LAHORE: The Punjab government has announced its decision to revert to Urdu as medium of instruction at the primary level in public schools from the next academic session beginning in March.
The announcement came rather abruptly through a tweet by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Saturday in which he said the teachers and students “wasted most of their time in translating their lessons”.
A post made with the tweet said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) manifesto clearly stated that the medium of instruction would be Urdu at the primary level.
It claimed the provincial education department had conducted a survey of students, parents and teachers in 22 districts about the medium of instruction and almost 85 per cent of the respondents in each category voted for Urdu. English would be taught as a separate subject, said the post.
Sources in the bureaucracy said the abrupt decision might create difficulties in teaching at the primary level. They said the previous government led by former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif had conducted exhaustive consultations through an education consultant, Sir Michael Barber, and introduced English as a medium of instruction in public sector schools.
They said the Punjab government was facing serious problems as its enrolment campaigns were failing to meet targets and a large number of children remained out of schools. On the other hand, parents were more interested in sending their children to English medium private schools in their respective streets than in sending them to the public schools.
Sir Michael Barber in his book The good news from Pakistan had explained the Punjab government’s initiatives launched in consultation with the UK’s Department for International Development and the British Council.
He had later claimed that a huge number of children from private schools had shifted to the English medium public schools.
Sources said the Punjab government had also conducted teachers’ training at the formerly Directorate of Staff Development besides enhancing the basic qualification of teachers at the time of induction. They said the government should first go back to training teachers so that they could efficiently teach English terminologies to children in primary schools.
“It took almost 10 years to make a decision to introduce English medium in public sector schools and will take much time again to return to the Urdu medium instruction,” a bureaucrat said.
However, a former dean of Punjab University’s faculty of education, Prof Dr Hafiz Iqbal, said the Shahbaz Sharif government’s decision to introduce English as a medium of instruction in primary schools was “unreasonable”.
He said there should only be a strong component of the English language. “There will not be much of a requirement for training of teachers to revert to Urdu medium,” he said.
Referring to the PTI government’s slogan of introducing a uniform curriculum for all sections of society, some analysts said that reverting to Urdu as a medium of instruction would further enhance the divide between the poor and the rich Pakistanis.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2019