Why should Sindhi be taught in all schools of Sindh?

Published: October 20, 2013

The benefit of imparting education in Sindhi should be examined; otherwise language and children will be used merely as a tool to facilitate politics by the state. DESIGN: ANAM HALEEM

The Government of Sindh recently announced that it would ensure that private educational institutions offer Sindhi language as a separate subject. The announcement went on to state that schools refusing to offer Sindhi would be fined or even have their permits revoked. 

This announcement has led to predictable outrage. Some have argued that students who attend private schools have no use for learning a language that is ‘only’ spoken within Sindh. On the other hand, children attending public schools, given their financial background also have little practical utility for studying the region’s native language. This, in itself, is a false assumption as private schools cater to a wide range of students from the full spectrum of financial backgrounds.

Others have suggested that this is nothing but a cynical attempt by the PPP-led provincial government to canvass support amongst rural Sindh and its constituents. Since much of the politics in Karachi is along linguistic lines, giving Sindhi official patronage will help cement the PPP as a true representative of the Sindhi people; both within and beyond Karachi.

Although at the end of the day, all decisions are political, there is not even a little mention of the actual educational value of learning a regional language.

In my opinion, merely offering Sindhi as a separate subject is not enough and the medium of instruction should be Sindhi at primary and even lower secondary level. However, there is a necessary precondition:  schools, whether private or public should engage students in their mother tongue, if that is the language they commonly use at home and within their local community.

This precondition is necessary because a state mandate forcing schools to offer Sindhi as a language to students who are unable to use what they learn either at home or within their community, is questionable at best and a waste of resources at worst. Practically speaking, where will all these Sindhi language teachers come from? Will adequate textbooks be available? What learning opportunities beyond the classroom are available? Will schools compromise the quality of the subject to tick a box just to soothe bureaucrats and politicians while wasting students’ time?

Most importantly, if students and parents wanted their children to take Sindhi as a separate subject, private schools would have responded to this need and included it in the curriculum already, right?

Over the years, a lot of research has been conducted on teaching children in their mother tongue. Studies show that once young learners gain confidence learning in their most commonly spoken language; it facilitates learning in other subjects and languages as well. Young learners especially require functional linguistic skills and students who are forced to learn in an alien language struggle more. Parents who do not have the requisite linguistic skill and hence, are unable to contribute towards their child’s learning, will in the long run hinder, rather than aid student attainment.

Examining the situation in our own country, our state project to promote a sense of patriotism by pushing Urdu as a medium of instruction and then placing English on a pedestal has only led to even more confusion for students. Do we really believe that the existence and ideology of Pakistan is so fragile that it would be compromised by children learning in a regional language?

Rather than imposing restrictions out of ignorance and fear, we should aim to allow every student to have access to as wide a range of learning opportunities as possible. Hence, forcing students to learn English or use Urdu as a medium of learning is pointless when they have few opportunities to apply what they learn in their homes and communities.

Thus, two things are quite clear. One that students should be taught, at least at an introductory level, in their native language; and two, that the government should actively encourage schools to do so.

Nevertheless when it comes to the Sindh government’s proclamation an argument can be made for both sides. Yes, Sindhi should be a subject offered to students who actually use or have the opportunity to use Sindhi in their daily life. However, forcing students who are unable to use Sindhi in their homes and communities will not add to their educational experience. Hence, the end result of such an imposition will be a situation in which children are merely used as a tool to facilitate politics by the state.

Politics by any means indeed.


Syed Nadir El Edroos

Nadir teaches Economics at Bellerbys College, London and is interested in Pakistani politics and current affairs. He tweets @needroos (twitter.com/needroos)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • BlackJack

    You said – “In my opinion, merely offering Sindhi as a separate subject is not enough and the medium of instruction should be Sindhi at primary and even lower secondary level. However, there is a necessary precondition: schools, whether private or public should engage students in their mother tongue, if that is the language they commonly use at home and within their local community.”

    I am confused. Does this mean that teachers should repeat themselves in five different languages if there are students from five different regions within the class? Or that students from different communities must now be segregated into different groups/ sections so that they can be taught in their mother tongue, and if so, will text books in those languages be provided to them, and will their exams will also be in this language? Some respect needs to be given to the state that you are in and its regional language as a possible medium of instruction (especially at primary level), even while providing a useful alternative, like Urdu or English, for students who would find it difficult to pick up after a certain stage (say transferring in high school etc) – but providing for all students to receive instruction in his/ her mother tongue is impractical.Recommend

  • water bottle

    I have a question.

