Mother Tongue or the Other Tongue? That is the Question!

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Shumaila Shafket Ali


Pakistan is a country with diverse cultures and languages but this cultural and linguistic diversity is hardly utilized in any of the domains of power, including the domain of education. Despite the fact that UNESCO has declared mother tongue education the right of every child, Pakistani children are deprived of this basic linguistic right which, according to the findings of neurolinguistic research, leads to cognitive development. If cognitive development takes place in one‟s mother tongue, depriving children of the opportunity to get mother tongue education implies inhibiting their cognitive development, which is a blatant violation of the linguistic rights of millions of children in several multilingual countries including Pakistan. The present study attempts to take into consideration university students‟ and teachers‟ opinion regarding the issue of medium of instruction and mother tongue education, as they are the actual stake-holders as far as the language and education policy of the country is concerned. The data for the study were gathered through focus group discussions with the students of the University of Karachi representing eight different ethno-linguistic groups along with teachers‟ interviews. The study not only projects students‟ and teachers‟ point of view but also highlights the factors that impede mother tongue education in the country affecting the cognitive growth of children, which ultimately affects their academic performance. In the light of the stake-holders‟ opinions, an effort is made to propose a series of recommendations for a feasible trilingual language and education policy that can help resolve the issue of medium of instruction by incorporating mother tongue education without neglecting the mainstream languages. Through the proposed recommendations it is hoped that the indigenous languages will get a chance to prosper, which can also empower the indigenous language speakers.

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