan, with enrollment increasing by 16% from 10,364 in 2014-15 to 12,019 in 2015-16. Globally there has been 10% growth in entries across all Cambridge qualifications in 2016, including 11% growth in entries for Cambridge International A Levels and 8 per cent for Cambridge IGCSE, according to The Express Tribune.
The United Kingdom remains the top source of international education for Pakistanis. 46,640 students, the largest number of Pakistani students receiving international education anywhere, are doing so at Pakistani universities in joint degree programs established with British universities, according to the UK Council for International Student Affairs.
At the higher education level, the number of students enrolled in British-Pakistani joint degree programs in Pakistan (46,640) makes it the fourth largest effort behind Malaysia (78,850), China (64,560) and Singapore (49,970).
Teach Critical Thinking: Pakistani educators need to see the Western colonial influences and their detrimental effects on the minds of youngsters. They need to improve learning by helping students learn to think for themselves critically. Such reforms will require students to ask more questions and to find answers for themselves through their own research rather than taking the words of their textbook authors and teachers as the ultimate truth.


 

 

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