Lahore: A general taboo is attached to making Punjabi, or any other regional language, the medium of instruction in schools. The reluctance is rooted in the belief that English taught at the foundation level would make the children more enlightened and civilized.

Iqbal Qaisar, a former teacher of the Government Primary School Shadawal Majha, Lahore told News Lens Pakistan that Punjab had been producing translators in schools and colleges because of overemphasis on the use of English Language at the secondary level.

“Every Education Commission of Pakistan has emphasized the importance of imparting primary education in a child’s mother tongue. Words that a child uses at home become useless when he is forced to use a different language at school.”

“Nowhere in Punjab is primary education taught in Punjabi making Punjab the only province with the highest drop-out rate. Almost 50 percent of children drop out at level five. Twenty-five percent of the children reach metric level while only two to three percent make it to the college or university,” said Qaisar.

As far as the use of regional language is concerned, the situation is far better in Sindh, KP, and Balochistan. All of these provinces have passed laws that make teaching local language as a subject compulsory in schools.

Experts in linguistics say,” We meted out the same step-motherly treatment to the Urdu Language.”

The result is that children from a underprivileged background whose environment does not relate to the English Language find the learning process not only difficult but also unproductive.

Eventually, we raised generation after generations on rote learning.

It is a myth, says, Furrukh Abbas Khan, Associate Professor Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS, that language makes you cultured or sophisticated.

It is a wrong perception, he elaborated, that if we give the primary education in Punjabi, we will lose the race to progress. Such thinking is the result of certain stereotypes that we have attached to the Punjabi culture. As soon as we talk of Punjab, it is either a Sufi or a Macho man that comes into one’s mind.

Pakistan’s educational malice is traced to its wrong choice in making Urdu and English the medium of instructions without considering the sensitivities of the local people towards their mother tongue, he added.
He said that studies after studies proved the importance of teaching children in their native language, but neither the poor results of education sector nor any study to that effect could trigger new thinking in our policy makers.

This year’s UNESCO report released on the International Mother Tongue Day was titled, “If you do not understand how you will learn?

The education activists consider it the violation of the right to education. Constitution of Pakistan links the right to education with language.

Article 251 of the Constitution commands the state to adopt Urdu as the official language of the country and also stipulates that steps may be taken by the provinces for the promotion of regional languages at educational institutions.

As per law, Article 251 should have been implemented within 15 years of the date of coming into effect of the Constitution. The period expired in 1998, and while 27 years have lapsed, the provision has not been implemented.

In its verdict, on the petition filed by Kowkab Iqbal against government’s failure to implement Article 251, the Supreme Court (SC) has directed the Federal and Provincial governments to adopt Urdu as the official language of the country and making regional languages as medium of instructions.

Speaking to News Lens Pakistan, on the reasons Punjabi has been looked down upon as a language used for the medium of education, the President Pakistan Punjabi Adbi Board, Mushtaq Sufi said that unless a language was considered respectful and a source of economic benefit it would never strive for the attention of its native speakers.

“Punjabi has suffered because of lack of ownership. When the acquisition of jobs and employment become dependent on knowing English, we lost touch with Urdu, and later with other regional languages, spoken in Punjab,” said Sufi.

Talking about the history of Punjabi language Sufi told News Lens Pakistan that:
Punjabi has a 1,000-year-old literary history. A very few people know that Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last emperor of the Mughal Empire, used to say poetry in Punjabi as well. It shows that Punjabi was considered a respectful language. With the arrival of Britishers in India, a deliberate attempt was made to disgrace Punjabi so that disconnect could be created between the Punjabi speaking people and their language. The reason for the animosity was the consistent defeat of the British Raj at the hands of the Sikh Rulers during Ranjeet Singh’s reign. Punjab fell after ten long years of fight in 1849.
Later Punjabis went into a self-loathing mode about their culture and language.

The board had organized a rally on February 21, 2016, on the International Mother Tongue Day. Provincial ministers from Punjab and other government dignitaries attended the rally. All of them had pledged to introduce Punjabi in school.

The board has also submitted a writ petition in the Lahore High Court to direct the Punjab government to fulfill its promise to pass the proposed bill, “The Punjab Promotion of Mother Language as Compulsory Additional Subject at Primary Level Act 2015,” it presented to the SC.

Talking to News Lens Pakistan, Sughra Sadaf, Director Punjab Institute of Language, Art, and Culture, informed that the draft bill is lying with the Law Department Punjab.

She said that seeing the Mother Language Days event on February 21 this year, the Chief Minister Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif had also realized that efforts should be made to introduce Punjabi, the language used by 48 percent of the people of Pakistan, at the primary level in schools.


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