Education in mother tongue – Dr Manzur Ejaz

Courtesy: Wichaar

Research has shown that the students proficient in their mother tongue are better equipped to learn other languages. Furthermore, it is apparent that the countries that used mother tongues as medium of education were better in augmenting and creating knowledge.

It was the International Mother Tongue Day three days ago (February 21). I want my fellow Punjabis to be tolerant of other religions/sects and look forward. I want them to be conscientious citizens who pay their dues to society and help people who are not very fortunate in their lives. How can I help in inculcating such a mindset in them? In other words, given the historical limitations, what goes into grooming the collective mindset that I desire?

Probably everyone would agree that besides real life experience, the mind is affected by what we observe, hear or read. As formal education starts quite early in life, the written word has assumed unprecedented importance. Therefore, the intolerant, obsessive mindset that most Punjabis or Pakistanis have assumed has to be traced back, partially, to our educational system and medium of education. There is an obvious correlation between the spread of education and the rise of religious extremism because the rural and formally less educated communities were much more tolerant than the new urban or semi-urban population that has been exposed to our educational system.

Let us take tolerance of others as a basic human value that we expect from an enlightened/educated individual. If there is no formal educational system, the individuals are left to their own devices to figure out their relationship with people who are different from them in matters of faith or traditions. Probably, the individuals will rely on the received word from indigenous sources, i.e. literature, the arts, traditions, etc.

In Punjab’s case, this meant reading — there were millions of people who could read Punjabi only — or listening to Punjabi classics. Some of these writings had religious undertones (Sufism) while others were just romantic legends though the traditional people interpreted them as symbolic expressions of spiritualism. These indigenous sources, preaching humanistic values, were helpful in creating a tolerant mindset. Taking it out of the educational system and replacing it with Urdu, Persian or English literature was alienating, and left the students with no real human values: few could really grasp the material and even they could not feel the spirit of foreign literature.

As another example, let us see what kind of a mindset can accept a secular state. It means that the people should understand that they are different from each other and no group, majority or minority, has the right to impose its own preferences on others. It also means that the relationship with the Supreme Being should be taken as an individual act rather than a group contract.

Mullah Shahi believes they have a unique contract with God and therefore it is their right to impose their group preferences on others. On the contrary, most Sufi literature in Punjabi (and in other languages) preaches an individual relationship with the Supreme Being and trashes the mullah for imposing group preferences. They kept their doors open to people of other religions as well as to converted Muslims from the lower castes — that constituted the majority of Muslims in India — who were treated like non-Muslim untouchables. By inculcating an individual relationship with the Supreme Being, Sufi thought does not impinge on the politics of the state. The majority of the population in many secular states like the US is very religious minded, but faith is considered an individual matter. Therefore, the Sufis were ahead of their time in preaching these notions.

Religious formations and other makers of the Pakistan ideology were quite adamant about keeping the people away from indigenous sources by imposing foreign languages as mediums of education. They were conscious about the secular content of the Sufi discourse. Therefore, if we want to create an enlightened mindset, we have to change course and adopt mother tongues as mediums of education so that the coming generations are groomed through humanistic literature.

Furthermore, the historical experience shows that mass literacy and, hence, enlightenment cannot be achieved unless the mother tongue is used as a medium of education, besides other factors. As a medium of education, the mother tongue affects the quantitative as well as qualitative outcomes. Mr Majid Sheikh has proved through historical records that at the time of British annexation, the literacy rate in Lahore and its neighbourhood was about 80 percent, which is down to single digits now.

The literacy rate plunged because the medium of education was changed from the mother tongue to Urdu and English. Some English civil servants had foretold the consequences of not making the mother tongue the medium of education. They argued that when Latin was the medium of education in England, education was limited to narrow circles. However, when French was adopted as a medium of education, the literacy rate expanded a bit, but mass education was made possible only when the Celtic dialect, adopted as Standard English, was made the medium of education.

