THIS is with reference to the article ‘Which language?’ by Zubeida Mustafa (Sept 25). I beg to differ with the writer as her suggestion of teaching the primary schoolchildren in their mother tongue is neither feasible nor helpful to children in their learning process.
If a survey is carried out in any school of Karachi, there will be children having at least five or six different mother tongues in a class, such as Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pashto, Memoni or Gujarati. How will it be possible for a teacher to teach in all these languages simultaneously and from where will you get such a multilingual teacher?
It will create a complete mess in the class and will add to ‘language apartheid’. As teaching in one’s mother tongue is a far-fetched idea, the other two options we are left with are teaching in Urdu or English.
Indeed, teaching in mother tongue is like feeding mother’s milk, but if mother’s milk is not an available option, why not feed the best formula milk, which is English.
I have seen African countries which faced similar problem of being multilingual, but they found a solution by adopting English as their official language. As far as ‘thinking and communicating’ in a language is concerned, if children are taught in English from day one, they will be more fluent and communicative in English than in their mother tongue.
I have experience of teaching Nigerians at the Air War College and their standard of writing English was most impressive. The only big problem in adopting English as a medium of instruction is, of course, finding teachers fluent in English. This can be solved by introducing extensive teacher training programmes.
Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2020