Home Views & Opinions The messiness of languages

The messiness of languages

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In the early years, some provinces teach in their provincal/regional language. Others communicate in Urdu, English, or a combination of the two languages. Languages such as Urdu and English are also offered. Both are valued. The only point of contention is whether or not English should be included in the curriculum if it is not the primary language of teaching. Some claim that English, like Urdu, should be taught from the beginning, while others argue that English should be taught once a kid has mastered her mother tongue and Urdu in Class 6.
As a result, our language policy is a shambles. We haven’t figured out what languages we want to teach our children, how we want to teach them these languages, or when and how we want to teach them these languages. Our policy conflates the issue about the medium of instruction with the debate over language learning. Making Urdu or English the medium of instruction does not guarantee that the learner would acquire the language while studying other courses. The youngster is unlikely to acquire or comprehend the language or the subject being taught in it. If we want to teach science in English, the youngster must first be able to communicate in that language. Expecting the youngster to learn the language while learning science in English is putting her and her teachers on a route to failure.
There are a few aspects that stand out in the educational research literature. Children learn best when they are taught in their own language. It is self-evident, yet it bears repeating. This may be the language that youngsters use at home in the early years. This usually refers to the regional or local language or dialect of Pakistan. A variety of languages can be picked up and learned by children. There is no harm in teaching Urdu and English as topics to children if we want them to study them. However, until children are comfortable in other languages, their mother tongue must be the medium of education in the early years.
Most parents, not unexpectedly, want their children to be comfortable in both Urdu and English, according to empirical research on parental preferences in Pakistan. Both are viewed as social and economic mobility languages. English, in particular, is regarded as critical to economic and social progress. The empirical literature on mobility supports parental opinions of the value of languages, especially English.
Why haven’t the provinces developed a unified language strategy in education? We need to employ regional/local languages in the early years to aid learning (even of other languages), teach Urdu and English as subjects, and then change the medium of teaching to another language when the students are more or less familiar with it. It appears to be a straightforward process. However, the language policy has always been a jumble. There are still provinces that do not value local languages in the early years of education and instead teach in Urdu or English. When English will be taught as a topic is unclear (some want it introduced in Class 6), We’re also unsure when, if ever, the transfer in medium of teaching (from the local tongue or Urdu to English) should take place.
The question of educational quality is one component that significantly complicates things. We teach the majority of our pupils poorly regardless of the language of teaching. Our kids’ language abilities are often very inadequate at the end of ten years of education. The majority of people lament the fact that even after matriculation, pupils are unable to write in English. However, the same may be said for Urdu and other languages. We simply don’t know how to teach. This complicates matters since we’ve always shifted between languages as the medium of education when pupils find Urdu or English too difficult. However, if we teach a language incorrectly, it will be difficult to learn, However, if we teach a language incorrectly, it will be difficult to use that language as a medium of instruction in the future. This may not merely be a reflection on which medium of learning is preferable; considerations concerning the quality of instruction must also be examined.
Given our current situation, we should rely on more solid research: early instruction in the home language, introduction of other languages as languages, and then, when appropriate, a transfer to other mediums of instruction once children are comfortable with the move. However, we must improve the quality of all language training, and this cannot be overstated.
Why has it been so difficult for the provinces (since under the 18th Amendment, education, including language policy, is a provincial concern) to develop a coherent and consistent language policy for education? Answering this question is challenging. However, the political economy of language concerns plays a role in this explanation. Parents want their children to feel at ease in English and Urdu, but most public and low-cost private schools are unable to provide this because of teaching quality difficulties. When there is mention of using the local language in the early years, parents interpret this as a betrayal of the promise to deliver on teaching Urdu and English, and the state is left with the task of balancing parental demand by switching between Urdu and English as a medium of instruction. Due to concerns with instruction, it fails.
In terms of language policy in education, we need to be more steadfast. The policy imperatives are clear: local language medium in early years, teaching many languages as languages alongside, and then transitioning to these languages as the medium in later years if necessary. However, the political economy in the area is convoluted, particularly due to poor educational quality, making these changes challenging. Will our children suffer as a result of our ineptness?