WE have come a long way, apparently in the wrong direction, from the times when we used to have men of extraordinary intellect and expression, such as Allama Iqbal and Shibli Nomani, amid us. One of the major reasons behind this dearth of knowledge and articulation in society is the dying habit of reading.
A typical teenager today is unable to express himself presentably in writing. He is being taught in English at school whereas he uses Urdu as the medium of communication with his family and friends. He has not been through any quality piece of writing, whether in the form of a novel or some other general book, in either of the two languages.
A fresh matriculate in Pakistan can hardly write an acceptable essay with good command on language. If his base in language is raw, he struggles throughout his academic career with that, and the absence of suitable guidance leaves him with the choice of ‘short notes’ or naively written Pakistani books instead of anything original to pass the examinations.
A major cause why we fail to bag any prominent achievement at the international level is the barrier of language. Most quality books in any subject happen to be in the English language whereas the majority of students lack the linguistic ability to make use of that knowledge.
The situation is actually worse. Whatever is available in Urdu also happens to be beyond the comprehension of most students. One might expect students to be good at Urdu, but the bitter truth is that they are not able to write a single error-free paragraph in the national language.
The education policy being what it is, the internet and smartphones have made things worse. Books and magazines have been replaced by social media apps and gaming platforms. There is no point blaming the technology; it is up to the individual to make use of it in the right manner.
The issue of language incapacity is getting worse and, left untreated, it will entail consequences with far-reaching implications. If we can do something as a parent, a teacher or the government, the time to do that is now.
Shakeel Ur Rahman
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2021