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TCF’s ‘Language Ladder for Pakistan’ Highlights Language Barrier in Education

The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is releasing its first research report that is intended to change how people conceive the role of language in education.

The medium of teaching, particularly in public schools of rural areas is Urdu, owing to which many students face language barriers as their zones of interaction are limited mostly to the household where the mother tongue is spoken.

On the other hand, students in some rural areas speak more than one language as their mother tongue like the people of Tharparkar speak a mix of Dhatki, Katchi, and Sindhi.


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The team also observed that a child living in Mithi (an area of Thar) will converse confidently in his or her mother tongue but when made to communicate in a different language in school, the child loses confidence, and his or her body language changes.

To remedy this issue, the TCF research team has devised an approach to educating children who speak many languages as their mother tongue and eventually getting them to gradually speak Urdu and English fluently.

For this, their team interviewed about 150 experts in Pakistan and around the world, studied around 450 research papers, and cataloged language policies in other multilingual countries.


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They call this technique a ‘language ladder for Pakistan’, which they believe can provide a solution to the country’s unresolved language problems.

The summary of the ‘language ladder’ is given below:

  • Start formal education with the mother tongue or choose the widely spoken language as a Medium of Instruction (MOI) in heterogeneous contexts
  • When linguistic proximity between two languages is high, it is easier to transition to the second language
  • Keep the touch of English and Urdu as both languages cannot be underestimated as a medium of communication (not instruction) so that student learn the basic level of the second language with everyday use for up to three years
  • Second language (Urdu) can be introduced as a subject in the initial years of schooling. When students have acquired competency in the first language, they have more chances to learn the second language as well
  • While introducing the second language, make sure that the literacy development of the first language is not affected
  • Gradual exposure of at least 5-8 years in the unfamiliar language is beneficial before using that language as MOI
  • Now, the foreign/third language (English) can be introduced after basic proficiency in the first language has been established.
  • Adopt additive model of multilingualism (Add more languages with time) and provide diverse academic material according to language decisions

The organization’s research team states that teaching a child in its mother tongue at an early age is more beneficial and effective than teaching in other languages and that this problem needs to be highlighted to save the future of Pakistan.

The complete report will be released on January 14.

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