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Published Date: Feb 1, 1999

Language Teaching and Worldview in Pakistani Schools (W-41)

Language Teaching and Worldview in Pakistani Schools (W-41)
Tariq Rahman, SDPI


Everybody has a way of looking at the world, making sense of sensory data and passing value judgments. This is roughly what one may call a ‘worldview’. With reference to scientific communities Kuhn calls it a paradigm. One of the meanings he gives to this theoretical construct is as follows:

The entire constellation of beliefs, values, techniques, and so on shared by the members of a given community (Kuhn 1962: 175).

I believe that this definition, with minor alterations, can also be used for non-scientific communities. I propose to use it in this study for the belief-system of students in Pakistani schools. For this purpose I have looked at three kinds of schools: the ones which use English as the medium of instruction (called English schools); ones which use Urdu for this purpose (Urdu schools) and religious seminaries (madrassas). I have not been able to focus on Sindhi and Pashto-medium schools. The former are located in the province of Sindh, mostly in the rural areas, and the latter are in the Pashto-speaking areas of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The Sindhi-medium schools go up to class 10 (matriculation) while the Pashto-medium ones are only primary schools. However, most schools are Urdu-medium ones because the most populated province, Punjab, uses Urdu as medium of instruction in non-elitist state schools. Most schools in the N.W.F.P, including all secondary ones, also use Urdu. All schools in Balochistan, Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas are also Urdu-medium institutions. In the cities of Sindh too Urdu is the most common medium of instruction in schools. In short, this study takes into account most of the non-elitist students of the public sector schools in Pakistan. It also attempts to take into account students of madrassas as well as those of elitist, and not-so-elitist, English schools.

The objective of the study is to relate the worldview of the students of these three kinds of educational institutions to language-teaching policies. The basic questions to be answered are: what kind of language texts are used? What worldview is given in these language-texts? What kind of person is likely to be produced by such texts and practices of language-learning?

The assumptions are that language texts influence students; that, keeping other factors constant, they help create this or that kind of worldview. This is an assumption because it cannot be proved that a person has certain beliefs because he or she has been exposed to this or that text. Moreover, students are less exposed to texts than to the peer group, parents, teachers, the media and society in general. In short, the other factors which we assumed to be constants, cannot in fact be kept constant in real life. This being the case I do not make the strong claim that (a) because of reading certain language texts and being taught in a certain manner students have certain beliefs. Instead, I make the weaker claim that (b) language texts may reinforce, or tend to reinforce, beliefs and values which other informal and formal aspects of socialization might have created among students.

I believe the value of the study lies not so much in what language-teaching does, which is very difficult to determine, as in understanding the ideological contents of language-teaching texts. This is more easily determinable because the texts can be read and their ideological content analysed. This, indeed, is my methodology in this study.