English: professionals, the research deduces that the exposure

 

English: At the
Crossroads of Education

The Feasibility of Additive-Bilingualism in
Pakistan

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English: At the Crossroads of
Education

The Feasibility of Additive-Bilingualism in Pakistan

1.0 ABSTRACT

The significance of English in the modern world is
undeniable. Its importance is not confined to professionals and students solely
but it is also very essential for any layman. It is due to the immense
importance of this language that it is being taught as a compulsory subject in
all institutions up to graduation level. We being, a developing country and
having faced British colonialism still think that English is synonymous to
development and progress, which is true to an extent. In our circle, English
has been declared a symbol that approves your literacy. It is heart-rending to
see that many capable people are left behind in our coterie just because they
lack good understanding ability and speaking skills in English. This is why the
parents nowadays are extremely concerned to make their children highly
proficient in English. All the parents now try to send their children to
English-medium schools where they are exposed to English language in a very
early age which is due to the belief that the earlier a child is exposed to the
language, the earlier he learns it and more fluent he becomes in it. This has
also led the parents to pour English along with the mother tongue in the raw
minds of their kids in a mere age of 1-4 which has been classified as the
critical age of a child.

This research analyzes the policy of exposing
simultaneously to the mother tongue and English in his critical period and how
it affects the abilities of the child and his understanding of both the
languages. Using multiple research tools such as a questionnaire survey,
classroom observation and interviews with professionals, the research deduces
that the exposure of both the languages by parents and schools in a very early
age leaves them inept and incompetent in both of them and they don’t grasp even
a single one of them well. Moreover, this attitude will bring our mother tongue
closer to extinction. This brought us to the conclusion that the policy of
exposing a child to more than a single language in the critical period of his
age would surely decrease his language learning abilities.

 

1.1
INTRODUCTION

A child’s learning capacity is at its maximum in his
critical period i.e. (1 to 4 years in normal cases). So it is often thought
that exposing the child to multiple things and languages in his critical age
will lead him to quickly grasp them. Since English is viewed as a “passport” to
power, prestige and an array of social, economic and cultural goodies so
parents find it suitable for their child to pour all the languages
concomitantly in the critical period, as the mind is functioning at its best,
because they think that this will give him more exposure to languages at an
early age and enhance his vocabulary and understanding of the language. This is
why now most of the schools in Pakistan are being established as English medium
due to increasing demand for English-medium education, motivated by both
national as well as global imperatives, and mother tongue based learning is
declining at an exponential rate. However, the survey we conducted and to our
observations it proved highly counterproductive because it diminished the
abilities of a child to a great extent. The interviews of the linguistic
professionals suggested that a strong grip on a certain tongue is what is
required to learn other languages but the scenario, we were presented with was
totally opposite to it and we observed highly discouraging results. The
thumping of more than one language at a time, at an age when the child was not
even familiar with his mother tongue, led to confusion which made him inept in
both of the languages. Educating the child in his critical years by keeping
primary focus on mother tongue showed many benefits such as the level of
literacy and competence acquired in the mother tongue reinforces faster and
better development of additional second, third or more languages. Moreover, it
results in better academic and overall intellectual development.

In this research paper, the backdrop of
language-in-education policy in Pakistan is given, followed by context,
methodologies, surveys, observations, data analysis and conclusion. Taking into
account multi-lingual and multi-ethnic background of our society, English
teaching pedagogies and the school infrastructure, the terminal part of our
research suggests how to make refinements in our policies so as to keep the
children fluent in both the languages without neglecting any of them.

 

 

 

1.2
LANGUAGE POLICIES AND CRITICAL ISSUES

Language plays a central role in the process of
learning and the achievement of educational pursuits. Besides being a means of
communication and of access to education, language is also the marker of
identity.

Pakistan is a multilingual country. For complex historical reasons, the national
language of Pakistan is the mother tongue of a minority of the population. Urdu
is the official language of the country and is used extensively in urban areas.
It is also the language of government schools. However, according to the 1998
Census of Pakistan, Urdu is the mother tongue of fewer than 8% of the
population.

