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Why English is compulsory?

By Aroosa Khalid

Students who fail in English are victim of flawed policy!

MAJORITY of the students who fail in Compulsory English Examinations particularly are a victim of flawed policy because English is not their first language. Unfortunately, English has become a symbol of status in Pakistan anyone who knows English language will be showing off. It’s really sad because our own language should be a status symbol and should be encouraged and spoken with pride. In most parts of the world, basic learning for children is in their first language. In Pakistan we are obsessed with English that we consider it is an efficacious solution to all our problems. These views were expressed by English language faculty in a Special Report prepared by The Educationist.

DR. NUKHBA LANGHAH: Dean of Humanities/HOD English Dept. at FC College – University said, “English is International language we can’t compete with the world if we don’t know English. It’s a status of symbol in Pakistan as well. People wanted to show off that they speak English. It’s really sad because your own language should be a status symbol. If a student doesn’t know English people think they don’t belong to good background they have not been educated well but unfortunately that’s system faults. It’s the state policy that English is an official language. Urdu is National language so its need to be looked by the state to promote other languages publish their literature, promote their institution and teaching research. I was in Sindh last year and I was being told that people are complaining in schools their children are being told that you are not allowed to speak Sindhi you are only here only here to speak English which is bad because Sindhi’s are very sensitive about it. They feel very offended because their language and culture is their oxygen. There has to be a policy by putting this issue under the carpet, it’s not going to end we have to deal with this issue eventually. We have a complex education system. We have Urdu, English and Elitist medium schools. Elite class interviewing parents to get to their children and they are trying to strength the class system. There is a certain class which can’t even go to normal schools.”

DR. AMRA RAZA: When asked why students fail in English, Dr Amra Raza, the Chairperson and Associate Professor of Department of English Language and Literature at Punjab University, said: “At graduation level the students mostly fail in English because firstly they only speak in English for that one hour every day the rest of the day they speak their own mother tongue. If teachers of other subject would also speak in English, it would help them in improving their proficiency. Secondly our question papers in the examinations are very repetitive and every year the students cram their answers. Thirdly the students pre learn answers and they don’t know how to use the language creatively. The teaching methodology is such that in classroom they are not taught the skills of listening and speaking as the exposure is mostly on reading and writing.” When asked why English is not an optional subject instead of compulsory subject, she said, “If English will be an optional subject it will cause a lot of confusions. I think in many places both English and Urdu are used. We are a developing country and that is why we don’t have the privilege of isolating ourselves from the rest of the world. English is spoken in many countries around the world that is why I think it is a good medium of instruction, which allows Pakistan individuals a greatest opportunity to communicate with the world. China and Japan are not really developing countries their job opportunities their economics, political systems is very different from ours. We are a developing country that is very dependent on aid from abroad for the acquisition of skills.”

DR. KHURSHEED ALAM: “It is wrong to say that English Language is a colonial hangover. Urdu, at this stage is incapacitated to accommodate the global fund of knowledge. We don’t have many institutions for translating the texts produced in other languages in into Urdu. Hence, in my view, learning a foreign language is a source of academic strength. China and Japan have a civilization legacy of thousands of years. We, at this stage, need to connect with the world. Moreover this question has almost become a cliché. Students fail in English language because our system of education does not encourage critical thinking. In a bid to achieve more than 90% score. We have turned our students into parrots who repeat without knowing. Moreover, at a national level, we could not develop the culture of reading. So no reading and writing.”

