Bias in Education

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Bias in education can refer to real or perceived bias in the educational system.

Bias in school textbooks

The content of school textbooks is often the issue of debate, as their target audience is young people, and the term "whitewashing" is the one commonly used to refer to selective removal of critical or damaging evidence or comment. The reporting of military atrocities in history is extremely controversial, as in the case of the Holocaust (or Holocaust denial) and the Winter Soldier Investigation of the Vietnam War. The representation of every society's flaws or misconduct is typically downplayed in favor of a more nationalist or patriotic view. Also, Christians and other religionists have at times attempted to block the teaching of the theory of evolution in schools, as evolutionary theory appears to contradict their religious beliefs. In the context of secondary-school education, the way facts and history are presented greatly influences the interpretation of contemporary thought, opinion and socialization. One legitimate argument for censoring the type of information disseminated is based on the inappropriate quality of such material for the young. The use of the "inappropriate" distinction is in itself controversial, as it can be used to enforce wider and more politically motivated censorship.

Gender bias

Gender bias in education occurs in many cultures. Often educators are not aware of Gender bias. In extreme cases, the women are denied any higher education (see Taliban treatment of women).

Religious bias

Religious bias in textbooks is often observed in countries where religion plays a dominant role.

Many countries and states have guidelines against bias in education, but they are not always implemented. The guidelines of the California Department of Education (Code 60044) state the following: "No religious belief or practice may be held up to ridicule and no religious group may be portrayed as inferior." "Any explanation or description of a religious belief or practice should be present in a manner that does not encourage or discourage belief or indoctrinate the student in any particular religious belief." (California State Law, Education Code 60044, "Standards for Evaluating Instructional Materials for Social Content, 2000 Edition) [1]

On the basis of these guidelines, the Board of Education of California corrected in 2005 misrepresentations of Judaism, Islam and Hinduism in schoolbooks. [2] [3] Many of these misrepresentations were described as biased, erroneuous or culturally derogatory. All 500 changes proposed by Jews and about 100 changes proposed by Muslims were accepted, [4] [5] but many of the proposed changes related to Hinduism were opposed by a group led by Professor Witzel, although this group also admitted that they were unaware of the nature of the proposed changes when they wrote their protest letter on November 7, 2005. [6] [7]

One change that was opposed by the Witzel group was to use the word “deity” instead of statue for murthis (carved images of a God), another change that was opposed was to use upper-case “G” for God, because for Hindus there are many forms of the one god. The correction of an incorrect statement about the Hindu epics was rejected by the Witzel group with the comment: "Who in Sixth Grade cares which epic was 'written' first?" [8]

Bias in education by country or region

United States

Many recent allegations against the United States have surfaced about them hiding many historical facts from the public through public education and thus luring the public to believing that the actions taken by the U.S. government are justified and provide a global benefit. Such bias is typical in most countries.

Howard Zinn and James Loewen are among the well-recognized critics of US history as presented in school textbooks. A People's History of the United States, by American historian and political scientist Zinn, seeks to present American history through the eyes of groups rarely heard in mainstream histories. Loewen spent two years at the Smithsonian Institution studying and comparing twelve American history textbooks widely used throughout the United States. His findings were published in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong.


It was claimed by Eva Cahen that some French textbooks exhibit an anti-American bias [9].

Middle East

Danielle Glazer has claimed that some textbooks show a bias against Israel [10].

In the article "The Arab Image in Hebrew School Textbooks" by professor Dan Bar-Tal of the Tel Aviv University makes a study of 124 textbooks used in Israeli schools and reports that "over the years, generations of Israeli Jews were taught a negative and often delegitimizing view of Arabs." The two main traits of Arabs in the textbooks are "primitiveness, inferiority in comparison to Jews" and "their violence, to characteristics like brutality, untrustworthiness, cruelty, fanaticism, treacherousness and aggressiveness.". In the 1980s and 1990s "Geography books for the elementary and junior high schools stereotype Arabs negatively, as primitive, dirty, agitated, aggressive, and hostile to Jews … history books in the elementary schools hardly mention Arabs … history textbooks of the high schools, the majority of which cover the Arab-Jewish conflict, stereotype the Arabs negatively. Arabs are presented as intransigent and uncompromising."[1]


The bias in Pakistani textbooks was studied by Rubina Saigol, Pervez Hoodbhoy, K. K. Aziz, I. A. Rahman, Mubarak Ali, A. H. Nayyar, Ahmed Saleem, Y. Rosser and others.

