The inclusion of a chapter on fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan by the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB) is a praiseworthy step. Though the PCTB only acted after the court allowed a contempt petition that wanted action against the relevant authorities for not implementing a 2015 order, one could, however, say, “it’s better late than never.”

In any civilised society, civic education receives the utmost attention of the state. But in Pakistan, the case is altogether different. The textbooks and curriculum do not inculcate basic human values in the students, leave alone informing them of their rights under the constitution. No wonder then that people, in general, and the state, in particular, abuse the rights of citizens with impunity.

Indeed, the inclusion of a chapter on fundamental rights and human rights is a positive development, but the whole episode shows us the derelict state of education in the country. It is a sad reality that Pakistani textbooks are substandard. These books do not impart critical thinking in the students. Instead, rot learning is the preferred way. We lament that our society is infertile at producing philosophers, scientists, thinkers who play the most crucial role in taking a community from darkness unto light.

Not only lessons on the sanctity of human life, liberty and property are missing in our textbooks, other key concepts, like the encouragement of science and scientific enquiry to seek truth and emphasis on rationality, are also hard to find. The fact that the court has to step in and institute piecemeal change, and even that delayed, tells us about the problematic attitude of the curriculum and textbook boards and those who supervise the content of these textbooks.

It is vital for all these boards to comprehend that school textbooks are purposeful texts. They can either make a society or break it. Our textbooks need to be updated centrally and collectively. The curriculum and textbook boards in the other provinces should follow suit without waiting for orders from courts or some executive orders.