A student organisation has written to the Medical Council of India to include Urdu in the list of regional languages in which the medical entrance examination can be conducted. On December 21, the council allowed the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) in eight languages — English, Hindi, Marathi, Assamese, Gujarati, Bengali, Telugu and Tamil.
The Maharashtra wing of Student Islamic Organisation (SIO), however, has demanded that the exam be held in Urdu as well. The organisation’s secretary Mohammed Ali claimed that the fate of several students, who have been formally trained in Urdu, was at stake.
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“In Maharashtra alone, there are around 168 Urdu-medium science junior colleges and many Urdu-medium students appear for HSC examinations in the science stream every year,” said Ali. The organisation has initiated an online petition for conducting NEET in Urdu, which has garnered over 1,300 signatures.
Abdul Shaban, Deputy Director of the Tuljapur centre of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said the Urdu language, though part of the Hindustani culture, had been marginalised ‘owing to communal politics post independence’, something that the Sachar Committee, which looked into the social, economic and educational status of Muslims, too had found.
“Urdu is neither the language of the state nor the market. As a result, those formally trained in the language have been at a disadvantage,” said Shaban. In his paper titled Urdu and Urdu-medium Schools in Maharashtra, Shaban talked about this disadvantage: “Most of the state-conducted competitive examinations are in Marathi and English. This shuts the door for Urdu students for larger job opportunities. In such a scenario, the most an Urdu-educated student can expect is the job of a teacher in Urdu schools and/or in madrasas.”
Shaban argued that since most Urdu-speaking individuals came from the Muslim community, the representation of the community in technical education institutes and even in government services was poor.
To correct this, the Sachar committee as well as educationists have highlighted the importance of Urdu-medium education beyond secondary sections. Owing to the language disadvantage, those interested in higher education have to make special preparations to take the competitive exams such as medical and engineering entrance tests.
“There are more than 30,000 students in Maharashtra alone who appear for HSC exams after being trained in Urdu. They are eligible for writing competitive exams, but need special preparation in English,” said Kazim Malik, a career counselor and teacher who helps students from the Muslim community prepare for entrance exams. He said that the government should also publish textbooks in Urdu to help improve the quality of education.