U.S. report ties militancy to Pakistan school woes

Pakistan’s poor public education system helps stoke militancy, while the religious schools often cited as a cause of extremism appear not to be a major risk factor, says a report by a Washington think tank

The report, set to be released by the Brookings Institution on Wednesday, examined a raft of studies to assess links between militancy and education, a priority area for the Obama administration as it boosts development aid to Islamabad.

The researchers said low enrollment rates were a risk factor for violence and demand for education inside Pakistan far exceeded the government’s ability to provide it.

In addition, Pakistan’s public school system was highly corrupt with positions handed out for political favors and teachers paid whether they turned up for class or not.

“The way the education system is set up is contributing to support militancy,” said Rebecca Winthrop, with the Center for Universal Education at Brookings.

“Historically education in Pakistan has been used as a tool by successive regimes in pursuing narrow political ends,” she added.

The curriculum and teaching methods in public schools helped create intolerant views and also did little to prepare students for the labor market, frustrating youngsters and increasing the pool of militant recruits, the report said.

Winthrop and fellow conflict specialist Corinne Graff said the religious schools, or madrasas, that were frequently cited by the West as causing Islamist militancy, were not as numerous as suspected. Far less than 10 percent of the full-time, school-going population went to them.

“Madrasas account for a tiny fraction of student enrollment and they can hardly be cast as the main obstacle to high quality education and stability,” they wrote.

“The almost exclusive focus on madrasas as a security challenge — which is especially prevalent in the West — needs to be corrected,” the researchers added.

Report By: Reuters

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