By: Safir Rammah
APNA firmly believes that the medium of education in West Punjab's government schools must be immediatly changed from Urdu to Punjabi. Here are some of the reasons why have we come to this conclusion:
1. We believe that Punjabi is among the most viable languages in the world. It is a true statement based on all pertinent criteria that one may use to judge the viability of a language, including but not limited to, the different stages of its natural development that it had gone through over more than two thousand years, number of native speakers (more than 120 millions worldwide), vastness and depth of vocabulary, richness and variety of literature and much more.
2. We concur with the consensus of experts in the field of formal education that primary education for children must be provided in their native language. All experts in the field of formal education have come to the conclusion that although children have the capacity to learn multiple languages, their native language provides the best and most natural way to relate to their surroundings, things and ideas. On the other hand, a slower development of learning skill is observed when a different language is used as the medium of education in primary schools then the one spoken at home. We also fully concur with UNESCO that has adopted this concept in its constitution as follows:
(UNESCO 1953:11) It is axiomatic that the best medium of teaching a child is his mother tongue.
PSCYCHOLOGICALLY, it is the system of meaningful signs that in his mind works automatically for expression and understanding.
SOCIOLOGICALLY, it is the means of identification among members of the community to which he belongs.
EDUCATIONALLY, he learns more quickly through it than through an unfamiliar linguistic medium
There is absolutely no reason why the majority of West Punjabi children should be unfairly disadvantaged by forcing them to learn, speak, write and think from grade 1 on in a language that is not spoken at their homes.
3) We believe that the use of Urdu as the medium of instructions in schools is the main cause of low literacy rate in West Punjab and is one of the main impediments of economic growth and development of civil society. We take note of the fact that all developed nations, including the "Asian Tigers" that have recently made major strides in economic development, use their native languages as medium of instructions in schools. We are convinced that education in Punjabi is a must for the educational, economic and civil development of West Punjab.
4). We believe that language, more than anything else, is the primary vehicle in the continuation of any culture. Words of any language have many and different connotations that can only be understood and appreciated by the native speakers and they carry with them the life experience of all past generations. If we break the language link, we end up in transplanting a child in a different cultural and social environment. A graduate of an Urdu medium school can generally better relate with the life experience of 18th and 19th century Delhi and Lakhnow residents that he learned through exclusively reading the classical Urdu literature (in the absence of any exposure to the rich Punjabi literature) than with his own forefathers.
5) We believe that the native language is the only genuine and true medium of expression for any nationality, in particular for communicating their emotions and feelings to each other. Millions of Punjabi sons and daughters who even today write letters to their Punjabi speaking parents, friends and other loved ones in Urdu or English are missing the most basic and vital mode of communications available to human beings – their own mother tongue. If we sit down for a few moments and ponder on this phenomena, we will soon come to the conclusion that it is a crime against a whole nation to deprive them the proper training in written expression in their own language.
6) We also believe that lack of education in Punjabi language at primary and secondary levels has created a vicious circle that is the main barrier in the growth of Punjabi language in West Punjab. One can easily see this direct relationship between the medium of school instructions in a certain language and the viability of published media in that language. In West Punjab, where Urdu and, to some extent, English are the medium of instruction, these languages dominate the published media. On the other hand in Sindh and East Punjab where native languages are the medium of instruction in schools, there is a large circulation of newspapers, etc., that are published in native languages.
7) Our view is that the current situation where generations of Punjabis have been required to learn Urdu instead of their native language, Punjabi, in the schools for the last 150+ years is not a natural linguistic development. Rather, it is the result of conscious (and wrong) decisions made by various administrations that have ruled over Punjab, beginning with the earliest British administrators of Punjab after 1849.
Regardless of one's views about the historical and political reasons, the fact remains that for all the good or bad intentions and right or wrong reason's Punjabi is not the medium of instructions in West Punjab. We believe that it is wrong and that it is time we should implement Punjabi as the medium of instruction in our schools.