Medium of Instruction Speech


  • Introduction: a peculiar problem faced by Pakistan: different with that of India: yet a latent problem: largely a problem of higher education
  • Two solutions suggested: retention of English not acceptable: why not: difficulties of introducing Urdu
  • No third alternative left: hence Urdu with safeguard
  • No real solution but a compromise: accessories may be worked out in course of time

Unlike any other country of the world, Pakistan is faced with a peculiar? question of determining the future medium of her public instruction. True it is that India too is confronted with the same problem. But hers is not so difficult as that of Pakistan and not also of the same nature. Because India has one single state language for the whole country and can conveniently fall back upon Hindi, her lingua Franca, as and · when English is dislodged. But in Pakistan, we have two recognized state languages. Hence the patent solution of teaching through the state language does not apply to our problem because there cannot be two media of instruction in one and the same institution.

It is, of course, true that the problem of the medium of teaching is vet a latent question. It is because we are to-day learning through English in the higher stages, while Bengali and Urdu have been adopted for the secondary and primary ones. But to-morrow or two days later the issue will become patent as, sooner or later, Pakistan will have to decide finally upon the issue of her medium of instruction. The problem of the medium of teaching is, again, largely a problem of higher education. Upto the secondary stage Bengali in the East and Urdu in the West, as the arrangement now exists may well serve the purpose. But is only reasonable that higher students in both the wings be taught through one common medium to establish summer and harmonics in the final stages of national education? This is necessary because many of such students will have to undertake works and hand affairs that will extend beyond the territorial jurisdiction of one wing or the other.

Two solutions have so far been suggested. One is to retain English as it now stands. The other is to introduce Bengali and Urdu in East and West Pakistan respectively in all the grades of education. Of those, the first is more catchy and has for its votaries many eminent public men of the country. The second is more a via media than a solution of the tangle.

The first suggestion is untenable for three reasons in the main. Firstly, it’s derogatory to the national prestige of any sovereign state to adopt permanently the state language of another state as her medium of instruction. To be able to Icarn and teach through one’s national language or languages constitutes one of the important elements of state sovereignty. China, the whosc national language has the poorest vocabulary and the clumsiest alphabets in the world can never be persuaded to adopt Russian as her medium of instruction for all the superiorities of the Russian language and despite the closest friendship between the two countries. China’s right to teach and learn through her own language is an inalienable part of her national prestige and pride. So is ours and we cannot, therefore, cling permanently to the apron-string of English when our state languages Bengali and Urdu are among the richest in the world. Secondly, it will create a sense of cultural inferiority among our people and concentrate the nation’s attention on English. This will seriously retard the development of our national languages and make English the virtual state language of Pakistan. Thirdly, acquisition of knowledge through a foreign tongue involves a colossal wastage of labor and makes education difficult, abstracts and imperfectly. Hence all over the world, mother-tongue is admittedly the natural medium because through it man Iearns easily and comfortably and acquires concrete and realistic education.

But to add to our difficulty have not what may be called a brother-tongue for the whole nation. In its stead, we have two national languages–Bengali and Urdu. The former is the mother-tongue of East Pakistan and the latter has gained the same status in West Pakistan. Hence the introduction of Bengali in the East and Urdu in the West seems to resolve the tangle. But it does not untie all the knots of the issue. A graduate from West Pakistan, for instance, would, in that case, remain entirely ignorant of Bengali which is the official language in the other wing, and through which every work there is carried on whether in the office. the school or the business market. If such a graduate is called upon to handle affairs whose application extends into East Pakistan, he will prove unfit for the job. If he is to carn his living in the East, as many of each wing will always be in need of doing so in the other zone of the State will find himself at sea with no knowledge of the language through which every affair here, whether public or private, is managed. Greatest difficulty will be faced by the Central Government whose officers and staff are always to handle matters relating to both the wings which they are ignorant cither of Bengali or of Urdu. Above all, such a scheme of education has the danger of creating a sense of separateness in both the wings and thus weakening the basis of our national solidarity.

Where then, can we go for a solution Evidently we are left with no third alternative Placed in this tight corner, I feel inclined towards the natural medium of instruction for each of the two wings, that is, Bengali for the East and Urdu for the West. but with some sufegrurils to eliminite the probable evils outlined above. The best safeguard consists in the provision of teaching Urdu here with the same emphasis as is now laid on English. It will not be an additional burden, as may be apprehended because the proposal envisages nothing more than replacing English to a large extent by Bengali or Urdu where it is not the medium of instruction. The teaching of English too may be returned but with far less importance.

Obvious this suggestion offers more a compromise than a solution of the problem. It is not cast cither to find out One such. Our state language issue had to be resolved by means of a via media whose offshoot is the problem under discussion. Here also, therefore, a compromise is the only way out. Once this settlement is adopted on principle accessories may be worked out in a decade time. Till that period English as it now is may remain the ad intern medium of instruction.

Ahmad Ali

My Name is Ahmad Ali.

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