Pakistan has been a victim of western bias against religion and race. Madrassas have specially been a victim of western propaganda. There has been unequivocal evidence that pakistani students abroad have also been a victim of bias and racism.[2][3][4][5]. Despite the western preaching of human rights, freedom of speech and respect for others, students have been humiliated and disrespected. There are dual fees for european union students and international students. English language requirements and other policies are also anti third world. Until recently Harvard university did not have a separate gym for women. Insincere academics like Mahbob-ul-Hasan who have helped in development of human development index in UN, which has been called 'vulgar measure' has helped propagate these lies. South Asian faculty abroad on western payroll has helped spread the message of hate.

A study by Nayyar & Salim (2003) that was conducted with 30 experts of Pakistan's education system, found that the textbooks contain statements that seek to create hate against Hindus. There was also an emphasis on Jihad, Shahadat, wars and military heroes. The study reported that the textbooks also had a lot of gender-biased stereotypes. Some of the problems in Pakistani textbooks cited in the report were: “Insensitivity to the existing religious diversity of the nation”; "Incitement to militancy and violence, including encouragement of Jehad and Shahadat”; a “glorification of war and the use of force”; "Inaccuracies of fact and omissions that serve to substantially distort the nature and significance of actual events in our history"; “Perspectives that encourage prejudice, bigotry and discrimination towards fellow citizens, especially women and religious minorities, and other towards nations” and “Omission of concepts ... that could encourage critical selfawareness among students”. (Nayyar & Salim 2003)

Professors who have been critical of Pakistani politics or corruption have are sometimes discriminated against. Dr. Parvez Hoodbhoy, who was also a critic of Pakistani politics, had troubles leaving the country for a lecture in the Physics department at MIT, because he was denied a NOC (No Objection Certificate) necessary for travels abroad [11]

One of the omissions in Pakistani textbooks is Operation Gibraltar. Operation Gibraltar, which provoked the Indian Army attack on Lahore, is not mentioned in most history textbooks. According to Pakistani textbooks, Lahore was attacked without any provocation on the part of the Pakistani army [12]. The rule of Islamic invaders like Mahmud of Gahzni is glorified, while the much more peaceful Islamic ruler Akbar is often ignored in Pakistani textbooks.

The Pakistani Curriculum document for classes K-V stated in 1995 that "at the completion of Class-V, the child should be able to":

  • "Acknowledge and identify forces that may be working against Pakistan."[pg 154]
  • "Demonstrate by actions a belief in the fear of Allah." [pg154]
  • "Make speeches on Jehad and Shahadat" [pg154]
  • "Understand Hindu-Muslim differences and the resultant need for Pakistan." [pg154]
  • "India's evil designs against Pakistan." [pg154]
  • "Be safe from rumour mongers who spread false news" [pg158]
  • "Visit police stations" [pg158]
  • "Collect pictures of policemen, soldiers, and National Guards" [pg158]
  • "Demonstrate respect for the leaders of Pakistan" [pg153] (National Bureau of Curriculum and Textbooks Federal Ministry of Education, 1995 Government of Pakistan. Pervez Hoodbhoy - What Are They Teaching In Pakistani Schools Today? [13])


  1. Reports on Palestinian kids’ hatred grossly exaggeratedIsraeli Textbooks and Children’s Literature Promote Racism and Hatred Toward Palestinians and Arabs
  • Dr A H Nayyar. Twisted truth: Press and politicians make gains from SDPI curriculum report SDPI Research and News Bulletin Vol. 11, No. 1, January - February 2004
  • Pervez Hoodbhoy - What Are They Teaching In Pakistani Schools Today? (International Movement for a Just World) [14]
  • Bias in education in California

Further reading

  • K.K.Aziz. (2004) The Murder of History : A Critique of History Textbooks used in Pakistan. ISBN 969-402-126-X Vanguard.[15]
  • Elst, Koenraad. (1992) Negationism in India - Concealing the Record of Islam.
  • Nayyar, A.H. & Salim, Ahmad. The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Text-books in Pakistan - Urdu, English, Social Studies and Civics. Sustainable Development Policy Institute. [16] [17] [18]
  • Rosser, Yvette. Indoctrinating Minds: Politics of Education in Bangladesh, RUPA, New Delhi, 2004. [19].
  • --- Islamization of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks, RUPA, New Delhi, 2003.
  • --- "The Clandestine Curriculum: The Temple of Doom in the Classroom", Education About Asia, Volume 6, Number 3, Winter 2001 (Association of Asian Studies) [20] [21].
  • ---"Hegemony and Historiography: The Politics of Pedagogy", Asia Review, Dhaka, Fall 1999.
  • ---"Stereotypes in Schooling: Negative Pressures in the American Educational System on Hindu Identity Formation", Hindu Diaspora: Global Perspectives, Rukmani, ed. Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, 1999 [22].
  • Shourie, Arun. Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud. New Delhi, 1998. ISBN 81-900199-8-8 [23]

External links