Category Archives: Language

Language Discrimination in Pakistan Harms Women and Indigenous Culture

Sharing to Learn. Photograph by Flickr user Mustafa Mohsin and used under a Creative Commons license.

By Zubeida Mustafa

Asifa, 12, lives in Karachi, the port city in southern Pakistan. She is a child of the lesser gods. That means that she is malnourished and falls ill frequently. Her home is a modest two-room house with no running water in which her family of eight lives. She is fortunate to go to a better school than the public sector institutions many of her friends and neighbors attend – that is, if they go to school at all. Being the first generation school-goer in her family, Asifa’s is not the carefree existence a child deserves. Her parents have invested a lot in her to provide her education, and have pinned all their hopes in her future.

Will Asifa be able to lead her family out of poverty? Most unlikely. Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Education, Language, Women |

Rethinking medium

Dr Tariq Rahman

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week there was something to celebrate — rare in these troubled times. One of our eminent scholars, Dr Tariq Rahman, dean of the School of Education at the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, was awarded a DLitt degree by the University of Sheffield, UK, for his work on language, art, culture and social developments that was assessed to qualify him on merit for this honour. In Europe less than 1pc of faculty gets a DLitt in the social sciences.

This achievement should do Pakistan proud. Given the state of our education, any academic whose work wins recognition, especially internationally, deserves to be acknowledged. This should be treated as an occasion for us to revisit his work and scholarship.

It is also important for our policymakers and educationists to read some of Dr Rahman’s 18 books embodying his knowledge and research. They will realise where they have gone wrong. Dr Rahman is a prolific writer and his works are eye-openers especially regarding language in the educational, social, cultural and political context in Pakistan. Continue reading

7 Comments | Posted in Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Education, Language |

Of days gone by

guest-contributor

By Nikhat Sattar

In 1947, a well known and educated gentleman, Yousuf Dehlvi started a publishing house in Delhi along with his three sons. Shama Publications as it was named, catered to the growing educated class in both India and Pakistan, and had an office in London through which it reached out to readers of Urdu and Hindi in Europe.  Yousuf Dehlvi was a man of letters, highly religious, well connected with politicians and what would now be called the “elite”, as well as a sound business man.

He recognised the  signs of an awakening among writers post independence, and realised too the huge market of readers that could be further stimulated and developed. This was also the time when the film industry was just beginning to produce films having social messages.

Shama Publications brought out three monthlies in Urdu: Shama, a film cum literary magazine that focused on Indian films and film stars and had Urdu short stories and poems from authors many of whom owe the beginning of their career and popularity to the magazine; Bano which targeted the educated woman, but again contained gems of the Urdu short story, and Khilona, for children. Khilona was edited by the youngest son, Ilyas Dehlvi, assisted by his elder brother Idrees Dehlvi. The Hindi magazine was called Sushma. Continue reading

7 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Guest Contributor, Language |

Language in learning

clf-logo

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Children’s Literature Festival is the best thing that could have happened to the children of Pakistan. Six festivals have already been organised since November 2011 — the latest having been held in Islamabad last week.

It was a pleasure to see thousands of children assemble at the Pak-China Friendship Centre in Islamabad surrounded by gaiety, music and storytelling and, above all, books of all genres for young readers. The atmosphere was one of merrymaking. But the underlying mission was a very serious one. The objective of the organisers was captured in the words splashed all over the backdrops in the auditorium and the conference rooms —“Unlocking the power of reading”.

That is what the literary festival has undertaken to accomplish. It is too early to expect a visible change in the reading habits of children. If the tradition continues and the event reaches a large number of people in due course, it is hoped that it will make an impact. Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education, Language |

Language and thinking

book-world-language

By Zubeida Mustafa

EDUCATION is a much talked about issue in today’s Pakistan. Unfortunately it provokes little serious thinking and even less action. I keep hoping that this talk will turn into action sooner than later. Until that happens we need to continue talking to keep the matter alive.