The qualitative impact of teaching in the mother tongue is also immense. To start with, research has shown that the students proficient in their mother tongue are better equipped to learn other languages. Furthermore, it is apparent that the countries that used mother tongues as medium of education were better in augmenting and creating knowledge. East Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea and parts of India, where mother tongues have played a serious role, are much better off than North India (including Pakistan).

Of course this is only one precondition for the creation of a forward looking society. There are several other conditions that have to be met to achieve this goal, but they are not within the scope of this short column.

The writer can be reached at

February 24th, 2010

Source –

12 thoughts on “Education in mother tongue – Dr Manzur Ejaz”

  1. मातृभाषाको सम्मान राष्ट्रको सम्मान |

  2. We can make Pakistan a great state if we love our culture and believe in justice.There is no life with social justice and modern education in our mother tongue.

  3. मातृभाषामा शिक्षा

    माताको दूध शिशुलाई शिक्षा मातृभाषामा,
    प्रभाव पर्छ सृस्‍टिलाई प्रकाशको गतिमा।

    यी माथिका हरफ मेघालय शिलोंगका नेपालीभाषी पुस्तक ब्यबसायी श्री बिष्णु गौतमले बिगत ५ वर्ष देखि जोड तोडका साथ प्रचार प्रसार गर्दै आएका छन् । उनले प्रकाशन गरेका पुस्तक, बिजक, लेटर प्याड, पुस्तक सुची जताततै यी हरफ देख्न पाइन्छ । नेपाली, अंग्रेजी, खासी र बंगाली भाषामा लेखिएका यी हरफले मातृभाषाको शक्तिले सृष्टिको रक्षा र यस सुन्दर बहुरंगी विश्व-बाटिकालाइ द्रुत गतिमा सुमुन्नत बनाउन टेवा मिल्ने संदेश दिन्छ ।

    जन्मेपछि सम्बाद गर्न सिकेको पहिलो भाषा नै मानिसको मातृभाषा हो । संसारमा ज्ञान, सोच र कल्पनाको बहुरंगी विविधता कायम राख्न पनि मातृभाषालाइ बचाईराख्न र विकास गर्न जरुरि छ । मातृभाषामा दिइने शिक्षाले सम्बन्धित भाषा त्यसको लिपि, जातीय संस्कार र संस्कृतिको विकास तथा समाजमा उत्प्रेरणा र चेतनाको अभिवृद्धि हुन्छ । यदि कुनै भाषा लोप भएर गयो भने त्यस जतिको संस्कृति पनि लोप भएर जान्छ । संस्कृतिक सम्वृद्धिमा सबैभन्दा ठूलो योगदान भाषाको नै हुन्छ । मातृभाषामा दिइने अभिव्यक्ति सबैभन्दा परिपूर्ण र सहज हुन्छ । यदि मातृभाषा सम्पन्न भयनन भने संसारमा धेरै कारोबार हुने सम्पर्क भाषाको अवस्था पनि खोक्रो हुन जानेछ । ससाना हजारौ मातृभाषाका कारणले नै संसारका सम्पर्क भाषा सम्पन्न र हराभरा भएका हुन् । यदि कारोबारी भाषामा लिप्त भएर मातृभाषाको लोप भयो भने ज्ञान बिज्ञानको संसार उराठिलो मरुभूमि जस्तो बन्ने छ । त्यसैले शिक्षा मातृभाषामै हुनु पर्छ । मातृभाषा मानिसको मौलिक ज्ञान, शिप सृजनाको खजाना हो । यस्तो महत्वपूर्ण खजानाको रक्षामा ध्यान नदिएर क्षणिक लाभको निम्ति कारोबारमा चलेका भाषामा मात्र लिप्त हुनु समाजको भविस्य माथि गरेको बेइमानी र बाल अधिकारको हनन हो ।

