[lg policy] Pakistan:

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Oct 19 15:12:35 UTC 2015


 Most regional languages have only been provided lip service in terms of
state support for corpus planning or development of materials for official
or educational purposes
[image: Sabiha Mansoor]
<http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/Columnist/sabiha-mansoor>

   - Sabiha Mansoor <http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/Columnist/sabiha-mansoor>
   - October 13, 2015
   - Comment
   <http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/13-Oct-2015/language-policy-in-higher-education-i#disqus_thread>



Language planning and policy are inextricably linked to access to higher
education and graduate employment, and viewed as key global issues in
international development. In Pakistan, the language policy for official
and educational purposes is seen by sociolinguists as more critical for its
socio-economic development, as currently it has a large young population
(60 percent) ranging between 16 to 23 years.

Pakistan is a multilingual and multicultural country. As such, a number of
factors have to be taken into account while language planning so as to
ensure the successful implementation of a language policy in official
spheres, including education. In terms of status planning, soon after
independence in 1947, the rulers of the newly founded state of Pakistan
selected Urdu as the national official language of Pakistan. The decision
of not including Bengali as the official language, which was the mother
tongue of speakers in East Pakistan, having the largest population, and
developing materials for official and educational use in Urdu, is
considered as one of the key factors in alienating the Bengalis by creating
barriers for them, preventing them from entering the corridors of power.

English, being a legacy of British rulers, was deeply entrenched as a
language in all higher spheres of the government with all official
documentation in English, as well as developed materials in higher
education. As such, an elitist language policy has been in place since
independence where both Urdu (eight percent) and English (one percent)
enjoy the status of majority languages despite being the mother tongues of
a very small population, used for official and educational purposes. The
legacy of the former British rulers of the subcontinent in which the medium
of instruction was English for the upper classes, and vernacular or
regional languages for lower classes has persisted to date, is seen in the
high status of English, and the low status and limited role of vernacular
or regional languages. Recent studies in educational language planning and
policy in education reveal that almost all former British colonies offer
English as a subject or alternate medium of instruction.

The Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 and the UNESCO report of 1956 state that
regional languages or mother tongue should be used in primary schooling for
cognitive development and mental flexibility as well as for the maintenance
of cultural enrichment. However, due to a highly centralised policy adopted
by Pakistan until recently regional languages, mainly the mother tongues of
different language speaking communities — Pashto (15 percent), Balochi (3.6
percent), Seraiki (10 percent), Sindhi (15 percent) and Punjabi (44
percent) - though spoken by a large population, are minority languages and
delegated a low status, used at home with family or friends. Negligible or
limited use is made of the mother tongue for educational purposes even at
primary levels of schooling This is despite the fact that almost all
language speaking communities have high ethno-linguistic vitality amongst
their own speakers except in the case of Punjabi and especially the urban
educated Punjabis, who downgrade their own language and are gradually
shifting to Urdu as their first language.

Most regional languages have only been provided lip service in terms of
state support for corpus planning or development of materials for official
or educational purposes. Sindhi is exceptional as it is a highly developed
language and, as per archives in the language census of 1937 in Sindh, Urdu
was not even listed as a language. Sindhi has a strong and rich linguistic
heritage; it was recognised as the first Indo-European language in the
subcontinent. Sindhi was used as a medium of instruction for primary
schooling even before independence in 1947. Corpus planning is vibrant and
official, and educational materials are rapidly being developed by the
Sindhi Language Authority. Sindhi is used as an alternate medium of
instruction even at higher levels of education. All other regional language
speakers — with large or small language speaking communities (4.6 percent),
including Gujarati — make limited use of their languages for official or
educational purposes.

Recent developments by state organs include the latest injunction by the
Chief Justice (CJ) of Pakistan regarding implementing the national official
language policy of Pakistan in Punjab by developing materials and making
mandatory the use of Urdu for official purposes. This order has been
welcomed by all segments of civil society. Urdu is a symbol of our national
identity and the country’s lingua franca as well as considered by language
planners as a suitable choice for national integration.

In the past, many efforts were made to provide support to Urdu, including
the setting up of the Urdu Language Authority Board and generous funds
provided by the state to develop materials in Urdu for official and
educational purposes. However, the outcomes have been disappointing. The
Sharif Commission in 1959 gave a period of 10 years to develop materials in
Urdu, so as to replace the medium of instruction in higher education to
Urdu. However, little progress has been made to implement this policy due
to scarcity of materials in Urdu for higher education attributed to general
apathy and lack of efficiency, especially in translating English materials.
Recently, it was reported that an appeal was made to the honourable CJ by
three judges of the Supreme Court (SC) to add Punjabi to the order of
implementing the language policy of Punjab. This has been seen as a source
of relief for Punjabi pressure groups as Punjabi is the regional language
as well as mother tongue of millions of Punjabi speakers, and enhancing its
official status could be a critical factor in arresting the language shift
of the urban educated Punjabis to Urdu.


*(To be continued)*


*The writer is a freelance columnist and a previous VC at the Lahore
College for Women University*
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