Bias in curricula

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Bias in curricula refers to real or perceived bias in the educational textbooks.

Bias in school textbooks[edit]

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.[1][2][3] 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; the teaching of creationism as a science is likewise blocked from many public schools. 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.[citation needed]

Religious bias[edit]

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."[4]

On the basis of these guidelines, the Board of Education of California corrected in 2005 misrepresentations of Hinduism, Judaism and Islam in schoolbooks.[5][better source needed] Many of these misrepresentations were described as biased, erroneous or culturally derogatory. All 500 changes proposed by Jews, dozens by Hindus and about 100 changes proposed by Muslims were accepted.[citation needed]

Gender bias[edit]

According to fourth edition of annual Global Education Monitoring Report of UNESCO, 2020, depiction of female characters are less frequent and often discriminatory in school text books of many countries.[6] According to Prof Rae Lesser Blumberg women are either absent in school textbooks or usually depicted in subservient roles, perpetuate gender imbalance, Blumberg says when millions of children are dropped out of schools, issue of gender bias in education remains on back burner and does not make headline.[7] According to Valeria Perasso endemic Gender bias is endemic in primary school textbooks across continents.[7] As per Unesco report pervasive sexist attitudes in school textbooks are invisible obstacles in educating girls, undermine their life expectations, careers, and gender equality.[7] According to Aaron Benavot females are almost underrepresented in textbooks and curricula, Whether counted in lines of text, proportion of named characters, mentions in titles, citations in indexes or other criteria.[7] Stereotypes of Gender roles, absence from scenes , gender-biased language,[7]

By country or region[edit]


A recent study of student evaluations of teaching (SET) from a large public university in Sydney focused on gender and cultural bias.[8] The dataset of more than 523,000 individual student surveys across 5 different faculties spanned a seven year period 2010-2016. There were 2,392 unique courses and 3,123 individual teachers in the dataset. The researchers concluded, "We detected statistically significant bias against women and staff with non-English language backgrounds, although these effects do not appear in every faculty. Our findings on the effect of cultural background is novel and significant because in Australia, where the population is culturally diverse, current policy and administrative actions have focussed on addressing gender bias, but less on cultural or racial bias. We found some evidence that the proportion of women or staff with non-English language backgrounds in a faculty may be negatively correlated with bias, i.e., having a diverse teaching staff population may reduce bias. We also found that due to the magnitude of these potential biases, the SET scores are likely to be flawed as a measure of teaching performance. Finally, we found no evidence that student’s unconscious bias changes with the level of their degree program."[8]



Political bias, racial bias, the issue of homosexuality, trans activism and the representation of Muhammed have all caused educational controversy in the last decade or two.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

Many recent allegations against the United States have surfaced about the hiding of 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.[citation needed]

On the political left, professors Howard Zinn and James Loewen allege that United States history as presented in school textbooks has a conservative bias. 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.[9]

On the political right, professor Larry Schweikart makes the opposite case: he alleges in his 48 Liberal Lies About American History that United States history education has a liberal bias.[10]

In a landmark book called "The Trouble with Textbooks," Gary A. Tobin and Dennis R. Ybarra show how some American textbooks contain anti-Semitic versions of Jewish history and faith, particularly in relation to Christianity and Islam. The authors found that some U.S. textbooks "tend to discredit the ties between Jews and the Land of Israel. Israel is blamed for starting wars in the region and being colonialist. Jews are charged with deicide in the killing of Jesus. All in all, there are repeated misrepresentations that cross the line into bigotry."[11]


Middle East[edit]

Palestinian school text books have come under repeated criticism for anti-Israeli bias. An independent study of Palestinian textbooks by Professor Nathan Brown of George Washington University in Washington, DC, found that Palestine National Authority-authored books avoid treating anything controversial regarding Palestinian national identity, and while highly nationalistic, do not incite hatred, violence and anti-Semitism. It cannot be described as a “peace curriculum”either, but the charges against it are often wildly exaggerated or inaccurate.

An analysis of Israeli textbooks in 2000 by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), found that there was no indoctrination against the Arabs as a nation, nor a negative presentation of Islam. However in 2012, Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, published Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education, an account of her study of the contents of Israeli school books, finding that Israeli school books do in fact promote racism against and negative images of Arabs, and prepare Israeli children for compulsory military service.


