English as a language barrier or source of communication?

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Muhammad Ishaq Khan Nasar 

The global importance of English as language of communication, technology and politics cannot be denied. From media to industry and science to the economy, English dominates all over the planet when it comes to communication among States and societies. English books are a vastly available medium of literature and information that is widely accessible to everyone throughout the world. Countless scientific papers are written in English. However, speaking strictly in educational terms and specifically about
Pakistan, the nation hasn’t yet blended this all-important language and conceptual studies in the right proportions.

Many renowned educational institutions teach all their concepts relating to Science(Chemistry, Biology, Physics), Social studies( Geography, History), Maths and even Islamiat in the English language. These are known as English medium schools. They believe that English should be the only language for the expression of concepts. To the other extreme, Urdu medium schools teach everything in Urdu treating English as a
separate subject only, believing that concepts should be understood in a common
the language that is easily understood. Also, strong critics say mother language should be used for all concepts quoting renowned linguists and psychologists to back their arguments. Interestingly, be it English medium, Urdu medium, Madrasas, Schools, Colleges or Universities all of them accept the importance of the English language and have tried to teach it in their respective capacities. An English prone system will
definitely make concepts challenging and expression difficult. An English deficient
system will create problems for the students in being global and finding higher and
better opportunities. We are discussing the future of more than 50 million students.
The right balance of English language and concepts has to be struck. In 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conducted research across 26 countries showing that over 50 percent of students who dropped out of school did not speak the language in which they
were being imparted education; the culprit in Pakistan largely being English of course! Adding to that, despite years of schooling, many students end up literally illiterate. They can recite what’s in a book but they don’t understand it. This approach turns schools and colleges into memory banks where merely students’ memories are honed. Having run a school, I often saw the comedy of students struggling for
months in memorizing ‘how it rains’ in English; Something that they observed quite often.

The logical step is that students should have a good grasp of English language in schooling years before they are thrown into the sea of different concepts at college and University levels. If you have to comprehend a subject you have to be able to put it in your own words, describe it and explain it. This means the more fluent you are in the language the faster and more extensive you can think. The English language is the most popular and common in the world. Almost 80% of the content available on the internet, for instance, is in the English language. An ocean of books and videos for all ages and all concepts including medical and
engineering is available in English and this content cannot be translated and accepted in Urdu or our mother tongues with our current resources. We have to blend this language into our Schools, Colleges, Universities and other institutes, intelligently. Prime minister, Imran Khan, has already given us the good news of
the formation of a common curriculum for all. Let’s hope that they are able to merge the English language and concepts appropriately so the students can take advantage from the language on national and international levels and also have strong, useful concepts.

The author writes for various newspapers with special focus on education and can be contacted at @Isaac12023174 on Twitter

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