SOCIAL media has been busy of late discussing whether or not English medium schools emphasise more on English and less on education. There is no dearth of people who believe that such schools actually promote Western lifestyles and that is a symbol of mental slavery, paraphrasing what the prime minister had said recently.

Before passing such sweeping remarks, people would do well to remember that our successful politicians, ambassadors, bureaucrats, generals, judges, doctors, engineers, and most other professionals are the products of premier English medium educational institutions. It is around such role models that the process of nation-building takes place.

English language is not a symbol of mental slavery as it has brought revolutions in various fields and it is the first choice of today’s generation as the medium of education. It is the language of the internet and distance learning.

Furthermore, studying English increases job opportunities and makes travelling to foreign countries easier. It is a global language, the lingua franca. English is more important for students who want to study abroad.

Research suggests that early education should be given in the mother tongue in order to enable the children to better understand and develop knowledge, skills and dispositions. Urdu is not the mother tongue, or the first language, of the majority of the population; rather a local lingua franca.

There may be many reasons, but the fact remains that Urdu has not been developed enough to keep pace with advancements in the fields of medicine, space technology, warfare, engineering, telecommunication, internet, social sciences, computer, agriculture, business, economics and even in the domain of ancient civilisations.

A giant like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was in favour of learning English. He advised the Muslims to get Western education and learn the English language to compete against the other communities in the subcontinent.

Even the founders of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Liaquat Ali Khan and others had no issues with the English language. And they were obviously not suffering from ‘mental slavery’; rather they got us our independence with their outstanding abilities and commitment that they had attained on the basis of their exposure to the Western system. They were the ones who liberated the subjugated Muslim nation from the slavery of the imperialists.

While the elite continue to have their children educated in English medium schools, they somehow find it necessary to propagate the opposite for the masses.

K.M. Khan
Gilgit

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2021

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