In 1982 the NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) issued guidelines for the rewriting of schoolbooks.[12] It stipulated that: "Characterization of the medieval period as a time of conflict between Hindus and Muslims is forbidden."[13] In April 1989 the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education had issued instructions to schools and publishers of textbooks that "Muslim rule should never attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned."[14] Schools and publishers have been asked to ignore and delete mention of forcible conversions to Islam. Some academicians have felt that these "corrections" were politically motivated and that they are censorship.[15]

Arun Shourie criticized these changes in schoolbooks and claimed: The most extensive deletions are ordered in regard to the chapter on "Aurangzeb's policy on religion". Every allusion to what he actually did to the Hindus, to their temples, to the very leitmotif of his rule – to spread the sway of Islam – are directed to be excised from the book. ... "In a word, no forcible conversions, no massacres, no destruction of temples. ... Muslim historians of those times are in raptures at the heap of Kafirs [sic] who have been dispatched to hell. Muslim historians are forever lavishing praise on the ruler for the temples he has destroyed, ... Law books like The Hedaya prescribe exactly the options to which these little textbooks alluded. All whitewashed away. Objective whitewash for objective history. And today if anyone seeks to restore truth to these textbooks, the shout, "Communal rewriting of history.""[16]



Bias in education has been a common feature in the curriculum of many South Asian countries. According to Waghmar, many of the oriental societies are plagued by visceral nationalism and post-imperial neurosis where state-sanctioned dogmas suppress eclectic historical readings.[17] Issues such as the preaching of hatred and obscurantism and the distortion of history in Pakistan have led the international scholars to suggest the need for coordinated efforts amongst the historians to produce a composite history of the subcontinent as a common South Asian reader.[18] Bias against Indians and Hindus, as well as other religious minorities, have been found in Pakistani schoolbooks.[19] However, Nelson here stresses the need for any educational reform to be based at the needs of the level of local communities.[20]

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, Yvette Rosser and others.

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".[21]

These problems still seem to persist: The Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education rejected a textbook in December 2003 because of two serious objections: The textbook contained the text of letter of a non-Muslim, and it contained the story of a family were both husband and wife worked and were sharing their household chores. In February 2004, a textbook was disapproved by the Curriculum Wing because it didn't contain enough material on jihad.[22]

Pakistani textbooks were relatively unbiased up to 1972, but were rewritten and completely altered under Bhutto's and especially under Zia's (1977–88) rule.[23] The bias in Pakistani textbooks was also documented by Yvette Rosser (2003). She wrote that "in the past few decades, social studies textbooks in Pakistan have been used as locations to articulate the hatred that Pakistani policy makers have attempted to inculcate towards their Hindu neighbours", and that as a result "in the minds of generations of Pakistanis, indoctrinated by the 'Ideology of Pakistan' are lodged fragments of hatred and suspicion."[24]

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.[25]

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.[26] The rule of Islamic invaders like Mahmud of Ghazni 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][27]


Turkish schools, regardless of whether they are public or private, are required to teach history based on the textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education.[28][29] The state uses its monopoly to increase support for the official position of Armenian genocide denial,[29][30]: 105  demonizing Armenians and presenting them as enemies.[31][32] For decades, these textbooks omitted any mention of Armenians as part of Ottoman history.[33][34] Since the 1980s, textbooks discuss the "events of 1915", but deflect the blame from the Ottoman government to other actors, especially imperialist powers who allegedly manipulated the Armenians to achieve their nefarious goals of undermining the empire, and the Armenians themselves, for allegedly committing treason and presenting a threat to the empire. Some textbooks admit that deportations occur and Armenians died, but present this action as necessary and justified. Most recently, textbooks have accused Armenians of perpetrating genocide against Turkish Muslims.[34][35][36] In 2003, students in each grade level were instructed to write essays refuting the genocide.[37]

Teachers are instructed to tell seventh-year students:

State to your students that the Russians also made some Armenians revolt on this front and murder many of our civilian citizens. Explain that the Ottoman State took certain measures following these developments, and in May 1915 implemented the ‘Tehcir Kanunu’ [Displacement Law] regarding the migration and settlement of Armenians in the battleground. Explain that care was taken to ensure that the land in which the Armenians who had to migrate were to settle was fertile, that police stations were established for their security and that measures were taken to ensure they could practice their previous jobs and professions.[31]

Further reading[edit]

