civic education in pakistan

Written by Ayshum Ahmed, Fatima Idrees, Iman Mujahid and Maheen Humayun 8:50 pm Pakistan, Published Content, Research Papers

Pakistan’s Need for Civic Education

The paper emphasizes the importance of civic education for a truly democratic state. It is certainly Pakistan’s best bet for promoting active political participation, increasing civic engagement in political activities, and encouraging healthy voting behaviors, while improving the constitutional literacy of the populace. This paper also tackles ways to improve civic education and engagement in Pakistan by analyzing the German model of civic education.
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About the Author(s)
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Ms Ayshum Ahmed is currently studying Political Science at Kinnaird College Lahore.

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Ms Fatima Idrees is currently studying Political Science at Kinnaird College Lahore.

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Ms Iman Mujahid is currently studying Political Science at Kinnaird College Lahore.

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Ms Maheen Humayun is currently studying Political Science at Kinnaird College Lahore.


One of the major causes of the developed countries’ successful democratic institutions revolves around civic education. Ethics, morality, and civic responsibility create a harmonized society targeting the grassroots levels. Pakistan too requires an organic process of civic education, for it disintegrates the historic tradition of colonialism and further challenges the seeds of dynastic politics.

Political Culture and Political Participation in Pakistan

The concept of political culture had been proposed by Gabriel Almond with Daniel Elazar having worked on its types. Since culture is something that goes beyond individuals in their seclusion, political culture needs to be based on supra-membership. In line with this, political culture is shared by large groups of people while allowing room for different people to impact the political culture in different ways, depending on their level of participation and the strength of their political views.

While plenty of data is available regarding civic education in older democracies, empirical investigation on the matter has been sparse when it comes to relatively new democracies. Research conducted by Michael Bratton and others used the survey method of data collection to conduct a case study of civic education’s impact on political culture. Interestingly enough, the civic education programs had a more profound impact on the haves than the have-nots (Bratton, 1999).

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The longevity and intensity of the impact of civic education are highly dependent on how the civic education program has been designed. Furthermore, civic education seems to have more of an influence on the level of political empowerment in people than it has on people’s deep-seated civic values and ideas about democracy (UNU-WIDER, 2014).

It is important for the population of a country to have civic knowledge because it improves understanding of the political system which subsequently leads to a higher probability of them developing an appreciation for democratic ideals and values and actively partaking in civic and political matters.

However, the process of inculcating civic education into the citizens’ life has several hurdles; this is true even for mature democracies like the US where different ideological factions don’t completely agree with each other on the kind of political perspective they want to instill in the new generations regarding present institutions. Any such hurdles present in a state need to be overcome keeping the specific nature of the problems in mind (Galston, 2004).

If we look at Pakistan’s political culture in light of the types of political culture defined by Daniel Elazar, we can see that Pakistan has a traditional political culture that is more conflicting than consensual in disposition. Pakistan’s political culture is marked by the biradari/caste system being a deciding factor for political participation, negating the concept of an individual’s right to form his/her political views and participate accordingly. Despite having a parliamentary democracy, the vote which puts parliamentarians in power is not decided based on democratic ideals the majority of the time (Mateen, 2016).

Civic Education and Democracy

Central to any political system is its political behavior and mindset; it is not only an ingredient of political existence but communal life as well (Ahmed, 2007).  

In 1958, Professor W.J.M. Mackenzie described elections as complicated political processes that are analyzed within the context of the political and social systems. Charles H. Kennedy in one of his articles ‘The Politics of Ethnicity in Sindh’ gave his view on the patterns of electoral voting in 1988 that it was more dependent on ethnic biases. Kennedy (1991) did not take into account the importance of nonpolitical factors which influence the voting pattern.

Muhammad Waseem (1994) has described some of the reasons for the paucity of research on the electoral politics of Pakistan. The most striking reason that he has cited is that in Pakistan, there is a decline in social sciences and a dearth of intellectual depth in conducting research in this sphere. He concluded in his book, ‘The 1993 Elections in Pakistan’ that the “Pakistani voter is passive not only because he was confused about the party profiles but also because he remained immobilized”.

Civic education is not only a direct process that takes place through the channel of institutions; it rather has a very indirect influence on the personality of the individual, and its significant agents are family, mass media, religious groups, governments, political parties, and civil society organizations. Debates in the community over political or social matters also play an essential role in forming the concept of civic education.

