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Three classrooms in Pakistan

Imran Khan’s opposition to English-medium education is misguided

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Updated: April 22, 2017 1:49 am
pakistan, pakistan education system, pakistan education, imran khan, pakistan imran khan education comment, imran khan on pakistan education system, pakistan education, pakistan news, indian express news, latest news Imran Khan is certain that English-medium schools inculcate a culture that is not Pakistani (Source: Express Photo/File)

Leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, recently criticised the education system in the country, saying there were “three different systems of education, an English-medium system for the elite, an Urdu-medium system of schools and religious seminaries for the rest of the country”. He expressed his opposition to the English-medium schools because they distanced students from “Pakistani culture” and recommended that “education should be imparted in the English language only at the higher levels and even then, the syllabus should be in line with the culture in Pakistan”.

Khan’s opposition to “English-medium” schools is clear. He is certain that English-medium schools inculcate a culture that is not Pakistani; the other two systems inculcate Pakistani culture. His government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province last year “granted” $3 million to Madrasa Haqqania from where many Taliban terrorists now killing Pakistanis had graduated, and where the killers of Benazir Bhutto stayed overnight. His statement implies a change in the country’s education, brought about in English-medium schools, possibly through their closure, because he is not in favour of starting English from grade one. His objection boils down to one point: Don’t teach English from grade one because that prevents the inculcation of Pakistani culture. The question is: What is Pakistani culture? History shows religion opposed to culture, as proved by the terrorists blowing up shrines in Pakistan because of their culture of (mystical) song and dance.

If Khan came to power, he would not respond to the job market to teach English from grade one in state-run Urdu-medium schools. He’d instead abolish the vast, demand-driven, private sector English-medium school system. He’d have two streams: Urdu-medium and the madrasa. He won’t be strong enough to prevent the madrasa from penetrating the Urdu-medium system in the name of ideology. Will the culture thus developed be Pakistani? Will Khan reform state schools to make them deliver to market demands? Will he investigate why India with three educational streams is not as bothered about culture as he is? Why is India producing high-quality scholars? In India, 17 per cent of schools are English-medium, mushrooming because of the middle class and the global market. India has “three streams” (English, Hindi, a state language) and is apparently not bothered about culture like Khan.

The two streams Khan wishes to retain are Urdu-medium schools and foreign-funded madrasas, some of which distribute the “alternative constitution” penned by al Qaeda leader Aiman al-Zawahiri in The Morning and the Lamp. Raza Rumi, editor of Lahore’s Daily Times, suggested a “reform” of Khan’s two approved “streams” in his recent article: “General Science, Urdu and English should only teach relevant content… there is little need to insert ideological instruction into these… History, Social Sciences, Islamic Studies need to be more inclusive.. ensure that students are taught respect for minorities. Content against non-Muslims needs to be expunged… inclusion of ideology of Pakistan in Urdu, English, Civics is irrelevant… Non-Muslims should be exempted from compulsory teaching of Islamic Studies… the notoriously familiar factual and content errors ought to be cleaned up, especially with respect to distorted histories…”

The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek Pakistan’

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More From Khaled Ahmed
  1. Raman Govindan
    Apr 23, 2017 at 10:19 am
    he had his college education in UK and got married to an English lady. now he tells other students of his country to avoid English education! looks like a d in wool hypocrite!
    1. G
      Apr 23, 2017 at 4:42 am
      Imran Khan married a wealthy British woman. And now he wants to deny English to the commoners. Everywhere the top 1 wants to maintain exclusivity.
      1. Smarter Knowledge
        Apr 23, 2017 at 12:20 am
        Funding Madr as does not mean that they are supporting terrorism and Talibans, If the government will not fund them Madr as will accept funding from every available sources, even from anti stan elements. How can you say that funding Madr as us supporting Taliban?
        1. T
          Truth Promotor
          Apr 22, 2017 at 10:18 pm
          Author does not have a clue of Imran Khan's vision. And this is why writing has become another tool of corruption and feeding misinformation to the readers. Imran Khan is against having multiple education systems in one country that inculcates the unwanted discrimination among all levels of society. He only wants to have one education system countrywide by striking the balance among English, Cultural and Islamic studies while removing extremes from all of them.
          1. J
            jay komerath
            Apr 23, 2017 at 2:21 am
            in reality it does ot or most madr as are nottrouble sosme,but some are the root cause
          2. B
            Apr 22, 2017 at 9:58 pm
            Although, I am against the Talebani politics of Imran Khan but here I find Imran Khan correct and the author grossly incorrect and unconvincing. Education in English neither guarantees wide literacy nor quality. No country in the world with exception of one or two countries with small po tions (e.g., Singapore) has achieved universal literacy goal and effective education standards in a foreign language. There are many developing countries in the world that have mother tongues as medium of education but have better research output and literacy levels than those that use English (as a second language) for education. Mother tongue is like communication super highway that provides total networking of a po tion in a community.
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