Education Policies of Pakistan & Official Languages


The threads of language are strongly knotted with education and literature that it is not possible to examine the educational scenario in isolation. This triangle becomes comprehensive only if the impact of one of them is studied on the others and vice versa.

The languages in use before independence of Pakistan were Arabic and Persian. The traces of Urdu language in Mughal period are found.

In the context of language it is very important to address the issue of negligence of Persian language by the Hindustan-Centric historians. Muzzafar Alam writes in a chapter for Persian in his book Literary Cultures in History: Reconstruction from South Asia, “The period examined in this chapter is between the 12th and 19th Centuries, when Persian influence was at its apogee in mother India,” shows the denial of Persian presence in history before mid-16th century is nothing but ignoring the fact.

Language and its evolution gives birth to numerous genres for writing. Likewise Farsi in the 11th Century attached Scholars and Literary Figures from Khurasan, Iran, and Mawara-un-nahr. Thus Persian literature flourished in Punjab.

Alam further writes in his book, “Persian text of the time of the first Ghurid Ruler, Ala al-Din Jahansuz (1149-1161) stated that among the areas where Persian verse has cast its shadow and was appreciated was the periphery (or the districts) of the land of Hind (atraf-i-bilad-i-Hind), referring to the Punjab.”

The efforts of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder of Muslim Anglo-Oriental Collage at Aligarh, and his supporters did not end in vain and motivated all to learn English. Shrrafa’s, as they were known, continuous resistance left them far away from those who adopted it immediately like Bengali. They were adhered to their cultural values and were reluctant to alter themselves for the forced change of language. However, as the time went by the political landscape of the subcontinent forced all to embrace English as a “compulsion”.

The dissolving impact of the Persian language from Subcontinent can clearly be observed from a funny or rather sad quote of that time that says, “Parho Farsi Becho Tail” “learning Persian is good only for selling oil”.

As a mater of fact, the evolving language flowers more than the one near extinction. This is the time when paradigm was shifted drastically. The trend of education gradually changed from Arabic, and Farsi to Urdu and English. The production of literature witnessed the same change.

The trend of getting education was very common at that time. Max Millar’s Report supports the fact that every city had a number of madrassas and libraries. According to this report, approximately 80000 libraries were present in Bengal only which depicts the enriched educational heritage of people living there for centuries.

In old times, educated, aged and responsible individuals gathered public in their homes, mosques, bethak (guests halls) where preaching of every sphere of life in the light of different contexts was done effectively.

Before independence, the educational movements uplifted the momentum and made progress in various issues. Several movements can be quoted in this regard. Sir Syed and Aligarh, Deoband, The Barelvis, Nadwat-ul-ulema (Lucknow), and Anjuman Himayat-e-Islam are significant to quote for changing the landscape of education.

After independence numeral problems were looming over society. In limited resources achieving the said targets was a real challenge. Quida-e-Azam while addressing in the first Educational Conference said, “Education does not merely mean academic education and even that appears to be of very poor type. We have to mobilize our people.

There is an urgent and immediate need for training our people in scientific and technical education in order to build up our future economic life. I must emphasize that greater attention should be paid to technical and vocational education.”

During the first three decades after independence, education in Pakistan was accorded a very low official priority. From 1985, a greater share of the budget has been spent on education. In 1960, Pakistan was only spending 2% of the budget on education which by 1990, had grown to 2.9%. However, other nations in Asia such as India and Sri Lanka were spending in access of 3.3% annually and Bangladesh had allocated 10% of its budget to education. Even after the mass Nationalization of the 1970s, state expenditure on education never rose above 3% of the budget, while the average expenditure on education amongst other developing countries was 4.6% of the budget.

To cope with multiple issues related to education several educational policies and Education Commissions Reports were formulated. The report of the KU Enquiry Committee (1956-1957), the report of the Shariff Commission on National Education (1959), the report of the Hamood-ur-rahman Commission on students problems and welfare (1956), the Nur Khan Report (1969), New education Policy (1970), The education Policy (1972), The National Education Policy (1979), the National Education Policy and Implementation Programme (1979), The University Grant Commission Report (1982), National Education Policy (1992), The National Education Policy of Nawaz Sharif (1998-2010), Education Sector Reforms (2000-2003), Report of the Task Force on improvement of higher education in Pakistan(2002), all these tried to address and eliminate the various issues related to education system of Pakistan. Although at first efforts were made but the problems run parallel with it and remained with little variation.

Sabiha Mansoor in her book “Language Planning in Higher Education” narrates in “Although all these reports, commissions and committees emphasized the commonality of core themes, which includes different aspects a) Ideological base b) national unity c) individual development d) societal development e) economic progress, f) equality of education and g) quality of education. The aims and objectives of these were to increase the literacy rate.

According to World Bank Report (1990) despite all those measures the academic standard at all the levels remains the same”. The hindrance in making the education system smooth is certainly a big trouble. Rates of absenteeism and drop-out are very high, and it was estimated that more than half the students joining primary school leave within five years. One-third of female students drop out within a year. Poor families have complained about the hidden costs of sending their children to school. The children can no longer earn and cannot afford uniforms or text books. The government regulated curriculum is widely perceived to be irrelevant to the children’s needs and many schools continue to function either without buildings or in buildings in poor repair. A government report in 1989 admitted that over 60% of government school buildings were unsafe. And the situation grows worse day by day.

Moreover, poor implications of reforms due to inefficiency and massive corruption are some of the issues that have increased the problems on various levels.

Currently, the conflict between two languages, English and Urdu, is quite evident. The debate over English and Urdu Medium is a hot topic since many years. Schools for having Urdu as a medium of education are often downplayed for not having a good quality of education. However, many outliers are the product of these schools that enjoyed power over the English medium gentry.

The advent of technology has changed the mode of traditional education, although the basic problem of Primary Education and literacy remains the same. Many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are available for those who have access to internet. The e-learning has provided the chance for them who enjoy the facility of new technology and can easily access it.

A.P.J Abdul Kalam in his book “Ignited Minds” takes Dr. Wayne W. Dyer’s different stages of life time and expand the concept into the development of nation. There are four stages. The first stage is Athlete stage: a fresh nation embarks on energetic pursuits of performance and achievement. 2nd stage is termed as warrior stage where a nation demonstrates its superiority over others. The third stage is referred as “Statespersons” (bother stage) where the nation helps others. 4th and the last stage is the spirit stage where the nation finds its true essence and nothing matters but love and prosperity.

After many years of independence it is our turn to ponder upon the base of education as a nation where do we stand in the aforementioned stages? Have we achieved our goals or it is yet to be decided by our aptitude?

No doubt, a proper education with all its quality and advancement will nurture the minds of youth and ignite their dignity as a nation. The flaws in behaviors will only be molded provided intensive efforts are to be made to groom the perceptions of individuals which will ultimately lead to the acceptance of the difference of opinion. To unfreeze the conservative thoughts the only effective medium is education. And the other way can be creating literature which indirectly shapes the thinking patterns of individuals on a large level. Thus the solution of our problems is hidden in only education, education, and education.

Mehar-un-nisa is an aspiring Journalist and blogger. She has completed her BS in Mass Communication from the University of Karachi. she tweets at @mehar_un_nisa and can be reached at

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