Educational observers are growing concerned over the ongoing problems in language education in the Sindh region of Pakistan. Pakistan is a country with multiple spoken languages in widespread use, but the quality of language education in schools is undermining the quality of education in general and means students do not get the full benefits of education, according to some critics. The main problem in Sindh is that although Sindhi is the preferred language for all classroom lessons, many local non-governmental organizations who are educating the impoverished children of the region are leaning away from teaching in the preferred local tongue.
Although most NGOs have never attempted to teach classes predominantly in English, organizations such as The Citizen’s Foundation have opted to teach most classes in Urdu (the region’s other dominant language, besides Sindhi). While initially this approach was praised by many, it is having some undesirable effects – children being taught in Urdu are beginning to look down on Sindhi. It is feared that a stigma is becoming attached to Sindhi that could lead to a drop off in its use.
English, of course, is still of huge importance – learning English can be a key part of climbing out of poverty. However organizations decided early on not to make English the primary language of their schools, because they did not have the resources to supply each school with teachers who could do a justifiably good job. Ultimately, most organizations have decided that it is putting students at a disadvantage to learn in a foreign language when their teacher may not have even mastered it personally.
The concerns related to children looking down on Sindhi speakers may seem unusual to Westerners, but in a country like Pakistan where social divisions run along many different lines the problem is a serious one. Often outside observers believe that divisions are largely religion-based or ethnicity-based, and while those rivalries do exist, language is also a key factor in determining how sections of the Pakistani population interact with each other. Professor Iftikhar Dadi emphasized this point at a recent film screening at Syracuse University recently.