Discriminatory Education Models Need To Be Replaced Via Decolonisation

Discriminatory Education Models Need To Be Replaced Via Decolonisation
According to Baldwin, language is a tool to reveal private identity and to connect or disconnect an individual from the communal identity. Language, and individual and society can’t be separated. It is language we stand out from a group of people, communities, and nations. Mother tongue is a bowl containing one's culture, traditions, songs, poetry and history. It is more than a communication.

This is the reason why colonial masters had imposed their own language in order to strangulate language, literature and indigenous scholarship of those colonised.

The key components of colonial project were depriving the indigenous communities of their language and culture, and robbery of natural resources and subsequent capital flow from former colonies to the crwon. Under colonial considerations, English language was imposed to colonise the minds of the colonised.

Westernising education in the subcontinent was the brainchild of Thomas Babington widely known as Lord Macauly. He wrote in the Minute on Education- a treatise that offered -definitive reasons for why the East India Company and the British government should spend on the provision of English language, as well as promotion of European learning: ”A single shelf of good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”.

Guided by this superiority, Macauly mapped out creating “ a class of persons ,Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals ,and in intellect.” Eventually, in 1835, Macauly successfully westernised education in India; English was made the official language for the government and courts, and was adopted as the official medium of instruction.

Although the ‘Sun of colonialism’ which refers to the physical occupation of states has gone down, yet the modified form of imperialism called linguistic imperialism continues to loom large over multitudes of population in Pakistan and elsewhere.

English language and the literature are doing the same for the occupiers in question.

The ascendancy of English language on the global stage has not only ensured linguistic monopoly ultimately undermining national languages in former colonies of Asia and Africa but also has it cultivated colonial culture as well as ensured capital flow from the colonised continents to the crown through both English language and elite education system presided over by ruling elites.

English is the official language of the independent Islamic Republic of Pakistan.  It is the language of power, favouring minority. In this state of Pakistan, English medium Schools, better say, Elite Schools have mushroomed. Such Schools have either O-level or Cambridge System with globally centralized syllabus and an examination system as well. The text books are highly Eurocentric ultimately cultivating westernised character. Those enrolled coming from well-off and ruling elite’s families, are taught European thought and theories finally resulting in disparaging national languages and culture. These educational institutions are said to be nurseries producing westernised generation for the corridors of power, and commerce. Thus, the local imperialists are produced by the syllabus prepared, under western eyes, and earning ensured through is ice on the cake.

The vast majority lives in rural areas; neither there are standard public sector schools for their children nor can they afford elite private education. The majority, thus, is deprived of education, a ticket to a bright future.

For a promising career English language efficiency to the level of native standard is required in a country whose national language is Urdu, not English. Writer Abdus Sattar in his insightful write-up titled “The State of Education” convincingly commented that “The root cause of the problem started from colonialism. Under the policy of divide and rule, they divided education among rich and poor. They dismantled the traditional education system and introduced an English education system. It had no link with the domestic education system and had its own foreign curriculum and exams. Educational institutions that followed this system were established in the region.

The purpose of those institutions was to educate elite class only. Unfortunately, the educated elite class from those institutions indulged in a false complex and considered themselves a superior class.This created a sense of deprivation among the poor class. The elite class always enjoyed power and wealth in the region. The volume of the elite class also enlarged with the passage of time.

They strengthened the planted English education system for their future generations too. The colonialism physically disappeared from the region. But it could not vanish from hearts, minds and souls. The discriminatory English education system that persists today is the product of colonial rule. As a result, multiple education systems have emerged in the country”.

Consequently, because of this discriminatory education system, gate keeping of those who have not graduated from elite academic institutions is commonplace in our country. A great many educated with professional potentialities get rejected on the basis of having no native accent in English.

Take a newspaper, you will notice many advertisements offering employment opportunities for academic and non academic engagement, making it clear that native accent is needed for the jobs offered. Also, those lacking such ascent are also mocked at social circles with English speaking environment.

This prejudiced system suits to ruling elites -our new colonial masters following in the footsteps of former imperialists. What can’t be achieved directly, is ensured indirectly -through colonial education. And the same concern is convincingly conveyed by the distinguished Ghanaian author named Prah who writes that "the colonial education system created a "colonial elite" that valued English over their mother tongue. This still persists despite the end of direct colonial control. There is still a group of elites that supports the dominance of colonial language "particularly in the intellectual, scientific and technological space."