At the Karachi Literature Festival recently the session on education which brought a number of top-ranking educationists together was, therefore, a positive move. As could have been expected, the speakers could only touch the tip of the iceberg.

One issue that came up in the course of the discussion that followed was that of critical thinking. Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, a very articulate example of a critical thinker, was spot on when he said that no school was teaching its students how to think — be it an elitist expensive institution or a low-fee community school. Continue reading

11 Comments | Posted in Education, Language, Social Issues |

Parents’ choices of language as the medium of instruction in schools

ASER 2012 Report

By  Zubeida Mustafa

It is now recognized worldwide that the language used as the medium of instruction in primary schools has a profound impact on the child’s learning process. Everything else being equal, children do better academically when they are taught in a language they already know, that is, their home language. Their comprehension is better, their cognition develops faster and they can communicate more effectively as they have the skills to express themselves. They are certainly more confident.

With all the advantages that education in a child’s mother tongue offers, it is surprising that not much attention has been paid to the issue. No language policy for education has been formulated in Pakistan. Neither has any research in the form of a survey on the ground been done. Continue reading

3 Comments | Posted in Education, Language, Social Issues |

Language in Sindh schools

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE language dilemma in education remains unresolved in Pakistan because educationists fail to understand how basic language is to the child’s learning process, as also to the psyche of the speakers.

Those who ignore this fundamental truth can undermine national integrity. If they are running schools they cannot maximise the learning advantage of their students. Language has a political dimension as well. When our leaders fail to understand that imposing a language on a people amounts to linguistic imperialism, the consequences can be grave. We know what happened in 1971. Continue reading

11 Comments | Posted in Education, Language, Politics, Social Issues |

Tightening the noose

By Zubeida Mustafa

WHILE the unending political circus in Islamabad engages the nation’s attention, there are significant developments in other fields that have escaped the media’s notice.

Take the case of the changes in the UK’s student visa rules for Pakistanis which put the spotlight on our collapsing education system and the yearning of a large number of our youth to escape from their country by hook or by crook.

Against the backdrop of the growing number of applicants in Pakistan for British student visas, the UK’s Border Agency (that now handles visa applications) held a “secret pilot study” across a few countries, including Pakistan. According to press reports this estimated that 40 per cent of Pakistani applicants were “ineligible for studies in the UK”. The yardstick used was their spoken English skills. Under the new rules, Pakistani applicants intending to study in the UK are required to appear for a mandatory face-to-face interview so that consular officials can assess their spoken English. Previously admission to British universities and visa applications were paper-based. Every year approximately 10,000 people were allowed to enter Britain on student visas from Pakistan. Continue reading

13 Comments | Posted in Education, Foreign Policy of Pakistan, Language |

Catalysts for change

By Zubeida Mustafa

HAVE our writers and artists met the challenges posed by the 21st century? Have they played the role expected of them to promote human rights in our society?

These were the questions posed to the participants of the Sindh Writers/Artists Convention organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan last week.

As was not at all surprising, the answers were as divergent and conflicting as could be expected from the diverse set of speakers assembled for the occasion. There was, however, consensus on the right of every citizen to be educated and to indulge in creative cultural activities and derive pleasure from them. It was deemed obligatory on the state to uphold this right. Continue reading

10 Comments | Posted in Culture and the Arts, Education, Human Rights, Language |

The language conundrum revisited

PAKISTAN has failed to educate its children. This is shameful and now we have the proverbial insult added to injury.

It is in the form of the numerous myths and misconceptions about language circulating on the Internet and in conferences on education that have caught the public imagination. This creates pressure for education in English.

An article by Gwynne Dyer, a Canadian syndicated columnist, in this paper spoke of ‘The triumph of English’. It was a clever piece of writing in that it dwelt very convincingly on the importance of the English language in the globalised world of today. It also said, “The amount of effort that is being invested in learning English is so great that it virtually guarantees that this reality will persist for generations to come.” Continue reading

19 Comments | Posted in Development and Poverty, Education, Language |