Pakistan’s official language is still English as it was when the
British ruled the country as part of British India. In addition to this, the
country has five major indigenous languages.

English
is perceived as a passport to better employment and upward social mobility in
Pakistan. In a society characterized by acute class division and intense class
consciousness, parents from the lower, lower middle or working strata of
society aspire to enroll their children in the English-medium schools. Children learning in Urdu as a second
language face major obstacles, particularly in their early years, which can
range from slower progress in reading and writing to lack of support from
parents who also struggle with Urdu. English
remains the preserve of the country’s elite minority who are educated privately
in English-medium schools and who can make an easy transition into
English-medium higher education and higher-paid government jobs that require
English-language qualifications.

Current
government strategy seeks to widen access to these English-only social strata
by improving the quality of English teaching in state schools. Yet the
provision of effective teaching and materials has been uneven, with the result
that the majority of learners are failing to make even basic progress in
English.

Urdu
has always been at the top most priority of education policy makers of the
country contributing to the negligence of other local languages which is
referred as ‘dilemma’ of educational policy sector by our modern day scholars.
The language policy of Pakistan is still an unsettled matter as there has been
a total of 22 reports and policy documents on language and education policy in
Pakistan but no efforts are made for the fulfillment of the objectives set
forth by the policy documents as there is a gap between the policy and its
implementation, as fulfillment requires continuous and pragmatic approach.

The
most recent educational policy (2009) recommended a multi-lingual educational
system as English, Urdu and one regional language (mother tongue) shall be made
a part of the curriculum till primary–level , from their English shall be made
as a medium of instruction for sciences and mathematics. The policy provided a
great opportunity for the people to develop rich personality contributing to
the promotion and perseverance of culture but unfortunately it was not
implemented well resulting negligence of domestic languages.

The
following chart shows languages spoken in the country.

But
this is completely contrary to the medium of instructions adopted by different
educational institutions of the country as shown below.

Hence
the educational policy of Pakistan is facing a serious crisis over the past few
years regarding the medium of instructions, the countries adopting policy of
bilingualism during a child critical period (teaching both the English and
mother tongue) are getting well along in all walks of life, as the children is
learning most of his/her culture along with a tool to cope with outside world.

 

1.4
CONTEXT

 English is used in the domains of power such
as government, education, law, corporate sector, research, and media. The
language hierarchy is based on power in which English stands as the most
powerful; Urdu occupies the second position, while the rest of the minor and
major indigenous languages stand at the lowest rung in the language hierarchy
ladder.

 The constitutional
provision of the 1973 regarding language policy proclaims the official language
policy by adding that Urdu is the National language and within fifteen years,
substantial steps will be taken to make it the official language of Pakistan.

But unfortunately no such steps have been taken yet.

Urdu and English receive substantial institutional support in
the domains of power especially in education; however, the indigenous languages
with the exception of the Sindhi and to negligible degree Pashto language
remain excluded from all domains of power including education. The
medium of education policy is still an unsettled problem in Pakistan. Pakistan
like many other post-colonial countries is faced with the dilemma of language
policy and planning in the education sector.

 

1.5
ADDITIVE BI/MUTILINGUAL EDUCATION

Additive
bi/multilingual education means that children should begin schooling with their
mother tongues while any second or third language may gradually be added to
his/her repertoire.  refers to the
situation where a person has acquired the two languages in a balanced manner.
It is a strong bilingualism. Academic writing requires conscious effort and
much practice in composing, developing, and analyzing ideas. Students writing
in a second language are also faced with social and cognitive challenges
related to second language acquisition. L1 models of writing instruction and
research on composing processes have been the theoretical basis for using the
process approach in L2 writing pedagogy. However, language proficiency and
competence underlies the ability to write in the L2 in a fundamental way.