Prah thinks that colonisers are no longer directly causing the process of language erasure, but the general Anglo-American dominance of culture and science is leading some African elites to openly embracing English instead of their home language.” Children with broken speech – of their mother tongue, are enrolled in elite Schools where they are taught in English. What we need to realise is that the nations that have prioritised education in their mother tongue have excelled in education and research since basics of both learning and enquiry are built upon strong foundations.

The 14th International Urdu Conference recently held in Karachi had arranged the session under the head of “75 Years of Education” with educationists and learned men in attendance who offered a diversified input on the topic. And, they were unanimous while stressing the need of teaching primary education in mother tongue.

Educationist and writer Zubaifa Mustafa minced no words and said, “we are getting degrees but not education as children are not taught in their mother tongue especially those in primary education. It is to be kept in mind that modern research has established that teaching children in their mother tongue in primary enhances their ability to learn other languages efficiently.

The educationist Sadiqa Sallahuddin rang alarm bells having concluded that main reason behind” children-out- of- School” is not teaching them in mother tongue. It is to be noted that around 25 million children are out of school. Akbar Leghari ,Sindh Education Secretary said, "the aims and objectives of education has kept changing throughout history."

Aristotlian education had prioritised producing good rulers followed by churning out effective bureaucracy and useful citizens. However, cultivating cognitive capacity among the learners is one of the highest objectives of learning throughout the history. These days; utility in terms of getting jobs is the ultimate objective attached to schooling.

The Single National Curriculum (SNC) was being touted as a panacea for inequality in education. However, the SNC had faild to embrace regional languages as medium of instruction. It has to be kept in mind that as early as 1953, UNESCO  stressed to introduce the home language right from the start i-e primary education. With home language, children are more likely to enroll and succeed and the drop-out-rate will decrease to a considerable level.

Educational linguist Tove Skutnabb-Kangas argued that “it is part of linguistic imperialism to teach at the expense of one’s first language. This subtractive bilingualism (i-e.it takes away or subtracts a language),whereas it is only additive bilingualism (i.e. that which adds a language without taking away one’s first language) which is welcome. She equates this kind of imperialism with racism and argues that it infringes upon the rights of children to know and respect their languages.”

The policymakers have preserved the discriminatory education model like a sacred Scripture because it suits their predatory political and economic hold-the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few families.

The distinguished author and Professor Emeritus Tariq Rahman in his book Linguistics for Beginners wrote that “we use a language or languages in our government, judiciary, administration, education, commerce, media and the corporate sector. If we know these languages ,we can get jobs in these domains but if we do not, we will be left out.

Now these domains of work are called domains of power because modern states and the private sector exercise power through them. The languages of power are the languages used in them. As you can appreciate, the major language of power in South Asia is English. If you know English very well, you are much likely to enter domains of power. If you know other languages used in the lower domains of power, you will get jobs but not very good ones.”

Decolonising education has gained momentum in European states and America in recent years so much so that even white population has raised robust reaction over colonized curriculum in their respective countries.

Under this pressure, Bristol University choreographed a digital course to discuss the topic. I did a digital course in 2021, Decolonising Education: From Theory to Practicse offered by University of Bristol, Britain. The course was aimed at finding means and methods to decolonise the education in Britain in order quell public anger against colonised education.

It dawned upon me by the virtue of this course that colonial masters had deliberately kept people of the Subcontinent and Africa away from mathematics, touting it to be for the genius only, so that multitudes of the population from the previous colonies could be excluded from the field of scientific advancement. Let us not forget that mathematics is a key to entry into science.

This is the reason why, people of Asia and Africa are less represented in science and research. Thus, the indigenous scholarship was strangulated by colonial structures. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently remarked that “Education is in a deep crises. Instead of being the great enabler, education is fast becoming a great divider.”

He stressed the need to transform education. This is so apt to our situation as the divisive education system has not only divided the nation but also has it undermined economic advancement Pakistan can not achieve economic progress while depriving the the majority of its citizens their constitutional right of a democratic education.

It is now time to decolonise education and national character.

The writer is a freelance contributor. He may reached at nazeerarijo@gmail.com. Nazeer tweets at @nazeerarijo.