A couple of us were in the English debates circuit, which became the center of our reminiscing session. While going down memory lane, one of our team members asked a simple question that caught us all off guard; how was the Urdu debate circuit?
The truth is, none of us could answer that question. We remembered that there was a circuit, but it was much smaller than ours. Fewer teams, fewer competitions and as a result, fewer opportunities. And while we’d like to blame the debating circuit for its own failure, it becomes apparent that this is a symptom of a much bigger problem within society-local languages are sidelined at Private institutions.
Pakistan’s colonial history has played a huge role in why English is still given precedence over local languages. During colonization, The British enforced their cultures onto the population they were controlling by making structural systems that incentivized assimilation and punished dissent. While we were able to throw out the British, 200 years of colonial thought cannot just disappear. Those structures that were used to control us during colonization still exists. Most of our laws are written in either English or Urdu, both of which are considered languages of the elite.
To this date people who speak English are perceived as smarter than those who do not. Furthermore, local languages are seen as “dirty”. Our society’s perception of our local languages is still through a colonized mindset. And these types of thoughts seep into our education system. For example, just a couple of years ago, a Beaconhouse campus banned Punjabi, a regional language, from being spoken on campus.
This isn’t just about colonial times though. Neo-colonialism has also played a huge role in how people perceive languages. After the fall of the British Empire and Nazi Germany, the United States became the ruling world power. This change in the World Order didn’t effect the dominate language much though, with English remaining. Most forms of communication are still in English, making it essential for success in the global market. Let’s couple that with a more globalized world, and you create an environment where private institutions feel the need to concentrate on English.
Private institutions train their students to be able to go to the best universities- to be able to compete with the best of the best. As a result, English is given a massive amount of important, as knowing it will help the student to compete on the world stage.The best indicator of such a change is how the newer generation of private school students have more Americanized accents while older students accents are more British-showcasing the change in the new world order. Moreover, just compare the importance schools give to their English teachers and their Urdu teachers.
In the end, the only way to break away from the colonial mindsets is questioning and being aware of what all is around you. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re probably a benefactor of this system. Recognize that.