Learning In ‘Urdish’

You know our education system might be in for more trouble when the government announces that there will be a uniform curriculum in ‘Urdish’. Recently, the ILM Pakistan Movement has been launched by the government, with the objective to improve students’ academic achievements and ‘attitudes towards civic responsibility, respect for diversity and tolerance’. One of the reforms is new a curriculum to provide a new medium to the students- a combination of both Urdu and English. The technical terms will be from English and the description will be in Urdu, so the students may not face any problem to understand terminologies.

The government wants to get rid of the English medium-Urdu medium divide, which has damaged the education standards as well as created class distinctions. It has also adversely affected the growth of young minds, “in contrast to the world practice of educating children in their native languages”. It is true, in fact necessary, that the gap between these two should be bridged. However, a cocktail of two languages is not the answer.

The problem of education in Pakistan is not of language; it is of the content of the curriculum and the quality of the facilities and teaching provided. The use or disuse of language is a social and cultural problem. It is caused by language requirements at the work place, content on television, use of the Internet, literature available in Urdu, etc., etc.. All schools teach English and Urdu. They are not the root cause of the decline of Urdu. Tweaking the language used in the curriculum will not make children smarter, or teachers better.

We can also not ignore the issue of the integrity of the languages. They both have their own identity and context- especially Urdu. Do we really want more English words inserted into Urdu so that we forget the actual Urdu words? The initiative is trying to preserve Urdu, but ironically Urdish, will mean the end of Urdu.

The simplest solution is to have better Urdu teachers in schools, and make official and cultural efforts so that Urdu remains our lingua franca. Yes, there is no point in educating engineers and physicists in Urdu and there is no point in producing doctors and academics so Anglicized that they cannot translate theirs thoughts to the Urdu speaking masses. The solution is to provide better education so that both languages are kept alive, accessible and learnable. English and Urdu are not in competition, they are both equally important.

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