[lg policy] Pakistan: Language policy in higher education

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Oct 16 20:14:01 UTC 2015

 Language policy in higher education — II
Despite the fact that English is the official medium of instruction in
higher education, only 49 percent of students from the public sector
reported English as their medium of instruction, and 68 percent did so from
the private sector
[image: Sabiha Mansoor]

   - Sabiha Mansoor <http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/Columnist/sabiha-mansoor>
   - October 14, 2015

The results of the three major nationwide research studies conducted by the
author during the last 10 years (2005-2015), funded by Aga Khan University
and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) as well as Punjab government and
Beaconhouse National University (BNU) on language planning and higher
education, english and employment, and successful women educators of Punjab
are insightful in terms of the gap between the current de jure and de facto
language policy, academic outcomes, sociocultural outcomes and the failure
of not addressing the issues of access and equity as well as development.

With regards to access to higher education, a number of critical factors
were identified. In terms of language speaking communities, a key finding
in the random sample of 2,136 students was that, first of all, the majority
of students in the study to access higher education from all provinces were
from the Urdu speaking community (42 percent) followed by Punjabi (30
percent), Pushto (14 percent), Sindhis (four percent), Balochi (five
percent) and others (five percent). The random sample of higher education
institutions from Sindh included not only the capital city of Karachi,
which was heavily populated by the Urdu speaking community, but were on the
recommendation of the statistical advisor of Hyderabad city. The results
are indicative of the rapid spread of Urdu due to its official status as
the national language. Also, it is important to note that the Urdu speaking
community, including those who migrated during and after partition, were
more highly educated having studied in Aligarh and other leading
universities where Urdu was the medium of instruction. Urdu speakers soon
entered the corridors of power as they assumed leadership positions.

The study also provides an insight into the role of attitudes in languages,
leading to the language spread/shift of Urdu, English and regional
languages through competency and use of mother tongue and Urdu or English
as the first language in informal and formal domains. The students reported
highly positive attitudes towards English and instrumental motivation
needed for higher education and work, followed by Urdu for higher education
whereas, negative attitudes were reported for their mother tongue and its
use for education, even at the primary levels of schooling. Regional
language speakers, except Punjabi, urban-educated speakers (where a
significant number of them reported Urdu as a first language), reported
high ethnolinguistic vitality and were competent in their mother tongue,
using it with family and friends in informal domains.

Secondly, the socio-economic status of speakers was a major factor in
accessing higher education in terms of the quality of education they
received. Students in the sample belonged to varied backgrounds and the
monthly household mean income ranged from those studying in the public
sector (Rs 13,718l) and students studying in the private sector higher
education institutions (Rs 30,361). Around 572 students (approximately a
quarter of students) did not respond. The low income group of students
could access only public sector higher education mainly in a mix of the
Urdu and English medium whereas the higher income group could access
private universities where English was the medium of instruction. The
private sector higher educational institutes are considered superior in
terms of offering a better quality education.

Thirdly, despite the fact that English is the official medium of
instruction in higher education, only 49 percent of students from the
public sector reported English as their medium of instruction, and 68
percent did so from the private sector. In self-reports and interviews of
students it was seen that it was bilingual education (Urdu and English)
being practiced in the classrooms. An interesting aspect of this was that
English teachers explained that they used a blend of English and Urdu in
teaching English since there was a demand from students whereas the
students blamed their English teachers for inadequacy in spoken English.

Finally, the inefficient English Language Teaching (ELT) programmes being
offered from class one to 14 were seen as the intervening variable between
positive attitudes, high motivational intensity and successful second
language learning. As per UNESCO reports, 1,200 hours of teaching a second
or foreign language programme, spread over two years, should be sufficient
for successful learning.

In case of access to graduate employment, there was a study with regards to
a random sample of 1,335 graduate employees from 184 small, medium and
large scale public and private organisations belonging to manufacturing,
service and trade from all provinces of Pakistan. The results from this
study revealed that the majority of employers reported that there was no
written official language policy.

In terms of language speaking communities, a key finding in the random
sample of graduate employees was that, firstly, the majority of graduate
employees that were employed in all provinces were from the Urdu-speaking
community, followed by Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto, Balochi and others.
Secondly, the socio-economic status of speakers was a major factor in
accessing white collared jobs in terms of ‘soft skills’. Thirdly, highly
positive attitudes of both employers and employees to English motivated the
graduates for instrumental reasons to be fluent in English and was seen as
critical to access graduate employment. The findings of the study revealed
a factor of serious concern, as only 17 percent female graduate employees
were identified mostly in a non-management cadre from all provinces of
Pakistan. These results have to be seen in the perspective that the
majority of female graduates opt to work as academics in educational
institutions, which was not included in the sample.

Research findings in these studies reveal that de jure or legal language
policy is different, especially in the case of higher education and
employment, from the defacto language policy in practice in Pakistan. To
conclude, for a language policy in education to be successful, far more
research in areas of language and education are necessary. However, one
point is clear and that is the need to enhance the status and role of
regional languages, develop materials in Urdu and local languages, focus on
training bilingual teachers for primary schooling and finally for the HEC
to note the need for setting up translation departments in universities.
Therefore, we must adopt a ‘cultivation’ policy and produce graduates who
are additive and not subtractive bilinguals.


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