Critical period

It
is regarded as the time in which a child’s brain is sensitive to certain
environmental stimuli and learns things very fast and efficient especially the
art of language acquisition. This period is generally regarded as the sensitive period in which a child’s
learning is imprinted in the subconscious brain and stays their permanently
hence regarded defining period in a
child growth span. Many scientists are still researching on existence of
critical period .Many of the
studies investigating a critical period for language acquisition have focused
on deaf children
of hearing parents.

 

This
period is generally for about first four- five years of child’s growth.

 

1.6
DATA ANALYSIS

Part
1: Student, Teachers and School Principals

Data
was collected by employing various methods which include but are not limited
to: questionnaires, interviews, observations etc.  It is worth mentioning that we chose two
lower-secondary/ primary schools for our visits:

i)                   
Army
Public School

ii)                 
Beaconhouse
School System

We
will first analyze the responses of the students in a brief manner. As expected
of them, majority of the students ranked English with greater significance and
considered it to be a global language, whilst regarded their mother tongue as a
household language with little importance. We have listed some talking points
from our experience:

·        
Students
understand the constantly growing trend of globalization and the sheer
importance of interpersonal skills

·        
In
relation to the above mentioned point, a yearn for decent English speaking and
writing skill prevails

·        
Some
students are in favor of additive bilingualism

·        
Majority
supports the application of extensive English language programs in their
schools with due stress on speaking incentives

English
is perceived as a ladder to better employment opportunities. The role of
English in our socio-economic activities has seen a drastic increase in the
past 2-3 decades. Students are encouraged to converse in English with their
teachers and peers, activities are held in this regard i.e. declamation
contests, spelling-bees.

We
circulated a questionnaire among students and their responses are recorded
below:

i)                   
Most
of the students selected Urdu as their mother language and some chose others

ii)                 
Overwhelmingly,
an estimated 83% voted in favor of English as the medium of education as
opposed to Urdu

iii)               
English
has a very significant stature in the eyes of almost all students

iv)               
Conversely,
a little portion students responded favorably when asked how often they
conversed in English

v)                 
This
question received mixed answers, with some opting to side with introducing
English before the critical period, and some after it

vi)               
Even
though most students wanted to pursue the policy of additive bilingual
education, however a notable stress was placed on giving English superior
attention

The
questionnaire we used is displayed as follows:

Research Questionnaire

To help us build more
information about English language as medium of instruction; the role in
social, educational & professional aspects of our life, and its importance
in a rapidly evolving global society. This study will help us understand and
evaluate the existing structure of language policy.

Complete the survey.

Q.1   Based on your upbringing and learning, select your
first language.

 

Urdu                     English                Other         

 

Q.2   Would you prefer English as the medium of education in
Pakistan as opposed to Urdu?

 

Yes                       No      

 

Q.3   How would you rate the importance of English as a tool
for communication?

 

Rate 1-10             

 

Q.4   How often do you converse in English?

 

Rate 1-10        

 

 

Q.5   Should English be
introduced from the beginning or after the critical period?

 

Beginning                         After C.P        

 

Q.6   Do you support additive bilingualism?

 

Yes                       No      

 

Please add any further comments or suggestions that
you may wish to make.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for taking the time to complete our
questionnaire.  Your input is important
to us and we value your comments and contribution.

Here are some excerpts from
the interviews of the respondents:

Principal I

In my opinion, schools
should focus on teaching student’s English language from day one, since that
will allow them to become proficient. From what I have seen/observed, our
students are left with linguistic weaknesses which cause them to become
under-confident and ultimately lag behind. English is a global language and has
applications in all aspects of life; hence there should be no compromise in
this regard. We must review our policy whilst keeping in mind the changing
trends at the global stage.

Principal II

Before we ask this question
we must assess the situation at hand. We at Beaconhouse teach Urdu and English
parallel to each other; however English holds much more relevance in today’s
dynamic environment. We must encourage proficiency. English is no longer a
language; it is a tool to better opportunities. Contrarily, when we talk about
our mother language, I do not feel the urgency to put so much emphasis on it,
after all a child has aptitude in it as it is our household language.

(Reference:
Alif Ailan)

 

Part
2: Conclusions