Education and Change - Insaf Blog | Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf

While speaking about uniform education system promised by our dear Prime Minister, Imran Khan, everyone is curious what this system will look like and whether it will ever be possible. Being positive and having unwavering faith in our premier, I do not comment that this change is not possible; yet it is important to discuss the dynamics which will enable such change.


For some uniformity embodies uniform curricula in national language Urdu; hence, it is imperative that promotion of Urdu at all levels will guarantee sustenance and promotion of national heritage and culture. However, some others are of the view that awareness about indigenous culture and many local languages is also essential to keep our identity intact.  Here starts a controversy between ethnical and national identity; 18th amendment in the constitution was thought to be an effective solution to give all ethnicities their right for individual identity by making education a subject of devolution of power. But even after more than 10 years, none of the provinces has been able to establish its individual curriculum authority except Punjab. Though Punjab has established its curriculum authority, still it is following National curriculum given in 2006, national textbook policy 2007 and national education policy 2009. Hence, it is obvious that all provinces lack the capability of handling independent curriculum development, where it is difficult for them to realize the full implementation of any policy so far presented.


Keeping such a purview, uniform curriculum and education policy and its implementation does not appear to be a far flung dream, given the subject education is removed from18th amendment; may it be a partial removal by keeping curriculum development a national task and implementation a provincial task.


Next, comes the issue of language, since we are no more colonial entity, and thinking in post-colonial liberal paradigm, we should get rid of every sign of colonialism; obviously, then the first target is English. English is still the language of bureaucracy and thus state language; our whole higher education and professional education system uses English as medium of teaching and learning, while Urdu is merely compulsory till higher secondary school level. If the competencies in English and Urdu are compared in urban areas of Punjab and Sindh, surprisingly, one may found competency in English better than Urdu since the advent of private school education.


Interestingly, linguists have found the emergence of Desi English (Urdu-Hindi cum English) and Pinglish (Punjabi + English) in our school dialects spoken in Punjab. The findings from other provinces might be similar in context of their local languages.


While Desis are confused about learning of language, the ones who have achieved mastery have occupied the leadership roles and positions. Leadership is all about art of communication; therefore, mastery in communication is needed rather than fluency in one language. It is true that we need to learn from China, Korea, Japan but world has turned multilingual today.


Therefore, it is strongly recommended that medium of instruction should bemother tongue. Children can learn 3 languages very easily.China and Russia have more than 30 languages in their country. They write the syllabus and translate it into local languages. And all students learn to speak and learn basic knowledge in their local language. Some states used two languages, such as local plus state language.


Looking objectively, it becomesapparent, the case of Urdu has been lost, because Urdu is neither our state language nor national. For people in many parts of Pakistan Urdu is as much a foreign language as English, Persian or Arabic. And we cannot fulfill the objectives of Article 25 A of ‘Education for All’ following Supreme Court Pakistan’s directives, until we  keep numbering only  those people literate who can speak or write Urdu.


Urdu, has itself been an emerging language, an amalgamation of Arabic,Persian, Turkish, Punjabi& Sanskrit; with creation of Pakistan, its evolution reached its peak in mid-sixties and remained hyped till late 70s. Urdu  began to die a slow death during mid-eighties with ‘yalghar' (ferocious attack) of Hindi media, while significant efforts were lacking work to make Urdu a functional language. Still it is popular language; Urdu and Punjabi are enlisted among one of the highest spoken and understood languages of the world. It may be envisioned as ray of hope.


But at a closer look we find yet another problem with Urdu, no vocabulary exists like that of functional English. Indians have switched from Sanskrit to Hindi to Hinglish (mixture of Hindi & English). Indian English is now accepted as an authentic dialect.


On the other hand the Turkish have changed their transcript. What research on Urdu has been done? Though Beacon House has made huge effort in creating its own curriculum for Urdu teaching and learning; but no significant academic research exist, which can authenticate their curriculum for public use. Moreover, being a private enterprise they won’t sell their pricey document cheaply. After all, it has been created after years of hard effort.


In Turkey and Iran translations have been given a huge importance, and it is considered an important science to meet the challenges of global world. Sometimes a book reaches common market afterwards; it is translated in Turkish and Persian in advance. Therefore there are 3 Iranian women in the list of top 50 scientists, and our Afia Siddique is dying a miserable death in USA prison labeled as the most dangerous terrorist. The goals and aims of a nation decide the future of its scientists and artists. Freud and Einstein are but gift of World War II to modern America.


Chinese are also investing a lot on translation to make their language rich.So is the case with other nations like French and German. What are we doing?Over past years we just saw Pak Tea House to be turned into a tyre shop. What has been the performance of Urdu academy? Do we need to rewrite its vision and mission for future?


Urdu transcript is very difficult as each word has its own individual picture;like all Eastern languages it is more pictorial. In order to make Urdu functional, the other option is to change its transcript, promote writing into Roman Urdu. Its advantage would be: learning to write in Urdu will become easier. All our diaspora knowing to speak Urdu will be able to write Urdu as well without much challenge. Its disadvantage would be: the new generation will be cut off from all local and traditional languages.