    Can someone tell me what scripts are used by Baloch, Sindhi, Pashto languages?Recommend

  • Ali

    It will only create more hatred among Sindhi and Urdu speaking in Sindhi. Those making an emphasis on learning Sindhi even to non-Sindhi speaking in Sindh will only result in creating more divide among the people just in order to fullfill their wish. Such actions and demands will definitely lead to the creation of separate province out of SindhRecommend

  • Talreja

    Sindhi is the sweetest language.
    Here in Bangalore-India, We Hindu Sindhis have Sindhi Seva Samiti, which helps in conserving the language of our ancestors.
    And thanks to the Indian Govt. efforts we have Sindhi as one of the scheduled languages, which means it can be taught in the Central Schools.
    Hope our Sindhi Boli remains pure and instead of it getting influenced by Urdu-Hindi , we influence them through our literature.Recommend

  • Parvez

    You write seldom but when you do its always interesting……please write more.
    This subject can never be seriously addressed until and unless the political aspect is not removed, as you so rightly say in your closing.
    As far as our government / politicians are concerned the education system is a means to achieve an end, be it to loot the exchequer or perpetuate the dominance of the oppressing class. If progress is to be made change must happen at the top and each step taken must be consolidated before the next one.
    Today we are at a stage ( not talking about private schools ) where the medium of instruction is but a secondary topic the main one being to ensure that schools / teachers actually exist and children go to them.Recommend

  • Needroos

    Yes they are pragmatic issues. Atleast at a very basic level children should learn in the language they are most comfortable with. In Karachi for example this would be problematic, but then forcing a child in Rs. 15000 a month private school to learn Sindhi is pointless while forcing a child in rural Sindh to learn English at a young age when he/she has nowhere to further his learning is a waste of time and resources. Its just a matter of taking the time to conduct some research into which language is dominant in which part of a province along with giving teachers and school the freedom to make judgement calls given the students in the class before them. Just mandating something at the provincial level is a political, not a pedagogical excercise.Recommend

  • Hs

    persian and Arabic scripts.Recommend

  • Random Passerby

    Sindhi is already a compulsory subject for SSC (Matric) examinations. Private schools that follow the SSC board, and most of the private schools do follow this board, already teach Sindhi from Grade 6. Only schools following GCSE are the ones that do not teach Sindhi, which is a small minority of private schools operating in the province.Recommend

  • Darbullah

    Only arabic should be taught as we are arabs. Why do we need urdu or sindhi?Recommend

  • Talat

    Oh my God! Arabs won’t spit on you / us !Recommend

  • shahid

    Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pushto, Brahvi, Balochi, Pushto, Kashmiri are inferior languages and must all be discarded since they are of no use outside one’s village, district, city, province etc. We should all be taught the language of our masters, the superior peoples, i.e., English. Our past president recently made this point forcefully when he refused to swear in the new prime minister in Urdu and the prime minister duly obliged. Only when we are all using English we will be recognized and respected as a living and honorable people and not discarded and thrown onto the dust bin of history like those Turks, Iranians, Arabs, French, German, Russians, Chinese, Japanese, Swiss, Spaniards, etc.Recommend

  • water bottle

    Doesn’t Baloch and Pashto have their own script.

    I know that Sindhi doesn’t, but most Indian Sindhis use Devanagari.Recommend

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui

    By teaching Sindhi language in the Private or Public Schools, the Government of Sindh cannot make people in the Sindh as “pure Sindhis”.

    The divide of old Sindhis and new Sindhis has already created a wide gap which will never be filled in the times to come.

    If Sindh Government wants that every private or public school going child should know or speak Sindhi, then Sindh Government should abolish the quota system which has already divided the Urban and Rural Sindh.

    If every one in Pakistan is treated equally in all the respects including the Provincial or Federal Jobs, I am sure that the politics of Urban and Rural will die automatically.

    In developed countries there is no such concept of dividing the people on quota basis.

    Quotas for jobs are observed for special or handicapped persons and for those who belongs to minority communities. Quota system is never meant for majority of people, which has been enforced in Pakistan without giving a fore thought and without evaluating its repercussions.

    Just look at your back and see what quota system has given to Pakistan? Those who use to study hard to get a merit have left studying in the way they were suppose to and those who used to study very hard to achieve a position have also not concentrating on studies as they know that no matter which position in the class they will achieve, they will not be able to get the jobs in the Provincial or Federal Government.Recommend

  • Humza

    In fact, Pashtu, Pakistani Punjabi, Sindi, and Baluchi are all written in a modified Persian – Arabic script. I think it’s a good thing that Pakistan’s regional languages are being supported and learned because Sindi in particular is an over 5000 year old culture and civilization which existed long before Islam, Bhuddism, Hinduism or Christianity. All over the world, people know of the famous cities of the Indus Valley which rival Babylon and ancient Egypt. How can anyone deny learning Sindi in Pakistan. Even Sind was the first place to accept Islam in South Asia which is why the Arabs called the Kingdom of Sind, ” Al Sind” and as “Bab ul Islam” for the region.Recommend

  • faisal

    What are we talking about in 21st century guys…………..??????
    Please wake-up………………see the world around you…………….!
    Only English should be the medium of teaching, whereas, Urdu remain as a single subject. 64 years are enough for a nation to decide at least about the education system………
    Wake-up Pakistani’s wake-up please……… before its too late !Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    weren’t you cursing Urdu on Farukh Pitafi’s article? You Indians change their stance so quickly.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    Here we go now you will start cursing these languages as any thing even remotely connected with Arabic and Persian are anathema to you Indians. Don’t you have your own newspaper to go to?Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    where are Sindhi and Gul Metlo who were spiting fire on Urdu being taught but yet are strangely silent when it’s their Language being forced on us.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    Most people will not appreciate the irony in your statement. Be prepared for commentators from across the border purposefully ignoring the satire in this statement and using this as an opportunity to demean Pakistan.Recommend

  • TheAverageMoe

    I find it funny how it’s the Indians pretending to be Pakistanis that write stuff like thisRecommend

  • Pirbhat

    “Do we really believe that the existence and ideology of Pakistan is so fragile that it would be compromised by children learning in a regional language?”