    प्रसिद्ध साहित्यकार रवीन्द्रनाथ टैगोरले भनेका छन्, ‘मातृभाषामा शिक्षा पाउनु मानिसको जन्मसिद्ध अधिकार हो । हामी जसरी आमाको कोखमा जन्मेका हौं त्यसैगरी मातृभाषा पनि हाम्रो कोख हो । यी दुवै आमा हाम्रालागि सधैं सजीव र अपरिहार्य छन् ।’ उनले मातृभाषाको महत्त्वलाई बुझे र बुझाउने कोसिस गरे । प्रसिद्ध राजनीतिज्ञ नेलसन मण्डेलाले भनेका छन्- इफ यू स्पिक टु अ म्यान इन अ ल्याङ्वेज ही अन्डरस्ट्यान्डस, इट गोज् टु हिज माइन्ड बट इफ यू स्पिक इन हिज ल्याङ्वेज इट गोज टु हिज हर्ट । यदि कसैसँग उसले बुझ्ने भाषामा कुरा गर्नुभयो भने त्यो कुरा उसको दिमागमा मात्र पुग्छ । यदि उसको मातृभाषामा भन्नुभयो भने मुटुसम्म पुग्छ । मण्डेलाले मातृभाषाको द्रुत असरलाई प्रस्ट्याए ।

    विकासको क्रममा महत्त्वभन्दा वस्तुको कारोबारले त्यसको अवस्था निर्धारण गर्छ । जुन वस्तुको कारोबार बढी हुन्छ, संसारमा त्यसैको अवस्था बलियो हुन्छ । संसारमा अंगे्रजी भाषाको कारोबार धैरै हुन्छ त्यसैले कारोबार नहुने मातृभाषामा पढेर के फाइदा ? हामीले पनि सुरुदेखि नै अंग्रजी भाषामा नानीहरूलाई शिक्षा दिने व्यवस्था मिलाएका छौं । हाम्रा ठूलाठूला विद्यालयमा एउटा नेपाली विषयबाहेक सवै विषय अंगे्रजी माध्यममा पढाइन्छ । अझ कतिपय विद्यालयमा त ‘इङ्गलिस स्पिकिङ्ग जोन’ भनेर मातृभाषामा प्रतिबन्ध लगाउने गरेको पनि पाइन्छ । अंग्रेजी भाषा जीवन जिउनका लागि महत्त्वपूर्णमात्र होइन अनिवार्य पनि भइसकेको छ ।

    संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघको अध्ययनअनुसार यतिबेला कारोबारमा नचलेका करिब ५३०० मातृभाषा संकटमा परेका छन् । शिक्षामा मातृभाषाको महत्त्वलाई नजरअन्दाज गरेर अबको शिक्षानीति बनाइयो भने सामाजिक र राष्ट्रिय मात्र होइन मानव जातिकै अस्तित्व संकटमा आउन सक्ने स्थिति बन्नेछ । संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघमा सन् १९९९ बाट यस मुद्दाले स्थान पाइसकेको छ । अब यसलाई संसारभरि उपयुक्त कार्यान्वयनको खाँचो छ ।

    माधव गौतम

    matri bhashama siksha dida balak ka sath sathai ama baba r samasta samaj nai prakashko gatima susampanna banna sakchhan. Matri bhasama siksha nadida manis suksma gatima das banna pugdachhan.

  4. what’s wrong with teaching in mother tongue?

    I support teaching in the language children know best not because of linguistic chauvinism or nationalism but because children understand BEST if taught in the mother tongue…

    However we have a myopic government who pays little attention to educational standards and how to improve them,believing teaching in the mother tongue leads to ‘national dis-unity’.

    Somebody should enlighten them otherwise….

  5. matako dudh sisulai siksha matribhasama, prabhav parchh sristilai prakashko gatima.

    what mother’s milk is to baby, mother tonguage is to education.

  6. I fully agree with Mr.Manzur and I am of the view that only those nations or communities can progress who learn to respect their mother tongue and get knowledge in their mother tongue

  7. We can not make any progress at all if the state does not provide basic education in mother tongue and higher education in national language.Our establishment hates local languages which is our greatest loss and weakness.

  8. good posting, being taught at primary school in a foreign language can be a very humiliating experience especially for those who do not speakt the hegemonic language at all

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. Although IAOJ does not monitor comments posted to this site (and has no obligation to), it reserves the right to delete, edit, or move any material that it deems to be in violation of this rule.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s