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Fleeting moments

August 24, 2019

Language of opportunity

Opinion

August 24, 2019

The education crisis is no news in our country. According to a Wilson Centre report, 17 million children of primary school education age go to school and five million don’t attend any school. But a crisis of more serious nature plagues the situation. Those who attend schools cannot read a sentence correctly, the report points out.

Another school of thought experts propound is that all primary education should be imparted in students’ mother language, which means Sindhi in Sindh, Balochi in Balochistan, Punjabi in Punjab and Pashto in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Thus, experimentation in the education sector goes on not only on the lower level but also at the higher level, which is indeed disappointing. As a result, degrees dished out by our universities are looked upon with suspicion in the outside world.

Even Saudi Arabia and some of the Gulf States have lately disqualified doctors holding Master of Medicine and Master of Surgery degrees from Pakistani universities. The Saudi Commission for Health Specialities lately issued termination letters to many doctors by saying that their Masters degree from Pakistan was not acceptable according to the SCFHS regulations. However, similar degrees from Sudan, Bangladesh and Egypt are readily accepted.

When higher degrees in medicine and surgery conferred by our universities are considered suspect outside the country, what about such degrees in other disciplines of higher education? For instance, the University of Punjab sprawled on hundreds of acres of pricy land runs departments such as the Centre For Integrated Mountain Research and a Space Sciences centre – offering MPhils and PhDs. Impressive names these but where do all those earning masters from such institutions end up?

Many degree-holders in the various fields that PU offers end up doing odd jobs abroad. This is not to underrate the dignity of labour but to ask why our masters degree-holders don’t get jobs commensurate with their qualifications? Recognition of their degrees comes later; they can’t even pass the basic International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – which haunts them like a nightmare.

I know this for a fact since my daughter has been teaching IELTS in Melbourne for some years after doing a Masters in TESOL – Teaching English to Students of Foreign Languages. She feels disappointed to see both male and female seekers of citizenship struggling to clear IELTS after doing their masters from the University of Punjab or some such. She thinks masters degree-holders from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka do better in IELTS than our young men and women. And here we’re embroiled in futile discussions which curriculum and language to choose for our future generations.

On the other hand, a formidable youth bulge stares us in the face. At present, more than 60 percent of the nation is younger than 30 years of age. According to a UNDP report, this trend is likely to continue until 2050. If young men in such large numbers are not trained and educated on modern lines, what future awaits them? No wonder then that a sense of frustration and anger is manifestly palpable among our youth.

Crime is on the rise and human life has lost its value, which is a sure sign of too many mouths vying for too little available to feed them. It’s an empty political slogan that our youth has great potential for export. We forget that the youth must first be qualified to suit the requirement of other countries wanting to import human resource.

As it is, English has become a language of opportunity. Instead of promoting it in the curriculum, some of our education experts want to do away with it. Such experts have already reached where they wanted to in life; they had better not play with the future of our younger generation.

A specious argument offered in favour of promoting local languages in the education system is by quoting the examples of Germany and Japan. How ridiculous. Both countries don’t need to impart education in any foreign language since research and development in all disciplines, including the most important – Science and Technology – emanates from there. We will do well by introducing English as a compulsory subject from primary classes upward.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]

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