New education policy and Urdu
By: Sadaket Ali Malik
It has been acknowledged that the growing trend towards English and the expanding network of English schools has created a gap between the children in the society which is widening day by day. Therefore, it is important that primary education is the same for all so that children do not feel big or small. The benefits of primary education in the mother tongue are beyond doubt, so this provision of the new education policy must be welcomed.
The way the social system has changed with the change in individual and collective life, the effect on our education system and education policy has been natural, so every government has been experimenting with education policy. The education system that the British left behind is still in place today, but it has been changed from time to time. The last change was made three years ago. Now politicians and academics have reacted differently to the change that has taken place.
In general, it is not wrong to say that the government has decided to formulate and then implement this education policy after much deliberation. It is appropriate for us, as individuals of a religious-linguistic minority, to see what is in this policy for us. Or what can we achieve? First of all, look at the changes in education policy.
The new education policy expands the scope of the education system to include a three-year “pre-schooling period” and calls for making the medium of instruction at least a fifth mother tongue/regional language/local language. This was a very old demand. All educators have been recommending that primary education should be in the mother tongue, however, some people disagree that in this age education without English is unthinkable.
Thanks to English, Indian students have demonstrated their access to the latest technology. But there is also the view that despite the English education, the performance of our students and educational institutions globally is not promising. It has also been acknowledged that the growing trend towards English and the expanding network of English schools has created a gap between the children in the society which is widening day by day. Therefore, it is important that primary education is the same for all so that children do not feel inferior.
However, it is important for Urdu speakers to think and approach the government on how to improve the quality and environment of Urdu schools in Jammu and Kashmir where the network of Urdu schools is widely spread. The second thing that needs to be considered more than the first thing is how to start elementary Urdu schools in states where there is a significant number of Urdu learners but no Urdu schools? The new education policy places this responsibility on the state government and school administration. Much of what the state government will do depends on what the school administration decides.
The painful fact in this regard is that the slogan of development of Urdu itself and those running Urdu schools did not try to raise the standard of Urdu schools. There are thousands of such pre-primary and primary schools where English is taught for a fee, although in the home environment of the child. The process of starting pre-primary and primary private Urdu schools is almost over. The situation would not be so bad today if measures had been taken to improve the quality of English in the municipal corporation and in the primary Urdu schools of the district council.
The government’s dream of developing Indian languages and providing primary education in the mother tongue is welcome but it should also be remembered that even when the trilingual formula was introduced in 1971, there was great potential for Urdu education. Practical ways to develop Indian languages and link them to education at various levels are likely to emerge by June 2. Isn’t it necessary for all Urdu speakers to think about how our child can learn Urdu at the primary level or later as a subject in the language that shapes our cultural life?
If a child learns Urdu correctly only up to level five and at the same time continues to improve his ability in English and computer, he will not have any problem at any level. But there are two major obstacles to this. The first hurdle is that the number of people who do not even consider the loss of civilization is constantly increasing. The second obstacle is that we, the newcomers to Urdu education, do not try to improve the quality and environment of Urdu primary and pre-primary schools and are not interested in opening new schools.
Urdu is not only a beautiful language but also a complete civilization. If Urdu school administrators and teachers plan to attract others to Urdu education, they have to provide best possible education at minimum cost. The dream that was shattered after the partition of India can be realized by taking advantage of the government’s program to provide primary education in mother tongue or local language.
The country’s most organized party, which claims to be apolitical and has full control of the government, is a strong supporter of mother tongue education, but there is a growing misconception in the minds of its leaders and sympathizers that Urdu is not the language of India or its relationship with Indianness is somewhat weak or it is the language and culture that nurtures a mind that hurts patriotism. All these fears are artificial and can be removed provided the Urdu people have a plan of action and they can act on it. Our weakness is evident in the fact that we ourselves look down on our language.
Removing Urdu from the Kashmiri linguistic scenario is likely to cause unrest among Urdu speakers and speakers of other languages. Is it a good time to throw boiling oil on these wounds through a language debate, the dangers of which have not yet been fully measured?
What is needed is to retain the official status of this language in Jammu and Kashmir.
- The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org