  • Dull L.J. (2021) Citizenship and Nationhood in Black and White: Silences of Slavery in Textbooks. In: Hildebrandt-Wypych D., Wiseman A.W. (eds) Comparative Perspectives on School Textbooks. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sadker, David. "Seven Forms of Bias in Instructional Materials". Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  2. ^ Strauss, Valerie (12 September 2014). "Proposed Texas textbooks are inaccurate, biased and politicized, new report finds". Washington Post. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  3. ^ Czitrom, Daniel (22 March 2010). "Texas school board whitewashes history". CNN. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  4. ^ California State Law, Education Code 60044, Standards for Evaluating Instructional Materials for Social Content, 2000 Edition Archived February 9, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 15 June 2008
  5. ^[bare URL DOC/DOCX file]
  6. ^ Service, Tribune News. "UNESCO report reveals covert gender bias in school textbooks". Tribuneindia News Service. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
  7. ^ a b c d e Perasso, Valeria (2017-10-09). "100 Women: 'We can't teach girls of the future with books of the past'". BBC News. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
  8. ^ a b Johnston, E. L.; Abel, R.; Stone, M.; Waters, D.; Slavich, E.; Shepherd, L. J.; Fan, Y. (2019-02-13). "Gender and cultural bias in student evaluations: Why representation matters". PLOS ONE. 14 (2): e0209749. Bibcode:2019PLoSO..1409749F. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0209749. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 6373838. PMID 30759093.
  9. ^ "People's History United States, Jan 26 2000 - Video -".
  10. ^ "48 Liberal Lies American History, Sep 23 2008 - Video -".
  11. ^ "U.S. Textbooks: 'Jesus was Palestinian'". Israel National News. 28 September 2008.
  12. ^ (Indian Express 17 January 1982, New Delhi; Shourie 1998)
  13. ^ (Elst 1992)
  14. ^ (Shourie 1998)
  15. ^ (The Statesman, 21 May 1989)
  16. ^ Arun Shourie (1998)
  17. ^ Waghmar, B. (2005). Pakistan Studies: The State of the Craft. Dawn. 27 February. p. 5. Retrieved on 9 June 2008.
  18. ^ Verghese, B.G. (2004). Myth and hate as history[usurped]. The Hindu. 23 June. Retrieved on 7 June 2008.
  19. ^ Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama`at-i Islami of Pakistan (University of California Press, 1994) p121-122
  20. ^ Nelson, M.J. (2006). Muslims, Markets, and the Meaning of ‘A Good Education’ in Pakistan Archived 2011-07-24 at the Wayback Machine. Asian Survey. 46(5). pp. 699-720.
  21. ^ (Nayyar & Salim 2003)
  22. ^ (Nayyar 2004)
  23. ^ "Pakistani social studies textbooks creating havoc". 15 January 2006. Archived from the original on 15 January 2006.
  24. ^ (Rosser 2003)
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ Retrieved 2015-02-04. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ (National Bureau of Curriculum and Textbooks Federal Ministry of Education, 1995 Government of Pakistan. Pervez Hoodbhoy - What Are They Teaching In Pakistani Schools Today? Retrieved 2015-02-04. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help))
  28. ^ Ekmekçioğlu, Lerna (2016). Recovering Armenia: The Limits of Belonging in Post-Genocide Turkey. Stanford University Press. p. xii. ISBN 978-0-8047-9706-1.
  29. ^ a b Göçek, Fatma Müge (2015). Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present and Collective Violence Against the Armenians, 1789–2009. Oxford University Press. pp. 63–64. ISBN 978-0-19-933420-9.
  30. ^ Dixon, Jennifer M. (2010b). "Education and National Narratives: Changing Representations of the Armenian Genocide in History Textbooks in Turkey". International Journal for Education Law and Policy. 2010 Special Issue: 103–126.
  31. ^ a b Aybak, Tunç (2016). "Geopolitics of Denial: Turkish State's 'Armenian Problem'" (PDF). Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies. 18 (2): 125–144. doi:10.1080/19448953.2016.1141582. S2CID 147690827. This officially distributed educational material reconstructs the history in line with the denial policies of the government portraying the Armenians as backstabbers and betrayers, who are portrayed as a threat to the sovereignty and identity of modern Turkey. The demonization of the Armenians in Turkish education is a prevailing occurrence that is underwritten by the government to reinforce the denial discourse.
  32. ^ Galip, Özlem Belçim (2020). New Social Movements and the Armenian Question in Turkey: Civil Society vs. the State. Springer International Publishing. p. 186. ISBN 978-3-030-59400-8. Additionally, for instance, the racism and language of hatred in officially approved school textbooks is very intense. These books still show Armenians as the enemies, so it would be necessary for these books to be amended...