Civic education is anchored on the concepts of equality, liberty, tolerance, individual growth, and open-mindedness; an important characteristic of civic education is that it entails participatory skills.

Civic Education and Citizens

Civic education enlightens the citizens and makes them autonomous in their identity such that they start questioning the issues of public importance. Civic education in Pakistan is translated to the children through the social studies book that aims at developing the civic sense by introducing the concept of rights and duties and critical evaluation within the limits proposed by Islam. The book of social studies, however, fails to create a distinction between citizenship and Islamic education.

An in-depth analysis of the books being taught in Pakistan shows that the organs of the government and their duties are taught, but the emphasis is not laid upon citizenship education (Dean, 2005). Veugelers (2007) argues that civic education can be taught as a separate subject or could be fused with subjects like geography, history, or social studies. Such efforts can play a significant role in promoting the virtues of civic sense among individuals.

Torney-Purta and Amadeo (1999) as cited by Parveen (2018) mention in their research that Pakistan lacks civic education in its curriculum and the means necessary to promote citizenship education are absent in the educational institutions. Citizenship education must be taught as the foundation in all subjects instead of narrowing down its approach by associating it with certain religious and political ideologies in Islamic studies, Pakistan studies, and social studies.  

Isin and Nielsen (2008) elucidate the importance of a stable political environment in Pakistan for the critical and active participation of citizens in the affairs of the state. Aftab (2022) argues that even though 60% population of Pakistan is literate, basic knowledge of the constitution is absent from the Pakistani population.

Case Study of Germany

Buck (2009) advocates that developing the commitment of people towards democratization is the responsibility of teachers and policymakers. The need for democratization in Germany emerged after World War II considering the consequences of Nazi Ideology. Ehmann (2004) further validates the after-effects of the Nazi ideology of radical rightists as a contributing factor towards transitioning Germany from dictatorship to democracy.

After World War II, civic education was gradually introduced in every subject to promote the civic engagement of people. The Federal Agency for Civic Education was created in 1952 and is the main public institution entrusted with providing civic education. Along with the Federal Agency for Civic Education, there are more than 300 approved educational establishments, foundations, and non-governmental organizations involved in civic education in Germany.

The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs partnered with civil society supporting volunteers, clubs, businesses, and private foundations to reach every stratum of society. The German Federal Agency for Civic Education is located in each of the 16 federal states providing teaching material for high school students to understand complex social, political, and economic reforms.

According to the Ministry of Education and Research, their emphasis is on the Vocational Training Act of 1969, amended in 2020, to maintain a close alliance between the federal government, federal states, and companies to train students.

Civic Education in Pakistan

The level of civic knowledge that a person has affects his/her understanding of the political system and the level of political awareness (Galston, 2004). Civic education can either be direct and deliberate, or it can be an unintentional process (Crittenden, 2018). Deliberate civic education can be done through formal education or through active learning strategies; indirect civic education can happen through the transmission of norms and values that institutions and communities exude.

Lack of civic education in Pakistan has led to a toxic political culture which is damaging to the democracy because this predominantly parochial culture doesn’t let the masses vote democratically and people end up voting based on their caste while the poor accept money, food, and grains in exchange of their constitutional right to vote. Moreover, a vast number of people in Pakistan tend to show blind loyalty to a particular political party removes the aspect of reason and logic in political participation.

Other than this, a parochial political culture means that the votes of women are more vulnerable to social hijacking since people who don’t receive civic education are not aware of how they are supposed to exercise their right to vote and how it impacts their lives. In addition to the parochial political culture, passive political culture is also more common than active political participation.

Research shows that people can have civic education but still not actively participate in political activities like voting because they feel that voting wouldn’t fix things. This is more prevalent in the younger generation because they feel detached from political institutions (Chareka, 2006).

The vote of no-confidence against Imran Khan’s government and the chain of events that followed are a testament to the lack of civic education, the absence of civic virtues, and the disregard for democratic values. The culture of obedience, replication, and acceptance of the status quo dominates the political atmosphere. Even in the 21st century, the caste system in rural areas of Pakistan dominates the voters’ choice.

