Language Conundrum

My editorial for Balochistan Times on some day in May, 2019

The history for the battle for a national language and of the regional languages for recognition is as old as the country itself. Pakistan, with more or less 73 regional languages, is one of the most diverse countries in terms of languages and many of them with rich history and literature. However, many of these languages are also on the verge of extinction owing to lack of patronage by the state. The constitutional consensus, diversity notwithstanding, for a national language was agreed for Urdu which has become the lingua franca of the entire Pakistan with beautiful mixture of regional dialects as well as vocabulary. However, it has not yet attained the success in becoming the official language of the country despite many efforts and lapse of more than 70 years.

The Article 251 of the constitution of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is clear on the matter and contains clear directives of making the Urdu the official language and until it is made so, English should serve as official language in the country. In this context, on May 13, 2019, Ameer Jamaat-i-Islami Siraj-ul-Haq moved a resolution to allow the candidates to take Central Superior Service (CSS) examination in Urdu along with English and senate unanimously passed the resolution. Will this legislation help the candidates from lower and middle class to benefit from the decision in anyway? The question still remains as elusive as before. The examination has six compulsory subjects among whom English Essay and English Composition papers pose the most formidable challenge even for the students of elite universities and they are part of the curriculum as before. So even if a candidate is allowed to take rest of the papers in Urdu, English would still remain a challenge for him in the shape of these two papers.

The syllabus of CSS was revised in 2016 and a wide range of modern subjects such as gender studies, urban and town planning were included in it as optional subjects. Recently, reports about further reforms are also doing the rounds to change the entire structure of the Central Superior Services and turn it into four specialized groups. Reforms, as a matter of fact, are the most immediate need in examination taking and paper checking techniques in CSS as well as examination of Public Service Commission taken by the Balochistan Public Service Commission. Radical reforms, not change of medium of language, would solve the issue that has affected the performance of these institutions to choose right person for the right job. In Balochistan the syllabus of PCS also needs to be revised as currently it offers a limited range of options to the candidates.

Each time these institutions announce their results and the meager numbers of candidates, out of hundreds of thousands of candidates only qualify the written part, fingers are pointed out at educational system and its decay. Viewed objectively, educational system is not only to blame for the failure of large number of candidates as many a times a candidate who passes written part in preceding year, fails badly in the following year in the same test and examination. Such trends indicate to deep procedural flaws in the examination taking and paper checking techniques of these institutions which need to be addressed sooner than later.

Reforms are not only required in the above mentioned institutions but also in educational system that is divided between medium of instructions, elite and non-elite schools and a wide net of religious seminaries. The students of latter never take an examination for any commissioned post due to their lack of proficiency in English which is a compulsory for these examinations. Similarly, selection criteria of lecturers in Universities and their promotion criteria attached to higher education degrees such as MS and PhD have raised many questions about the quality of postgraduates produced in the country. If a single person, who holds a degree and not the relevant capability, is bound to destroy all the system since the same PhD holder, at some stage, check the papers of candidates of competitive examinations. The results of last few years speak volumes about such degree holders and their capability of paper checking and even paper setting.

Therefore, no reform in isolation can bring any good to the system unless it is viewed from all the angles which may directly or indirectly are affecting a system.

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Language Conundrum

My editorial for Balochistan Times on some day in May, 2019

The history for the battle for a national language and of the regional languages for recognition is as old as the country itself. Pakistan, with more or less 73 regional languages, is one of the most diverse countries in terms of languages and many of them with rich history and literature. However, many of these languages are also on the verge of extinction owing to lack of patronage by the state. The constitutional consensus, diversity notwithstanding, for a national language was agreed for Urdu which has become the lingua franca of the entire Pakistan with beautiful mixture of regional dialects as well as vocabulary. However, it has not yet attained the success in becoming the official language of the country despite many efforts and lapse of more than 70 years.

The Article 251 of the constitution of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is clear on the matter and contains clear directives of making the Urdu the official language and until it is made so, English should serve as official language in the country. In this context, on May 13, 2019, Ameer Jamaat-i-Islami Siraj-ul-Haq moved a resolution to allow the candidates to take Central Superior Service (CSS) examination in Urdu along with English and senate unanimously passed the resolution. Will this legislation help the candidates from lower and middle class to benefit from the decision in anyway? The question still remains as elusive as before. The examination has six compulsory subjects among whom English Essay and English Composition papers pose the most formidable challenge even for the students of elite universities and they are part of the curriculum as before. So even if a candidate is allowed to take rest of the papers in Urdu, English would still remain a challenge for him in the shape of these two papers.

The syllabus of CSS was revised in 2016 and a wide range of modern subjects such as gender studies, urban and town planning were included in it as optional subjects. Recently, reports about further reforms are also doing the rounds to change the entire structure of the Central Superior Services and turn it into four specialized groups. Reforms, as a matter of fact, are the most immediate need in examination taking and paper checking techniques in CSS as well as examination of Public Service Commission taken by the Balochistan Public Service Commission. Radical reforms, not change of medium of language, would solve the issue that has affected the performance of these institutions to choose right person for the right job. In Balochistan the syllabus of PCS also needs to be revised as currently it offers a limited range of options to the candidates.

Each time these institutions announce their results and the meager numbers of candidates, out of hundreds of thousands of candidates only qualify the written part, fingers are pointed out at educational system and its decay. Viewed objectively, educational system is not only to blame for the failure of large number of candidates as many a times a candidate who passes written part in preceding year, fails badly in the following year in the same test and examination. Such trends indicate to deep procedural flaws in the examination taking and paper checking techniques of these institutions which need to be addressed sooner than later.

Reforms are not only required in the above mentioned institutions but also in educational system that is divided between medium of instructions, elite and non-elite schools and a wide net of religious seminaries. The students of latter never take an examination for any commissioned post due to their lack of proficiency in English which is a compulsory for these examinations. Similarly, selection criteria of lecturers in Universities and their promotion criteria attached to higher education degrees such as MS and PhD have raised many questions about the quality of postgraduates produced in the country. If a single person, who holds a degree and not the relevant capability, is bound to destroy all the system since the same PhD holder, at some stage, check the papers of candidates of competitive examinations. The results of last few years speak volumes about such degree holders and their capability of paper checking and even paper setting.

Therefore, no reform in isolation can bring any good to the system unless it is viewed from all the angles which may directly or indirectly are affecting a system.

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