  33. ^ Cheterian, Vicken (2015). Open Wounds: Armenians, Turks and a Century of Genocide. Hurst. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-84904-458-5. The ruling Turkish elite subsequently chose to erase any trace of the Armenians from Turkish history. In the period between 1945 and the 1980s, school textbooks in Turkey made no mention of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire or the deportation of 1915. The Armenians had simply ceased to exist.
  34. ^ a b Gürpınar, Doğan (2016). "The manufacturing of denial: the making of the Turkish 'official thesis' on the Armenian genocide between 1974 and 1990". Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies. 18 (3): 217–240 [234]. doi:10.1080/19448953.2016.1176397. S2CID 148518678. The Armenians were conspicuous by their absence in the school curriculum for decades. Their historical existence in Anatolia was deliberately dismissed... This deliberate omission ceased abruptly in the mid-1980s when a new sub-chapter was introduced tellingly entitled 'Armenian problem'... This sub-chapter depicted the 'Armenian problem' as an exploit and machination of Great Powers (i.e. Britain and Russia) who exploited Armenians as instruments to destabilize the Ottoman Empire and impose their mischievous plots."
    Dixon 2010b, p. 104. "In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Turkish high school students did not learn anything about Armenians' existence in the Ottoman Empire or about their deportation during World War I (WWI). Starting in the 1980s, however, high school history textbooks taught Turkish students that Armenians rose up and violently attacked the Ottoman government and innocent fellow citizens prior to and during WWI, and that the government forcibly relocated Armenians in order to protect and preserve the Turkish nation. A decade later, Turkish high school students were told that Armenians were traitors and propagandists who had tried to take advantage of the weakness of the Ottoman Empire and had 'stabbed Turks in the back. And more recently, high school history textbooks in Turkey described the 'Turkish-Armenian War' that took place between Turks and Armenians following the end of World War 1,160 and mentioned that recent research and excavations have documented the fact that Armenians committed genocide against Turks."
  35. ^ Bilali, Rezarta (2013). "National Narrative and Social Psychological Influences in Turks' Denial of the Mass Killings of Armenians as Genocide: Understanding Denial". Journal of Social Issues. 69 (1): 16–33. doi:10.1111/josi.12001. The interpretations of this period of history in Turkish textbooks include accounts that may be interpreted as psychological justifications or excuses to deflect responsibility: (a) blaming Armenians for treason or for attacking Turkish–Muslim populations; (b) claiming that violent acts were in self-defense (protection from territorial loss and/or protection of the Turkish population that was being targeted by Armenian banditry); (c) shifting responsibility to external factors and third parties (claiming that Armenian deaths were a result of hardship); (d) claiming benevolent motivations behind the deportations (stopping the inter-communal warfare). These interpretations exemplify how moral disengagement mechanisms operate at the level of collective narratives. Three targets of attribution can be readily identified: the in-group (i.e., denial of responsibility), the out-group (i.e., blaming the victim), and situational factors (i.e., blaming third parties or circumstances).
  36. ^ Dixon, Jennifer M. (2010a). "Defending the Nation? Maintaining Turkey's Narrative of the Armenian Genocide". South European Society and Politics. 15 (3): 467–485. doi:10.1080/13608746.2010.513605. S2CID 144494811.
  37. ^ Dixon 2010b, p. 115.
  • K.K.Aziz. (2004) The Murder of History : A Critique of History Textbooks used in Pakistan. ISBN 969-402-126-X Vanguard.[1]
  • Agarwal, Vishal. Misrepresentation and Stereotyping of Hindu Dharma in History Textbooks in India. 2004. [2]
  • Agarwal, Vishal. Review of Romila Thapar’s ‘Ancient India, A Textbook of History for Middle Schools’ NCERT: New Delhi (1987) 2002. [3] Archived 2007-03-25 at the Wayback Machine
  • 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. [4] [5] [6]
  • Rosser, Yvette. Indoctrinating Minds: Politics of Education in Bangladesh, RUPA, New Delhi, 2004. [7].
  • --- 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) [8] [9].
  • ---"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 [10].
  • Shourie, Arun. Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud. New Delhi, 1998. ISBN 8190019988 [11]
  • 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) [12]
  • Bias in education in California

External links[edit]