Pakistan: Policy Repairs: English and Urdu

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at CCAT.SAS.UPENN.EDU
Fri Jun 23 13:21:12 UTC 2006

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Policy Repairs Through Educational Reformation

The substantial changes in the national education policy will be a giant
leap if a pragmatic implementation design is perused over a period of
time. The policy repairs address pertinent issues which concern parents,
students, and educators alike. It seems that the ministry of education is
rolling out drastic changes in the education system by focusing on areas
like polytechnic education, madrassa reforms, and Language Planning (LP).
The amendments about LP in the education policy would be significant
headway towards the resolution of language bewilderment in countrys
education system. The LP has been an area of inconsistent policies and
several experiences had been tried by inclusion of foreign languages like
Persian, Arabic, and the late start of English language teaching (from
grade six). Now the federal government in a thoroughgoing change has
declared English compulsory in all public and private schools. The
decision will bring uniformity in compulsory English language teaching in
all school campuses. The minister of education while sharing his ministrys
policy observed that over a period of time alterations about English
language teaching had adversely affected the education system. For
instance, teaching of science in Urdu at school level has disadvantaged
our students. The minister further remarked that the functioning education
system is procreating non-productive and meaningless education which is
not a market oriented produce.

American educationist Skinner describes, "Education is what is left when
what has been learnt has been forgotten." Education can be a skill or the
ultimate impact on an individuals awareness and abilities. The ministers
remarks like unproductive as well as purposeless education can be seen in
this backdrop. It is especially true about the public sector educational
institutions. Perhaps, the paradigm of education in play throughout the
country does not target skill development of students which can be
specifically relevant to the escalating socio-economic needs of the
country. It is a fact that social development will need skilled human
resource, which can contribute towards social, agricultural, and
industrial sectors of the country with over 160 million people. Social
development depends upon economic development and the education complex
plays a formidable role in the development of human resource base. It
seems that present education system does not meet the expectations of
students and parents. One can easily authenticate this perception by
asking parents and students of public schools. There seems a big gap
between the objectives of education system and the development of an
individual as well as cumulative human resource. A host of reasons can be
instantly spotted for distressing public education infrastructure and the
policy implementation, but the education policy itself needs radical

English language in Pakistan is an identity marker, a tool of vertical
social mobility, and a mean to access prestigious jobs in the country and
abroad. Whether pleasant or horrid, it is a rampant reality. Quite a lot
has been said about English in Pakistan and some genuine research has
solidly established this actuality. Thus, if English is not taught at all
schools as a compulsory subject from grade one, it will create social
class differences between English and Urdu medium education. In fact this
phenomenon is already well spread and has shown its effects which, in
addition to other problems, has resulted in social disharmony. The
eventual taxonomy of education in Urdu and English mediums has also been
hazardous to the national language status of Urdu. For instance, quality
and value is usually associated to English medium education while Urdu
medium education would be perceived as unsophisticated and dismal quality
education. It leads young learners think about perhaps any inherent
incapability with Urdu as a language for quality education.

English and Urdu need to go side by side in the education system as two
compulsory languages even from pre-school level. Nevertheless, at present
teaching English commences from grade six. However, in many public
elementary schools in Punjab English is being taught from grade one by
contractual English teachers. In the existing public educational complex,
English is the medium of instruction for social sciences and pure sciences
from higher secondary (11th grade) level onward. For social sciences like
economics, sociology, political science, psychology and few others,
students can opt for instruction in English or Urdu. In public schools,
students study sciences in Urdu till the 10th grade. From the 11th grade
all science education is in English. This transition from Urdu to English
is a significant stumbling block for many students. At the same time, this
incongruity is another pertinent reason that solicits changing medium of
instruction for science education in schools. Pakistan does not have
enough academic resources for science education. There is growing reliance
on international resources for science education, which are adapted and
translated into Urdu for public sector schools. The private sector is
already using English as medium of instruction for science education.
Because large financial resources are involved in accessing latest
versions of scientific developments in Urdu, usually science textbooks are
not updated. Consequently, students rely on somewhat outdated editions of
science textbooks which are neither interestingly organized nor current.
English as a medium of instruction will make accessing wide range of
scientific resources easy and less expensive. Urdu translation will not be
required and even the Internet can be used as a ready resource.
Introduction of English as medium of instruction will have rejuvenating
impact on the quality of science education.

Polytechnic education undoubtedly entails immediate ministration. The
current plight of polytechnic education demands multidimensional
upgradation in areas like syllabus design, teacher training, and adequate
technical equipments. Numerous polytechnic institutions already in the
country are sites of student conflicts and unsubstantial technical
education by any standard. Operating with resource-starved facilities,
these institutions aspire for capacity building to cater the demands of
motivated students for effective technical education. However, advancing
polytechnic training should not be at the cost of other academic
disciplines like arts, humanities, social sciences, and basic sciences.
The policy overhaul needs a balance in order to beget tangible and lasting

Education is a provincial subject and every province will set its own
priorities. If national educational policy process will also involve
provinces and a coordinated policy framework is negotiated, it would be
probably a concrete and feasible plan. On the higher education front,
tremendous developments have been made in recent years. This phenomenal
advancement is a reflection of well-coordinated work of federal and
provincial institutions. Over the past five years, higher education policy
has been quite successful in establishing and strengthening universities
and degree awarding institutions (DAI). The following table shows this
amazingly bullish trend:

	New Public and Private Institutions Founded

Period    Public Univ.     Private Univs Public DAIs    PrivateDAIs
1947-1998 25 		   10 			3 		5
1999-2005 22 		   26 			5 		13
(Source: The HEC, 5 Dec, 2005)n

New education policy reformation may not prove to be panacea, but
realization for rectification seems apposite. A thorough diagnosis
followed by concerted policy formulation would certainly enhance chances
of success. Flow of adequate resources and effective implementation will
be two very pivotal independent variables to the success of new policy.
Addressing these issues would help plugging holes in the education system
of the country. It is commendable that perhaps for the first time the
minister for education has so candidly reflected upon the policy and vowed
repairs of fault lines. Capturing this scenario in policy is the first
step, which would entail optimal implementation of the reformation. On the
contrary, the policy repairs are likely to be buried in the piles of
ministerial manuscripts.

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