The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training has kick started the process of reviewing the national curriculum. The apparent objective of the exercise is to bring uniformity in the national curriculum or enforce a uniform curriculum throughout the country determining the use and role of other languages in teaching. The thrust of the proposed policy is on the English and Urdu to the peril of the indigenous mother tongues. This is a restricted scope of the proposed review and does not serve the bigger purpose of obviating, as far as possible, the contradictions, concoctions and fabrications that have seeped in our texts books of social sciences including the Pakistan studies.
The exercise also hinges on two issues of enormous sensitivity – promotion of mother tongues and the provincial autonomy as specified by the 18thAmendment in the Constitution. The amendment transfers the subject of the education to the federating units and, in constitutional terms, mandates them to develop education policies based on their needs and resources and determine the role of the English, Urdu and their mother tongue for teaching. What should be taught in social sciences particularly in Pakistan Studies and history should have uniformity in the National Curriculum doing away with the myths, concoctions and fabrications.
What the elaborate report of the Daily Dawn of 20thJanuary suggests is that the National Curriculum Council (NCC) places extraordinary emphasis on the use of the English and Urdu in teaching science subjects and Deeniyat from grade 1 to VII neglecting rather obviating the role of the indigenous languages in the now universally recognized ‘Mother tongue based multi-lingual education’. It is reported that the NCC in its recent meeting held in Islamabad under Mr. Javed Jabbar, advisor to the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training and attended by representatives of KPK and Balochistan, civil society and educational institutions from the private sector decided to restricted the role of indigenous languages as medium of instruction up to grade V whilst the two populous federal units of Punjab and Sindh were conspicuous by their absence in the meeting. Any decision taken by the NCC in the absence of these provinces would obviously be difficult to enforce.
The NCC, wittingly or unwittingly, is going to open a Pandora’s Box by dabbling in the sensitive issue of the languages. We should not forget that the federating units have been clamouring for the declaration of their local languages as national languages. This matter has echoed in the corridors of the Senate and the National Assembly more than once. Unfortunately, these two august Houses have not taken the demand of the federating units for any serious consideration. The known local languages in the country are Balochi and Brahvi in Balochistan, Pashto and Hindko in KPK, Punjabi and Seraiki in Punjab and Sindhi and Urdu in Sindh. Urdu being the lingua franca was declared as National Language at the outset of the independence that triggered protests in the erstwhile East Pakistan for neglecting the majority language, Bengali. Bengalis’ demand was simple that their language should be recognized as the National Language too.
Sindhis also had the same grievance and were greatly displeased with the Central Authority to have imposed Urdu on them in the One-Unit obviating role of Sindhi from the administrative offices, local bodies and courts. The sustained campaign, turning sometimes violent, carried on by the Sindhi intelligentsia, nationalist political leaders and activists is still fresh in the memory of the old political and intellectual hands of the country. They suffered prosecution and oppression but never compromised on the status of their well developed language. Sindhi has a long history of being the medium of instruction, teaching and learning, poetic and intellectual expression and the language of administration and courts as reflected by the compendium of the poetry of Shah Abdul Latif and Sachal Sarmast and the massive literary work in it.
After 1842, the British Raj annexed Sindh with the Bombay Presidency. However, the Raj made it a point not to tamper with the sensitive issue of the indigenous language. Given the significance of the Sindhi language and the pervasive use of it in the administration particularly in the maintenance of the revenue record, court proceedings and communication with the people, the Raj made it compulsory for the British Revenue Officers including Collectors and District Magistrates and Judges to learn Sindhi up to a certain level to be able to understand, write and communicate with the indigenous people or presiding over civil or criminal cases. Roger Pearce, an ICS officer who served as Deputy Commissioner in Sindh recalls in his Memoirs that he failed to qualify his compulsory Sindhi language examination in the first attempt. His annual increment was stopped until he passed his test after hiring a retired Hindu tutor and working hard for another year or so. Roger Pearce left Pakistan in 1948. One of the British Officers in Balochistan compiled the proverbs of the Brahvi language in a well researched book of over 250 pages.
The successors of the British Raj, the brown Sahibs, reduced the role of the indigenous languages instead of making them a means of understanding the local culture, customs and traditions and communicating easily with the populace whom they were supposed to serve. The first PPP regime tried to redeem the due status of the Sindhi language in July 1972 but the over-pampered protagonists of Urdu gave it a wrong twist igniting protests in the urban centers of the province. This sowed the seeds of the linguistic divide which has defied all attempts to abridge it. The Federal Government of the PTI is once again repeating the same mistake of dabbling in the incombustible issue of languages. Balochi, Brahvi, Pashto, Hindko, Punjabi and Seraiki, though qualified to be national languages, are not developed enough to be the medium of instruction in education. However, Sindhi passes all the tests of a well developed language and deserves to be treated at par with Urdu in any national curriculum policy.