[lg policy] blog: Muhammad Ali Khan-essay on language policy in a high school in Karachi

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jul 10 14:31:03 UTC 2010

Muhammad Ali Khan-essay

I am looking at the lived experiences of the language policy in a high
school in Karachi in order to understand the language ideologies being
promoted, contested and negotiated at the level of school. I am
particularly interested in understanding how people learn to live with
these language ideologies and whether the language norms at the school
reflect some other language ideologies not stated elsewhere. What
roles do school play in supporting a particular language or languages
in their validity, functionality and dissemination within its portals
and what implications are there of these accounts for broadening our
understanding of Language policy and practices issues and constraints
in Pakistan?

My study is motivated by my personal experiences of being a secondary
school teacher in three different schools in Karachi for more than a
decade where a multilingual majority has been forced to become
monolingual English speakers. Students and teachers are pressurized
directly and indirectly to speak only in English. Proficiency in
English is a mark of being civilized, well- educated, socially and
intellectually superior in a multicultural and multilingual Pakistan.
By implication, language practices in the schools where I worked as
English Language teacher force students and teacher to give up their
local languages.

The present ethnography of the English-medium school in Karachi in
which data will be collected to ‘capture the human experience of
language policy’ Tollefson (1991:204) of a school. I will observe the
classes, notice boards, conversations among the staff members ,
conversation among students in the corridors, at play ground, school’s
library and I will be interviewing teachers, students, parents
stakeholders in groups; will attend school functions and staff
meetings. I will also be participating and observing the staff
meeting, reading the documents of the school, its admission policy and
the language school selects while communicating with the parents. The
process of data collection would require me to stay in school for
about ten months.

The ethnography would allow me to have rich in-depth data on the
language practices of the school and will allow me understand the
language ideologies at work in the school. It will also help me
understand the complexity involved in the issues of multilingualism
and monolingual educational arrangements in the context of global
realities and to develop an insight into the social order that these
practices give rise to:  Who has a vested interest in a particular
arrangement of language education and a particular set of linguistic
ideologies. Who gets the privilege and who gets marginalized in the
highly contested global realities of the present day Karachi?

Why is my study important?  I would argue that it is important to
understand how institutions like schools are affected by the
globalised new economy and how it impacts the country’s language
policy and the language practices of the institutions. How it affects
the live of common citizens. It is equally important to understand the
complexities and ideologies behind a particular set of linguistic
ideology. It is important to understand as why institutions do not
encourage students to learn languages rather than learning a
particular language. Why is it that people are forced to give up their
languages? The study will particularly reveal the power relations
among the speakers of different languages in Pakistan and how the
relative statuses of local and dominant languages have been
institutionalized in present day Pakistan. The focus of the study will
be linking the micro processes of language practices with the macro
aspects of language ideologies.

My works relates to Language on the Move because the portal addresses
the questions and complexities involved in multilingualism, language
ideologies, language practices etc. If I don’t go too far in my
assessment of Language on the Move, I would say that it follows the
critical model (Martin-Jones) of Bilingualism studies. This model’s
interest is in power relations; its focus is on linking micro with
macro process. Its methodology is eclectic and it views society as
dialectical and historical.

My work would be enhanced by ALMA 2010 as I will get the attention of
my senior in the field of language ideology. My work will get posted
on the web site. My supervisor will know that my work is being given
importance outside the university and that I have broadened my
professional network.  It is said in Urdu that : Aalim key sohbat soo
kitab parney sey behtar hai. Rough translation. Interaction with an
scholar is better than reading hundreds of books.


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