On 14th August 1947, midnight, the Dominion of India was partitioned into two countries, with a lopsided line drawn on a map called the Radcliff Award. According to my father, who was a government employee in New Delhi at that time, Radcliff worked so secretively that many people thought the Lahore Canal, which today runs through the middle of the city, would be the dividing line.

Six-and-a-half decades later, Pakistan is still trying to find its moorings not only in the comity of nations but within its own peoples and areas. And perhaps the mystery of what Pakistan is, and where it stands today, depends on attempts to recreate history to suit the ‘considered’ opinion of the opinion makers; whose opinion depends not on reality but on the perceived concept of what should be.

This perception when translated in planning the education system has become a dilemma for the thinking Pakistani. Just one subject, Social Studies prescribed at the school level, shows this dichotomy.

At the elementary level, social studies should teach local issues. At an upper level it becomes discipline-based and content-specific with interdisciplinary courses covering sociology, political science, history, economics, religious studies, geography, psychology, anthropology, civics and others.

A cursory glance at the Social Studies text book for Class 7 prescribed in a English medium school system in Pakistan (Oxford 2, Revised Edition, Secondary Social Studies for Pakistan, Peter Moss), published by a foreign publishing house and authored by an Englishman, speaks for this diatribe.

This is the class and age where students transition to pubescent age, get worldly wise, and try to find answers to questions and impressions formed by the often misrepresented ideas on the daily TV talk shows and drama serials – both local and foreign. The difference on state run, private TV, and foreign presentations being in stark contrast.

All this and what children hear from their elders, add to the confusion regarding the understanding of where Pakistan started from; how it has not evolved into the country the elders envisioned it to be; and what Pakistan means in the lives of the children.

This makes the transition from a carefree pre-teen age to teen years and beyond, disturbing to say the least.

The book is divided into two sections Geography with nine chapters, and History 11. Six chapters in Geography are about the Muslim world; two on Pakistan and one covers the Environment.

History through the nine chapters covers early Islam, reawaking of Muslims and freedom movement, Pakistan 1947 – 71 and beyond, with the last chapter being on Human Rights.

What are we telling our children about Pakistan? What should they look forward to in the country? How can they be humans, let alone Pakistanis? What are their human or citizenry rights? What is expected citizen behavior?

Beyond Grade 8 the studies get stream selective and the students opt to study for a medical, engineering or computer science discipline, with Islamic and Pakistan studies – that bane for all students – taught in alternate years. This is repeated in the subsequent years of studies and loses its meaning as students give it perfunctory lip service often joking at the futility of studying the same material year after year.

Is it not time to start unravelling the mystery that Pakistan has been made into? Time to teach our children today’s Pakistan and not some obscure concept that is now questioned even by those who profess to be the custodian of the ideology of the country.

Are the children destined to use internet search engines for replies to questions about their own past and present? Questions left unanswered by the teachers themselves a product of the same confusion mill the education system in Pakistan has become.

Pakistan has a history, a culture, values and societal interactions that our children are exposed to. Is it not time to teach children what they experience? Make theory and practice come together?

Or is Pakistan’s history such a mystery that are we doomed to repeat it as we are not learning from it? Maybe this is the mystique that Pakistan has been turned into!