[lg policy] Pakistan: English language: the way forward

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 28 15:11:31 UTC 2014

English language: the way forward

   -  By Omer Farooq Khan
   - March 28, 2014

       Islamabad: Pakistan can overcome the prevalent English-Urdu language
dichotomy in its education system by adopting English as a subject at the
beginner's level, and later on, enforcing it as a medium of instruction
from grade three onwards to inculcate a balanced culture of language
The educationists and linguistics expert, both local and foreigners,
presented this idea during a policy dialogue held under the aegis of
British Council on Thursday.
The participants on this occasion vetted various suggestions and ideas to
promote proficiency in what they call the 'second language' of Pakistan.
Though there was a broad consensus on identifying the absence of a
spelt-out national language policy as a major issue to deal within
Pakistan, yet the future of English was seen bright. While some experts
termed English language as the cultural capital of Pakistan, others
acknowledged it being at par with Urdu in terms of its linguistic status.
Does Pakistan has a formal policy on its national language, was the probing
theme of a panel discussion comprising various research scholars and the
language practitioners. Not only they highlighted the fact of lack of
national language policy in Pakistan, but the opinions expressed further
emphasised the need for adopting a supporting strategy at all levels to
ensure that English flourishes in the country as a second language.
Dr Tariq Rehman, a veteran teacher and an author on linguistics,
categorically recommended a complete review of the education policy. He was
of the view that without taking into account, the importance of local
language or mother tongue, the issue of dealing with English as a second
language could not be dealt with. "The way forward I see is to encourage
initial learning in the respective local language at school entry level.
Let English be taught as a subject instead of being the medium of
instruction," he suggested. Rehman maintained that he would not buy the
'English for all' slogan, saying it could only be supported at the college
and university level. There is no need to be obsessed with the idea of
enforcing English language as a medium of instruction right from the school
entry level at the expense of children's basic learning, he said.
Prof Chris Kennedy, a research scholar, agreed to Rehman's idea, saying
that the local language should take precedence over English when it comes
to imparting basic knowledge to the school entrants. However, he cautioned
that learning English at the primary level won't guarantee a success
afterwards for the students passing out from the universities.
John McGovern, another linguistics expert, told the audience that it would
be easier for the students to learn in their mother tongue at the
university level rather than learning in English."The language policy
should be based on these realities. We cannot operate in isolation without
giving weightage to this fact. Both local and English language needs to be
promoted through a balanced approach," he remarked.
Earlier, in his keynote speech, Javed Jabbar, a media person and an
intellectual, underscored the English language's role as a binding force in
Pakistan. He said that the English language had attained an equal status to
that of Urdu in recent years. "In today's Pakistan, we are surrounded by
English language starting from advertising sign boards to the
identification plates for the cars, making it a fact that it has eventually
become a people's language," he remarked.
It was followed by another panel discussion exploring the impact of
bilingualism on English language's future in Pakistan. Bilal Tanveer, a
novelist and a teacher, remarked that language of his emotions was Urdu
while he had been expressing his intellect in English. "I live with this
spilt. English is not the language of intimacy, and that's exactly why I
have written my book comprising of inner voices we need to find. My
allegiance is to the 'voice' not to the English language," he shared his

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