It is becoming difficult to defend the teaching of English in Pakistan. The language, accepted as lingua franca in much of the world, is equated with residual “slavery” of the mind pining for the British Raj and considered a hindrance to the proper learning of Urdu and regional languages. On one day, Dec. 8, two interesting opinions were expressed in local newspapers:
The first view was against English: “English is not only destroying our indigenous languages which stand in danger of becoming extinct, it is also undermining our education system and intensifying the class divide in our society.” Given the dominance of Urdu in Pakistan, the writer should have corrected himself: the regional languages are being thwarted by Urdu rather than English.
The next opinion was expressed by Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Quetta: “More religious seminaries have been established in Balochistan compared to modern and quality schools for local students during the past four decades. Only religious education is being imparted to the students at all these seminaries and thus the students are left behind in the race for development. Most of them are just teaching theology. There are not enough mosques to give them livelihood.”
Politicians like Imran Khan pledge the uprooting of the current hybrid system of education without realizing the consequences for the country in the global market, pursuit of new knowledge, and transfer of technology to Pakistan. The entire world is learning English in its own interest without thinking of “slavery” although its rational-sequential discourse may hurt religious beliefs by introducing reason into the consideration of such controversial laws as the one against blasphemy. Strangely, India is not bothered about English the same as we are.
There is much less English in Pakistan than India. If English actually puts a damper on the growth of national and regional languages, as suggested by critics, India should have become inarticulate in Hindi. Instead, our neighbor to the West continues to prosper and grow economically while we endlessly debate how best to rid ourselves of its “menace.” English isn’t the problem: lack of adequate educational facilities is.