UNESCO: Use of Urdu in Pakistani schools led to political tensions

Teaching in Urdu in Pakistani School


Hania Tahir
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Education has always been an issue in the developing countries-so it is in Pakistan. The United Nations  Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in a report,

In Pakistan, the continued use of Urdu as the language of instruction in government schools, even though it is spoken at home by less than eight percent of the population, has also contributed to political tensions.

Figures state that the literacy rate in Pakistan is fifty-five percent (55%). The reason of this sad fact might be that the language in which the children are being taught is not the language they speak in their homes. Although Urdu is the National language of Pakistan, it is not understood everywhere.

UNESCO published the paper on the same day the ‘Mother Language Day’ was being observed. UNESCO referred to all the multi-ethnic societies around the world. The use of language that all the students understood was recommended. The report presented by UNESCO last Friday said that the Urdu used in government institutions as a means of instructions for the students has caused grievances. Language, that can act as a double-edged sword if not used properly, is a major issue of tension in Pakistan. Education, the prime necessity of every single Pakistani, is being sacrificed and one of the major reasons is Language.

As the UNESCO report tells us the majority of students do not speak Urdu at their homes so when they are taught in Urdu, they don’t understand it and ultimately fail to grab the concept which is the main purpose of studying. This behavior also promotes cramming as the children do not understand what they are studying, they merely cram the material given to them. This attitude might be because of the fear of the teacher and parents or to get good grades.

Do you know: Pakistan is home to six major linguistic groups and 58 minor linguistic groups. (Source: Tribune)

Language has been an issue in Pakistan since independence. The government after independence chose Urdu as the National language of Pakistan irrespective of the fact that Bengali was the mother tongue of vast majority that resided in East Pakistan. This gave rise to the conflicts between East and West Pakistan and the students started the ‘Bengali Language Movement’ prior to the movement of the separation of East Pakistan.

A simple question that we can even ask ourselves is that if you don’t understand, how will you learn? Children undergo the same situation in the institutions they go to for their education. They are taught and tested in the language they don’t use in their daily lives. This affects the writing and comprehending skills of students badly. Parents of some children are not that literate and cannot guide the children at homes according to the language they are being taught in their schools. This creates even more confusion. Confusion might ultimately lead to blurry concepts and poor quality of education.

Education policies need to be in accordance with the fact that teaching in the mother tongue is necessary for basic concepts and critical thinking ability of students. Education is about understanding, which is not possible unless the language issue is resolved. The teachers must be trained to teach the students in the language they understand. Class room tools should be introduced for better understanding of children. Furthermore, the curriculum should be designed in such a way that it meets the needs of modern education along with focusing on concept building rather than mere cramming.

Good grades have become a trend these days. But is this actually beneficial? Will it bring out the best of the students onto which the future of our country depends? These questions are to be pondered upon. Government also needs to take initiatives to improve the quality of education. We hope that education will not be compromised in our country at any cost, because it is the light of education that can snatch us out of the darkness our country resides in.

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