Pakistan has been marred by multiple civil-military regimes and their influence on the curriculum of Pakistan has been evident. The strongest influence is that of Zia who, in the struggle to maintain a dictatorial regime, introduced the Islamization process and the curriculum of Pakistani institutions was obstructed (Awan, 2012). The remnants of Zia’s policies were present in the educational policies of 1992, 1998, and 1999. 

The understanding of the constitution is neglected in the curriculum of the institutions and the focus is laid on the formulation and memorization of the articles and laws instead of explaining their importance and implementation. Interpretation of law has always been a challenge, but a basic understanding of the constitution is absent from Pakistani society.

The German model of civic education is the most promising model; it follows a chronological pattern to involve public and private institutes. It starts from the federal ministries, federating units, and federal agencies to local government, developmental programs, trade unions, and academia. The model for civic education enforces civic duties of owning responsibilities and fulfilling duties as students.

Network programs such as Robert Bosch Stiftung, Körber-Stiftung, Bertelsmann Stiftung, Breuninger Stiftung, and Joachim Herz Stiftung. aim to support civic engagement at the local level by coordinating between civil society, politics, administration, industry, and funding programs.

Pakistan’s Struggle for Civic Engagement

Pakistan recently has put strenuous effort towards civic engagement by formulating a parliamentarian outreach program towards different stakeholders. The Senate and National Assembly are providing internship programs for students and professionals to engage with the Secretariat and Committees of Parliament. Non-Governmental Organizations sponsor multiple conferences and seminars in association with committees of the Parliament so that civil society, academia, and parliamentarians can connect.

Moreover, Parliament’s Press Gallery and Public Hearing Committee is yet another platform for engaging different stakeholders. However, such outreach initiative neither covers problems of the language barrier, lack of political efficiency, and civic engagement at the local level nor proposes any program for incorporating civic education as a separate discipline in the curricula of academics.

Engaging stakeholders in political socialization is vital, but there is no point in engaging them if more than half of the poor class doesn’t even understand their political and civic duties and rights. The educated youth of Pakistan suitable for engaging with parliament makes up only one fraction of our country thus main effort should be upon the municipalities, towns, and cities.


  • Aftab, S. (2022, April 17). Educating laypersons about Constitution. Retrieved May 15, 2022, from DAWN: https://www.dawn.com/news/1685403/educating-laypersons-about-constitution
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  • Bildung, B. F. (2012, June 20). How we work: key Activities. Retrieved May 15, 2022, from Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung: https://www.bpb.de/die-bpb/ueber-uns/federal-agency-for-civic-education/138867/how-we-work-key-activities/
  • Buck, B. G. (2009). The education ideal of the democratic citizen in Germany Challenges and changing trends. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 18.
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  • Crittenden, J. A. (2018). Civic Education. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 Edition).
  • DEAN, B. L. (2005). Citizenship Education in Pakistani Schools: Problems and Possibilities. International Journal of Citizenship and Teacher Education, 35-55.
  • Ehmann, A. (2004). www.bpb.de. Retrieved from Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (bpb): https://www.bpb.de/system/files/pdf/F4FDUD.pdf
  • Galston, W. A. (2004). Civic Education and Political Participation. Political Science and Politics, 263-266.
  • Isin. (2008). Acts of citizenship. In Isin, Theorizing acts of citizenship (pp. 15-43). New York: Zed Books.
  • Mateen, M. (2016, November 7). Political Culture in Pakistan. Retrieved October 29, 2022, from Fata Research Centre: https://frc.org.pk/breaking/political-culture-in-pakistan/
  • Michael Bratton, P. A. (1999). The Effects of Civic Education on Political Culture: Evidence from Zambia. World Development, Volume 27, Issue 5, 807-824.
  • Parveen, M. (2018). Analysis of Curriculum With Respect to Citizenship Education at Secondary Level in Punjab. Pakistan Research Repository: An initiative of Higher Education Commission Islamabad.
  • Torney-Purta. (1999). Civic Education Across Countries: 24 case studies from the IEA Civic Education Project. Amsterdam: Eburon Publishers for the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement(IEA).
  • UNU-WIDER. (2014). The Impact of Civic Education Programmes on Political Participation. Retrieved from United Nations University Web site: https://www.wider.unu.edu/publication/impact-civic-education-programmes-political-participation
  • Veugelers, W. (2007). Creating critical-democratic citizenship education: empowering humanity and democracy in Dutch education. A journal of comparative and international education, 105-119.

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