Globalisation and languages

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

AT A conference on elementary education organised recently by the Sindh Education Foundation in Karachi, an issue which came under discussion was that of globalisation and language. In his well researched and enlightening presentation, Dr Tariq Rahman, professor of sociolinguistics at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, pointed out the snags in Pakistan’s language policy in education. He also explained how globalisation was affecting the state of languages all over the world.

Quoting Dow Templeton Associates, he said, “English will become the universal language and capitalism will become the dominant social system.” Dr Rahman continued, “If this vision comes true, most languages will die and English will be the great ‘killer’ language. It is already moving towards that role.”
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Early learning in mother tongue

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

ON October 22, the federal education minister, Lt Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf, made a presentation on the “Education scenario in Pakistan” to the president and prime minister. At this meeting some key decisions were taken that were communicated by the prime minister’s secretariat to the federal education ministry for onward transmission to the provincial education departments to ensure their implementation.

These decisions, marked as “top priority”, reached various sections and departments concerned with education in Sindh on Dec 21. Some of these decisions have far-reaching significance, that is if they are actually translated into reality. Others will not have the desired impact — in fact they will have negative repercussions — because they are unscientific, unnatural and go against the basic mental development of a child.
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Debate on medium of instruction

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

A QUESTION we are still grappling with in Pakistan after 58 years is, what should be the language of instruction in our schools? Given all the scientific research that has gone into the language and literacy issues worldwide — but surprisingly not enough in Pakistan — one would have thought we would have found the answer by now. Unfortunately, we haven’t.

Those who have studied the psycholinguistic development of a child are very clear about their findings. They say that language and cognitive development are intimately related. According to them, a child learns best in his mother tongue because he is not doubly burdened with the task of acquiring literacy skills simultaneously with learning another language not his own. That is why very often the student taught in a non-mother tongue learns to read syllable by syllable with very little comprehension.
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An uncalled for controversy

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

A LANGUAGE controversy has been brewing in Sindh for the last five weeks. It would have assumed the shape of a full-blown crisis had the earthquake of October 8 and its aftermath not diverted public attention. But as life returns to normality, attention is once again focused on the language issue which can become quite explosive if not handled promptly and tactfully.

The venom being spewed out is reminiscent of the tumultuous days of July 1972 when Karachi went up in flames, curfew had to be imposed and people lost their lives. It may be recalled that the cause of provocation at that time was the Sindh (Teaching, Promotion and Use of Sindhi Language) Act, 1972, which the Sindh Assembly adopted on July 7, 1972. This prescribed measures for the teaching of Sindhi in accordance with Article 267 of the Constitution which provided that a provincial legislature could promote a provincial language without prejudice to Urdu, the national language.
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Increased funding amid high scepticism over real progress

By Zubeida Mustafa

36-15-07-1988GIVEN the public outcry against the government’s failure to invest adequately in the social development of the people, the authorities in Pakistan have become more wary about making loud pronouncements about their commitment to the social sectors. What better occasion would they have of speaking about this commitment and receiving media publicity than the time of the presentation of the budgets — federal and provincial. Hence, it was no surprise that in the budget season this year each and every finance minister spoke in exaggerated terms about the social sector being his government’s major priority.

But the problem with budget speeches is that they are accompanied by budget documents and preceded by the Economic Survey which do not always substantiate the official claims. This year too the provincial governments have attempted to focus on health and education, which are central to any programme of human resource development. Although there has been an overall increase in the budgets for these two sectors, one cannot but feel sceptical about the progress that will actually be made. Continue reading “Increased funding amid high scepticism over real progress”

School education: Addressing the human dimension

By Zubeida Mustafa

Education has traditionally been a low priority sector in Pakistan. This is best illustrated by an incident, seemingly trivial but profoundly meaningful, that took place a long time ago.

After Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad had sworn in Mohamed Ali Bogra’s cabinet, he realised that no minister for education had taken the oath of office Hurriedly, one of the departing politicians was. recalled and the education portfolio was unceremoniously thrust upon him.


Things might be slightly better today. Heads, of governments remember the education portfolio when forming their cabinets — but more because they do not want to let one opportunity for patronage go by default. Continue reading “School education: Addressing the human dimension”

Teaching English the modern way: Mind your language

By Zubeida Mustafa

It might sound paradoxical but the fact is that in spite of English being quite commonly used in Pakistan, a foreigner visiting this country can face considerable difficulty in communicating with the people he meets in the course of his travel. Not many of the people he would come in contact with in restaurants and hotels (not the five-star ones), on the road, at airports and railway stations can speak English. Continue reading “Teaching English the modern way: Mind your language”

Reading habits in children

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE ten-year-old drones on as he pausesat the end of each paragraph glancingfurtively at his teacherfor the eagerly awaited signal to stop.

The four-i ear-old enthusiastically turns the pages of his picture book as be concentrates on whatthe illustrations are trying to convey.

Although the older child is doingwhat would technically be called the act 0f reading recognizing the printed letter and decodingit into pronounceable words it is the four-year-old who isactually doing more readingfor reading is a complete actof communication which correspondsto the act of writing in thesense that it involves responseand feedback from the reader.

Despite the advantages of reinterpretationand retrospectionwhich reading offers, many people are not inclined to take upa book purely for recreation. They would much prefer the TV screen. Surprising thoughit might appear this is the case,to a greater extent, in the developed countries where literacyis universal and where onewould expect to take the readinghabit for granted. Thus it is estimated that in France 53 percent, in Netherlands 40 per centand in Hungary 39 per cent ofthe adults do not read books.But in Bangladesh where literacyis low barelya tenth of the literate people are non-readers, since those whoare literate are highly motivated. Continue reading “Reading habits in children”

Memories of a great scholar

By Zuhair Siddiqi, Viewpoint, September, 1977

geust-contDr. Wahid Mirza died in Lahore on September 5.

MOHAMMAD WAHID MIRZA was already in his late seventies, and slowly wearing away, when the country observed the 700th death anniversary of his beau ideal, Amir Khusrau, earlier this year. For nearly forty years, Dr. Mirza had been a distinguished figure in the world of Oriental learning. But outside the limited circle of Orientalists, he was not much known — thanks largely to his own retiring disposition and his inherent dislike of self-projection. During the last year of his life, however, his valuable work on Amir Khusrau brought him much wider recognition among the lay intelligentsia. In their search for authentic material on the fascinating character and amazing achievements of that great savant, writers and journalists inevitably had to turn to Dr.Wahid Mirza’s classic contribution, and many of them acknowledged him as one of the greatest living authorities on the subject. The National Book Foundation published a new edition of his Life and Works of Amir Khusrau, which has held the field as a practically indispensable work of reference ever since it was first published in 1935. And at the request of the Foundation,he produced within a few days, in spite of his old age and failing health, an English translation of Khusrau’s Khazain-ul-Futuh — a short history of the reign of Alauddin Khilji. As wider recognition, and fresh bouquets of tribute came to Dr. Mirza during the last year of his life one was reminded of the touching lines of Robert Blair : Continue reading “Memories of a great scholar”