Urdu being the language of instruction in government schools has contributed to grievances and political tensions in Pakistan, a new UNESCO report released on Friday said.
“In Pakistan, the continued use of Urdu as the language of instruction in government schools, even though it is spoken at home by less than 8% of the population, has also contributed to political tensions,” the report said.
The paper by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) added that the adoption of Urdu as the national language after independence had been a source of alienation in a country that is home to six major linguistic groups and 58 smaller ones.
“The failure to recognise Bengali, spoken by the vast majority of the population in East Pakistan, was one of the major sources of conflict within the new country, leading to student riots in 1952. The riots gave birth to the Bengali Language Movement, a precursor to the movement that fought for the secession of East Pakistan and the creation of a new country, Bangladesh,” the paper stated.
Even in Bangladesh, where Bengali is the national language, non-Bengali speaking tribal groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts have cited a perceived injustice over language as a factor that justifies their secession demands, according to the report.
The paper titled ‘If you don’t understand, how can you learn?’ released for International Mother Language Day (February 21)’ added that 40% of the global population does not have access to education in a language they understand.
The report argued that being taught in a language other than their own can negatively impact children’s learning, especially for those living in poverty.
“In multi-ethnic societies, including Turkey, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Guatemala, the paper shows that imposing a dominant language through a school system – while sometimes a choice of necessity – has frequently been a source of grievance linked to wider issues of social and cultural inequality.”