MR. SHAHZEB KHAN: Shahzen, Assistant professor PU English Department, said: “There are of course historical reasons the first reason is that we were Colonized unfortunately, by a nation whose language was English and as we know it was there policy especially very famous Lord Nicholas pronouncement in 1835 when he said in order to rule and govern this part of the world we need to have a class of persons Indians in blood and color but English in taste, morals opinions and intellects. So, then it was decided especially in 1854 with Charles, dispatched it was decided for higher education English language will be used and based on the same principles First three universities were setup in this part of the world in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in 1854 and their medium of instruction primarily was English. The forth university which was established here was Punjab University and here again the medium of instruction for most subjects was English. Later, we can see globally there was a rise of Western countries. So, England as a British empire was the most prominent because of British imperialism. English was spread all over the world to Africa, Caribbean, Australia and it came to our part of the world. With the rise of technology, Technology also adopted English as its language. Because of this status of English language, it gives us the opportunity to know what is happening in the field of science and other domains English proves to be a very useful medium. English was attach with social prestige and we haven’t been able to go away with it. Even politically we thought we have to follow the West and when I say I am. I am talking about the people who are running the system. I personally don’t believe in this idea that we have to follow the West. We are unable to decolonize we have not given our language the importance.”

DR. RIZWAN AKHTAR: PU English Department Assistant Professor Dr Rizwan Akhtar said: “I believe English is compulsory in this part of the world or in other countries because of colonial legacy but that doesn’t mean that we should carry on with the legacy more than that English has become an International medium, a language of international communication and I think that’s why perhaps its compulsory to teach certain kinds of subjects in English while at the same time we can use own languages as the medium of instruction. China and Japan have very different histories so the question of language in those countries have been entirely different as compare to ours. If China is an example now Chinese have also started learning English. I think this has to do with our elementary school education system we don’t have competent English teachers and in Pakistan English is not taught in a more innovative and modern way.”

MS. AYESHA F. BARQUE: Ms Barque, PU English Department Assistant Professor, said: “English is one language doesn’t have to be supported at the expense of another. English can enjoy a decent place in our educational system even if even if we practice Urdu largely. We have not paid attention to Urdu because we never formulated a joint national vision and because of that we don’t have a sense of national dignity and nation that do not have sense of national dignity and identity will never own its language. There is no prestige associated with Urdu, all the prestige lies in English. It’s not a medium of instruction everywhere. In early years the private sector definitely yes supports English, but a great deal of the public sectors does not have it a very early years of education. The teachers teaching English are not proficient in English, it’s the school system, it’s the salary bracket you need the subject to succeed you need to pump good teachers into it. All of them Bouygues down to the fact that our government up till now has not really been concerned about education. It’s a whole lot of lie if they are saying this. In fact supporting higher education without building the grass roots is very dangerous practice which is now enumerating PhD’s in terms of numbers rather than quality.”

DR. AMIR AZIZ: “When the British came they brought English with them. There is nothing to feel so proud of but we choose to opt English as a language of curriculum in our part of the world. But sadly enough, this language became a Lingua Franca post 1945 as well when Britain’s occupied probably three-fourth of the globe, ultimately their language also became a kind of a language that is spoken in many parts of the world. That is one of the reason why we speak English because it is official language and our national language Urdu is unfortunately, spoken by (only) 15 percent. English is used in the mode of writing, in the mode of speech, the mode of correspondence is also English by the government. Since we lived as a Colony they introduced English literary text, they introduced English as a medium of correspondence in order to live with the rest of the world.” He said the Japanese have imperial history of their own they have their own culture, their own language and they had their own imperial ambitions once they lost the war the culture didn’t vanished altogether they continued to stick on their own. The Chinese had war against the Brits but they were also not in administration control of the Brits. We were under the great administrative control of the Brits during 1857 to 1947. They did everything that please them or serve their purpose we were not sovereigns of our own destinies. As I believe language is a part of the culture, literature is also a part of the culture of a country or some civilization. English comes from a different culture England mainly it’s native homeland we only inherited this language as it is not organic to this population. If one supposes to do well in this language there was a need of good institutions, good training of this foreign language. Unfortunately, we didn’t have good specialist only Elite learn this language rigorously the rest don’t have firsthand experience of interacting with the native speakers. Our people not really culturally feel affiliated with English as a culture.”

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