[lg policy] English flourishing in Pakistan at the expense of Urdu?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 27 19:55:59 UTC 2014

 English flourishing in Pakistan at the expense of Urdu?

   -  By Arsalan Haider
   - March 27, 2014

LAHORE: The English language is flourishing in Pakistan, breaking free from
the shackles of its earlier perceived status of being the language of the
elite to become the commoners' language.
A one-day policy dialogue on English language in Pakistan, organised by the
British Council on Wednesday, agreed that Pakistan lacks a formulated
policy on its national language. The dialogue had a thrust on bigger issues
pertaining to English both as a medium of instruction and as a common
language at workplace, social settings and domestic surroundings. Divergent
viewpoints, local and global, were presented to capture a broader
perspective on English language's present and future in Pakistan. However,
there was one common ground amongst the all the discussants, participants
and experts--English language and Pakistan were no longer aliens to each
other despite the existing anomalies while the paradox of national language
had become global in its nature with Pakistan being no exception.
Does Pakistan really has a clearly spelt out policy vis-a-vis its national
language, was the question thrown by Tony Jones, British Council Pakistan's
director programmes towards both the audience and the participants of the
inaugural panel discussion. Dr Tariq Rehman, a veteran scholar on
linguistics and a distinguished English language teacher, revealed that
there was no consistent policy paper addressing this larger question yet
there were certain documents indicating that Urdu was supposed to be the
national language of Pakistan. "There is no uniform policy of national
language for every Pakistani child. Both the state and provinces have been
pursuing different goals at the same time," he remarked.
Ghazi Salahuddin, a journalist and a writer, was of the opinion that
without imparting education to the school beginners in their first
language, proficiency in English or any other second language couldn't be
ensured. "Your genius can only flourish in the first language. As long as
we don't recognize this fact, English will remain a barrier to progress in
Pakistan." Prof Chris Kennedy, a research fellow at the University of
Birmingham, was in the same stride with Ghazi Salahuddin, stressing the
need for initial learning in the first language as suggested even by the
worldwide research. John McGovern, a freelance consultant and the fourth
panelist, pointed out that there was a great deal of confusion between the
national language policy and the actual practice in Pakistan. He cautioned
that without a sound policy, all the proposed strategies would prove futile.
Earlier, Dr Shahid Siddiqui, a linguistics scholar, in his welcome address
highlighted the historical perspective of language evolution in Pakistan.
Stressing upon the connection between the language and the society, he
termed linguistic capital as a pivotal force guiding economic, cultural and
social capital of any society. "At the time of independence, Urdu became a
strong language in Pakistan. And, now the same goes for English," Dr
Siddiqui maintained saying he saw a disconnect between mandated language
policy and the ground realities. He revealed that 27 out of 67 languages
currently being spoken in Pakistan, were endangered.
Stephen Roman, British Council's regional director for South Asian region,
said in his address that English language had become a global phenomenon as
the United Kingdom no longer owned it as its sole property. Rather, it was
owned globally now, including Pakistan. He claimed that English proficiency
level amongst teachers in Pakistan was quite poor while 90 percent teachers
in Punjab weren't equipped to teach different subjects in English medium.
Roman disclosed British Council has been making investment to promote
English language through various programmes and initiatives. "Education
will be the biggest asset of Pakistan in days to come. UK is fully
committed to support Pakistan for all English language initiatives."
Richard Weyers, the area director for British Council Punjab, stressed upon
the need on part of all the stakeholders to speak as one voice for
promoting English language in Pakistan. He informed that just three percent
population of the Pakistani students at the school and college level had
access to private schools imparting proper English language while the rest
97 percent were at the mercy of the state-run schools with no paraphernalia
to teach them in English. The area director disclosed that British
Council's library in Lahore will become fully functional again by the end
of this year.
Mussarat Shahid, British Council's director English, shared the key
findings of a research conducted on behalf of her institution, informing
the participants that the percentage of English speakers in Pakistan had
risen to 49 percent of the total population by 2014. She pointed out that
the existence of pseudo English medium schools in Punjab was rampant

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