Punjabi, long neglected, awaits official patronage Arsalan Haider

LAHORE: Language plays an important role in education, and is the basic tool to equip the students with at an early age. In Pakistan, usually Urdu and English are taught in schools. Sindhi and Pashto are being used as mediums of instruction in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, however, Punjabi is not taught in even a single school across the province.

According to a survey conducted in 22 countries making the use of data from nearly 160 language groups, it was concluded that if children were educated through a language they were not familiar with, especially in the first few years of primary school, there were likely to be severe consequences. Firstly, children were far less likely to show interest in studies and attending school. The survey concluded that discrepancy between the language spoken at home and the language of teaching was a major reason for students' diminishing interest in studies.

The worst affected children were found to be those belonging to rural areas.
Even after 64 years of independence, the Punjab government has not introduced Punjabi as a language in the academic syllabus, both in private and government schools. In Pakistan, only Sindhi and Pashto have official roles as mediums of instruction in primary schools across Sindh and KP. The students in rural Punjab have to bear the brunt of neglect towards Punjabi since they have to read and speak Urdu and English at schools and Punjabi in homes, which leads to confusions and difficulties in understanding what they are taught. Separately, in urban Punjab, most of the citizens speak Urdu at homes, hence, children do not have difficulty in studies. However, most of them have adopted Urdu and English at the expense of their mother tongue, Punjabi. They have trouble speaking, writing and reading Punjabi since they are not taught the language either at homes or in schools.

Hence, it is the need of the time that the Punjab government introduces Punjabi in the academic curriculum to preserve the mother tongue of a large part of the country's population.

Chinese: Meanwhile, the Sindh government announced on Sunday that Chinese was to be taught as a compulsory language in schools from grade 6 onwards. The decision was taken in a meeting led by the Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. It was also decided that students learning Chinese will gain extra marks, scholarships and foreign visit opportunities.

\ Punjab government should also implement the Chinese language as a compulsory subject in its schools in order to teach the language of one of the world's superpowers and a close friend of Pakistan who has a history of cooperation with the country in almost all major sectors, including health, infrastructure, education, defence and many others. To benefit from Chinese in the long run, Chinese needs to be taught in educational institutions of all levels, from primary level to universities with the aim of producing Chinese-speaking Pakistani youth in the country which shall bring the two friendly nations closer in all aspects of life. The Chinese-speaking Pakistani youth will truly serve as the single most vital channel for developing and sustaining mutually beneficial relations between the two countries.

If the Punjab government also taught the language in schools, it would, in the long, also attract a number of Chinese investors and traders as they would be able to communicate easily with the local people and it would boost up the economy of Pakistan's biggest province. Chinese teachers would also be hired, who would stay in Pakistan and this would also lead to a very strong relationship between Pakistan and China. The two neighbours, despite being at very friendly terms, have a cultural disconnect due to lack of people-to-people contact and linguistic blockade.

In addition to Chinese, Hindi should also be offered either as a compulsory subject or at least as an optional one to strengthen relationship with India. It is the need of the hour to develop cordial relations with India as Pakistan, at present, is torn because of internal conflicts and terrorist activities and cannot afford ruinous relations with India. The teaching of Hindi would help both the countries reduce their distances and it would also lead to a peaceful environment between both the countries.

Curtsy:Daily Times: September 05, 2011

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