MY last column on language-in-education evoked interesting comments from readers. Some raised valid concerns. Others betrayed unfounded fears about language — and also education. Quite a few of the comments were more an outpouring of emotional biases and not based on rational thinking.
First of all what needs to be clarified is that there is a world of difference between using a language as a medium of instruction (MOI) and teaching it as a subject. Whenever there is a discourse on the language-in-education issue we seem to get carried away by our passion for English. It needs to be understood clearly that a child learning history, geography or even science in an indigenous language can still learn English as a second language just like any German or Korean child does. If English is taught by competent teachers using the correct methodology the child will learn it well and quickly. Continue reading “Language whims”
SINCE 1999, when Unesco first declared Feb 21 International Mother Language Day, this issue has received much attention throughout the world. In Pakistan, where the language issue has always had a complexity of its own, educators, linguists and activists are now more vocal than ever.
Will the ruckus being created have a real impact on the language situation in various sectors of national life? The courts have given two major language-related verdicts in the past two years. One was the Supreme Court’s directive of 2015 asking the government to use Urdu as the official language of administration. The second is the recent order of the Lahore High Court asking the Federal Public Commission to conduct CSS examinations in Urdu.
There is a logical link between the two. A person who is to conduct the affairs of governance in one language should be fluent enough in it to pass an exam to qualify as an administrator. The conclusion that follows is that the CSS candidates should have studied Urdu in school as well as college to be able to take examinations in that language. Continue reading “Why English again?”
IN August, Pakistan will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of its independence. This has understandably spawned a spate of soul searching. It was in abundance at the Karachi Literature Festival. The session titled “Pakistan: a fragile state or resilient nation” focused entirely on the state and didn’t address the issue of resilience at all. The state was held responsible for all the evils that have befallen us.
Unsurprisingly, the speakers concentrated on identifying the villain of the piece that was said to be the ‘state’ — an abstract term. As the discussion proceeded, the state became the “invisible state” and then the “deep state”. The audience clearly understood that these terms referred to the army which has played a central role in determining Pakistan’s destiny. Continue reading “Blame rests on ….”
IN these times of despair, even the dead can give us hope and inspiration. That is the powerful message that emerged from the Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute’s forum on Jan 22. It was organised to commemorate the birthday of Perween Rahman who was shot fatally in March 2013.
Why was Perween killed? It might sound bizarre but the fact is that there are vested interests in our society who feel threatened by people who work for the poor. That was confirmed by SP Akhtar Farooqi who said on the occasion that the murder was not motivated by personal enmity but by economic factors. Continue reading “Message of hope?”
A FRIEND sent me his greetings on New Year with this verse: “Apnay haathon say dastar sumbhaloon kaisay/ Donon haathon mein kashkol pakar rakha hai.” (How should I hold up my turban when I hold the begging bowl with both my hands?)
The truth of this verse hit me when a news item in this paper reported the proceedings of the Senate recently. The government had come under fire from a PTI member for piling up external and domestic debts to such proportions that servicing them was becoming impossible.
One should not dismiss this as political gimmickry to embarrass the ruling party. After all, which party in Pakistan has even attempted to be self-reliant by adopting austerity as a policy to reduce the government’s dependency on loans? With few parties remaining in office for too long, every ruler spends money with abandon knowing that the chickens will come home to roost when he will not be around to cope with the problem. Continue reading “Loss of dignity”
I remember Sister Mary Emily as ever humble and a sympathetic figure in the St Joseph’s College and Convent. Dr Hamida Khuhro
My association with her goes back to the fifties when I joined the SJC as a student. Then after finishing with the University I came back to join the college as a lecturer. I was always so impressed by Sister’s efficiency and thoroughness in every thing that she did that probably some of it rubbed off on me as well and has stayed with me all my life unto this day.. That is the greatest tribute to sister Emily that any student can give. On learning of her passing away last night I spent a long time pondering over my association with the college and with Sister Emily and felt that they had been such wonderful years. May her soul rest in peace. Rashida Wasti (nee Hasan)Continue reading “Tributes to Sister Mary Emily”
IT was 1957 and we had returned to college after a restful summer
vacation. We had braced ourselves for the discipline that was the hallmark of the St Joseph’s College for Women (SJC) under the watchful eye of Sister Mary Bernadette, who was the principal.
As I entered the college premises, I saw a petite figure in the nun’s white habit walk briskly before me. It wasn’t the principal, who moved slowly with a stoop that comes with age. We didn’t have to wonder for long. At assembly we were introduced to our new vice-principal, Sister Mary Emily. She sailed into our lives like a breath of fresh air and departed equally quietly last Sunday.
Sister Emily revitalised us. But more than that she infused dynamism into this premier institution that she was to head four years later. For me it was the beginning of an association that lasted 60 years, during which she guided not just me but also several generations of Karachi’s young women through stormy times giving us a sense of security and stability. A recipient of the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Sister’s wisdom, her scholarship, her tact in handling students, her administrative skills and above all her humanism, made her an institution in Karachi’s academia. Continue reading “Sister Mary Emily”
So Donald Trump has won the American presidency. The predominant fear expressed by Muslims in the US and even the world over is that Islamophobia will now receive a shot in the arm. This thought is not really far-fetched, given the strong anti-Muslim statements made by the Republican candidate in his campaign speeches. Hate crime is reported to have increased in the week following the US Presidential Elections on November 8. One just hopes that the compulsions of high office in the White House will have a moderating impact and Trump the president will be more discreet than Trump the Republican candidate. Continue reading “Assimilation or alienation?”
SINDH is a land of paradox. For several years, the provincial government has been spending massive amounts on education, or so it claims, but has failed to make any impact on the learning outcome of students. Quite a large number of children — 59 pc according to the Pakistan Social And Living Standards Measurement Survey 2014-15 — remain out of school.
I call this a paradox because when it comes to making verbal commitments, Sindh cannot be faulted. Thus apart from the huge financial allocations the province has been announcing for this sector, it was the first to adopt a right to education law to endorse Article 25-A of the Constitution. This recognises the right of every child between five and 16 years of age to free and compulsory education. Continue reading “Aspiring to teach?”
WE much discuss what education should be giving/bringing society; but seldom dwell on what society is feeding into education.
Far too many dedicated and obviously competent, if not gifted—for teaching is indeed a vocation—feel a decline in the calibre of their students and an alteration in the expectations and orientation of parents. The nature of personal commitment to education has changed. It is perceived as a commodity— there is less love of learning than love of the fruits thereof. Continue reading “Education: demand & supply”