As boundaries become blurred and perceptions of identities evolve, we find the world being referred to as a global village and its inhabitants as global citizens. These global citizens, in growing numbers, are adopting English as the lingua franca, resulting in the incidence of teaching and learning English language being higher than other world languages.
Likewise in Pakistan, the ability to communicate fluently in English is highly valued among many groups in society and English is taught at school from the primary level in both the public and private sector. While the public sector follows the local system of education, a number of private-sector schooling, culminates with students appearing for the University of Cambridge examinations or their British equivalent.
One of the reasons Pakistan has inherited its aspiration for fluency in the English language, stems from its colonial past when it was part of India and ruled by the British Empire. Despite the departure of the British from the Indian subcontinent several decades ago, followed by Pakistan becoming an independent nation, the legacy of British education still prevails in Pakistan to a large extent.
On a macro level, English is important for Pakistan’s development as it increases the population’s chances of geographical mobility for improved education and employment prospects and provides a bridge to connect Pakistan with other developing nations. On an individual level, fluency in English is a highly sought after skill and is believed to increase a person’s socio-economic status.
Pakistan’s literacy rate stands at approximately 54% with most of the educated population being concentrated in urban areas. One of the main reasons for over half the Pakistani population being unable to read or write is the absence of a strong public education system. Statistically, a large number of state-run schools exist; however, the conditions in these are often so appalling that parents prefer not to send their children to school. A report by UNESCO in 2012 ranked Pakistan as the country with the second largest number of children out of school. Despite this dismal revelation the government of Pakistan recently reduced its public spending on education.
Another major factor due to which children do not attend government-run schools is poverty. Parents often have to make hard choices because a child at school means there is one less earning member of the family. Young children are often subjected to child labor and deprived of an education.
In response to the shortcomings of the public education system a large private education system exists in Pakistan, where parents who can afford to pay, send their children to gain a better standard of education. Furthermore, there are two main streams of education running in parallel, one is the national curriculum and the other, less prevalent, is the British system of education. English Language is taught within both streams; however, the level of English expected of students opting to study the British system is more advanced.
About the Author:
F Merchant is an educator with extensive international experience. Having achieved her training from the UK & USA, she is currently working in Pakistan to improve educational practices and empower educators.