[lg policy] Pakistan: Language policy in higher education — III

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Nov 13 21:46:45 UTC 2015

 Language policy in higher education — III
The importance of English in national development cannot be denied as
Pakistan has lagged behind other South Asian countries in both availability
and quality of education, particularly in higher education
[image: Sabiha Mansoor]

   - Sabiha Mansoor <http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/Columnist/sabiha-mansoor>
   - November 13, 2015

Pakistan’s current language situation and the key issues identified in the
language policy for higher education have been discussed earlier in part I
and II of this article. It is recommended that the state’s ‘elitist’ policy
be revisited by language planners so as to enable Pakistan to adopt a
cultivation policy that is based on access and equity.

In both studies, students and graduate employees displayed positive
attitudes towards Urdu for integrative reasons. They see Urdu as the
national official language, important for national identity and national
integration. The educated middle-class provides most personnel for
white-collar jobs, comprising the Urdu-speaking community because of its
historical background, urban residence and traditional reliance on
education for social and economic mobility. The results of the study on
higher education also support the view that a large number of students (42
percent) come from the Urdu-speaking community while the findings of the
second study on employment were similar where 53 percent of the graduate
employees were from the Urdu-speaking community. Attention must be paid to
development of the current curricula in primary and secondary schools that
is outdated and too rigorous and boring. What must also be looked at is the
regular training of Urdu teachers whose pedagogy has not changed in over 50
years. New and interesting materials need to be developed to enhance more
positive attitudes towards our national language. The state must focus on
training bilingual teachers for primary and secondary schooling, and for
our public sector universities to offer courses in Urdu for higher
education. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) must take serious note of
the need for setting up translation departments in all universities for
corpus development.

It is important that regional language speakers, especially in the case of
under developed areas (the perfect example being the Balochistan youth), be
provided an equal opportunity to access higher education and graduate
employment, as in the case of Urdu speakers through status and corpus
planning. Currently, very few regional minority speakers complete their 12
years of schooling to enter higher education institutions and after
graduation get to access white-collar jobs. The high levels of illiteracy
leading to unrest and lack of development are due to a large dropout rate
in primary schooling due to little or negligible use of their mother tongue
because of the Urdu medium policy and lack of educational materials. First
of all, studies underscore the need to analyse the relationship between
various ethnic groups and how they view language as being part of the
sharing of their identity. This would also have to take into consideration
the sharing of state power and resources in relation to these multi-ethnic
groups of Pakistan.

The importance of English in national development cannot be denied as
Pakistan has lagged behind other South Asian countries in both availability
and quality of education, particularly in higher education. Pakistani
students and graduate employees have revealed highly positive attitudes
towards the English language. They do not see the study of English as
detrimental to their culture but rather as necessary for Pakistan to become
a progressive and modern state. Students want to study English for
instrumental reasons and English as an international lingua franca to
improve the future of Pakistan. Also, as seen in both studies, it is
important for language planners in education to understand that all student
graduates must be fluent in English for higher education and good jobs in
Pakistan and abroad. It is also a requirement for international trade and
for the socio-economic development of Pakistan. The attitudes of students
and teachers, as well as the demands of the employment sector must be kept
in view while framing a language education policy. English should remain
the second official language. A language education policy that is imposed
by legislation or even by a martial law ordinance (such as Ziaul Haq’s
policy to adopt the Urdu medium and remove the nomenclature of English
medium, which had to be reversed) cannot succeed without the cooperation of
teachers and students.

As such efforts must be made to implement Urdu as the national official
language. We must recognise English as the second national official
language and all four regional languages should be given the status of
regional official languages to enhance their status. We must develop
educational materials in not only Urdu but also regional languages.
Regional languages should be used for primary schooling and also made a
compulsory subject for graduate studies.

(Part II of this article was published on these pages on October 15, 2015.
It is now concluded)

*The author is a professor of English at the Lahore School of Economics,
author and editor of several books on language and education*


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