Since, language as medium of instruction also influences learning outcomes and student achievement, therefore, we cannot decide for a change just for the sake of change. Change should have moral purpose (Michael Fullan); its purpose should be meaningful, well designed and articulated. Moreover, change should be well planned (Kotter). Therefore, let us first determine the level of achievement in Urdu as a language according to Bloom's taxonomy. It is still at knowledge and comprehension stage. How many people have effectively used it as scientific language or language in which they can reach synthesis and evaluation? In speaking Hindi has dominated Urdu. All our youth has bad pronunciation. No one can understand the proverbial language, the muhawara and the istara' (idioms and phrases, proverbs and metaphors).


We have not been able to produce any Faiz or Faraz or Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi.Yes! We can witness Urdu perforated with obscenity, cheap jokes and mimicry, instead of dialogue, satire, or comedy. We are perverts in use of language; use it with disdain to pursue our lower instincts rather than higher values. This is the point where real transformation is needed. Signs of death of a language are obvious when it fails to produce any maestro, someone who can speak eloquently like Zia Muhayyudin; someone who can recite like Josh Malih Abadi. It is not just about diction, it is about the grammar, it is about the imla (dictation), sarf o nahv, how many mistakes I witness in Imla on screen daily? We want perfect English but where is perfect Urdu?


Another goal for uniformity is uniform achievement of specific learning outcomes of children.  Keeping the challenges of language writing in mind, I would suggest that learning assessments of writing should be banned till class 5. Only reading competencies should be built till class 3, and then gradually the writing should be introduced. Copies should be replaced with tablets.Children should be encouraged to learn from various sources...following Bandura's model of social learning to build cognition and higher order thinking.Games, puzzles, team learning, group problem solving should be the pedagogy.Learning spaces should not be restricted to classrooms. Active learning should replace passive learning.


Last but not least. I am not at all against rote learning. Children should be given regular drill to memorize and quick retrieval. But this is only the 1st step to learning & learning should not stop here but keep climbing to concept formation to analysis and review to critical thinking and evaluation and creativity and creating new knowledge.Children should learn through fun, reading, listening to stories, role play, recitations, and doing things like drawing making models etc.


Furthermore, I propose if we reduce the burden of writing examinations from primary school. Children will be able to learn more languages. We can have 3 sets of languages, one of local languages, one of Western languages, and one of Eastern languages. Children can be reinforced to choose at least one language from each set and learn  to advanced level at least two languages.Timeframe can be relaxed and flexibly spread over a larger time span.


It is amazing though how the progression of translation software over the next 10-20 years will affect all of this. Google headphones currently translate about 40 languages with some accuracy, Hindi being one of them ( Urdu is not a long way away). Should we waste primary years of learning restricted to stress of language learning.These are realities of life and if we want to enter the magical future of digital life style, we will have to prepare our children to do so.


Next goal might be to achieve secular scientific education by introducing STEM; in this system children learn the basic concepts of science, robotics, computer programming, new technologies and mathematics by using Lego blocks, which are colorful and interesting and specially designed for children of primary schools – a modified Maria Montessori scheme. But pure science education can be fit only to produce robots and not living and thinking human being. I think therefore I am, so let us switch to STEAM including Arts and universal human values, the distinguished feature of human beings.


Again I am writing this being an educationist, I am against uniform syllabi. There should be as much flexibility in the curricula so as to address the diverse needs of the students.


Industrial revolution is a gone stage. We do not need workers to work over an assembly line to produce uniform products with ‘zero defect’. We need scientists who can invent and entrepreneurs who can innovate and make any system productive and sustainable. I will not promote 19th century education system which has reached its peak in 20th century; indeed it is  matured and overdone now. Now is the need to look at the pedagogies which developed in the last decade of 20th century, they will determine the future of children of 21st century, the pedagogy of love and respect, and the pedagogy of peace and tolerance. We cannot keep ourselves stuck in mere choice of medium of instruction. It should be a free choice, we can seek uniformity in goals and objectives; we can achieve uniformity in content (though in any language), but ultimately we need to seek harmony in pedagogy.


Let us stop mourning over loss and death; life continues and a culture does not depend upon a language. Culture creates the language. Culture is never static; it is always an emerging phenomenon. The living habits and customs and absorption of new ideas constitute culture. Its evolution depends on people who own the culture. We must acknowledge that we are at crossroads; we are not just changing paths, we are due to change destiny; some of us are harbingers of change and some are the products, but yes! Change is here to stay. Defy it or embrace it... it has all the resilience embedded. Make your wishes strong enough that they are reflected in a synchronized effort of a nation to realize the dream. But our dream is change....! Just realize how far it is... farther than moon or the sun?

And if you are able to make an educated guess; Yes! Then you are here.