    Yes this is the thing that needs understanding. There is no harm in learning one of the so many languages(may it be your native language). Of course, forcing non-sindhi students to learn an alien language looks unfair but I see my medical colleagues unable to take patients’ history as adequately, all because majority of the patients reported are sindhis, the language my friends are unable to communicate in (just one of the many practical problems). So why to bother that the language one has to learn is Sindhi. Just take it as one of the other means of communication.Recommend

  • Charia law

    Sindhi did have its own script with local variations. It was actually unified by the British from 10 variations in order to establish it as not only the spoken language of the subjects but also the language of the courts. English civil servants were instructed to learn sindhi and I find it strange that in the land of sindh we are having a debate about its teaching in schools when even the goras learnt the language when they were here…Recommend

  • scotchpak

    Its all about retaining them (kids) in school longer. sweetness and other adjectives are secondary.Instructions in Mother tongue give kids a better chance in school and hence can avoid the bicycle repair shop. Also access to a rich vocabulary is available through their parents. As it is now we import our vocabulary from parts of India.Recommend

  • Blunt

    How come learning a language, a local one, be a reason for creating a hatred among two coexisting communities? If it’s so, why same rule doesn’t apply to other languages as well.Recommend

  • Syed Irfan Ali Shah

    Sindhi is the language of the Land. So no one should object. If someone wants to live in Sindh, he or she has to follow the rules of land as Govt. has right to make laws accordingly like other state does. Every country promote their languages.Recommend

  • Syed Irfan Ali Shah

    Sindhi has her own scriptsRecommend

  • ss

    i am glad they taught us sindhi, having been born in sindh i am sindhi first and then anything else even though my parents are not sindhi.Recommend

  • Syed Irfan Ali Shah

    liked it.Recommend

  • Syed Owais Mukhtar

    Sindhi rasm-ul-khat derived from ArabicRecommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    In India where there are lot of states that are called “non-hindi” states that teach their regional language as compulsory, but as a subject. So you can have school in TamilNadu which teach either every subject in Tamil, or Hindi/English with Tamil as a subject till the last grade.
    One more point I would like to raise- Urdu is not native to the region now known as Pakistan, punjabi and sindhi have been systematically placed out of use. Urdu belongs to Delhi and Uttar Pradesh regions. Imposition of Urdu was the reason of backlash by bengalisRecommend

  • wajid

    could you define those scripts ??Recommend

  • Poovhen

    Sindh is now home to not only Sindhi speakers but also Urdu, Pathun, Balochi, Seraiki and even Brahui speakers. The authors recommendation is ridiculous.Recommend

  • BabaShakkari

    Pashto and Baluchi belong to Iranian group of Languages and they have their own script ( i.e. Persian with some modification). Punjabi and Sindhi belong to Indian group of Languages but are also written in modified Persian script in Pakistan. Persian was language of Sindh and Punjab for many centuries even Sikh empire of Punjab used Persian in the court, and many Sikh Gurus were fluent in Farsi. British removed use of Persian in 1800s. So is not unnatural for people of Sindh or Punjab to use Persian script. People in India write Punjabi and Sindhi in Gurmukhi and Devnagri scripts. There are many other languages in the world that are written in more than one script. Turkic languages, Serbian, Croatian etc are some examples.
    Let haters be what they are. This diversity is to be celebrated not resented.Recommend

  • Abid P. Khan

    Only when we are all using English we will be recognized and respected
    as a living and honorable people and not discarded and thrown onto the
    dust bin of history like those Turks, Iranians, Arabs, French, German,
    Russians, Chinese, Japanese, Swiss, Spaniards, etc.

    I love the circus specially the clowns.Recommend

  • Sid Noonari

    Being a student of linguistics I would like to say that Sindh government is not fair to impose a language which is limited to be used in a region.Though I am Sindhi but I would like to be flexible in my thoughts. We all,regardless what language we use in our homes, should not follow Nazism. It is Sindhi of 21st century not Dutch of 1930s which is going to be imposed by Hitler. One must me motivated to learn any language.There must be a motive to learn any thing. For Example: I am learning English for specific purpose (ESP) then I should take a short conversation course for that particular purpose.
    But here the story is awful… We should learn English to impress others and to come up to the so called “Babo status”. We should learn Urdu because we live in Pakistan which is founded on the name of two nation theory. We should learn Arabic because Angels will interrogate in Arabic in out graves.We should learn Sindhi because the ruler wants to get sympathies of nationalist voter. What the hell is this my dear?
    When we will be given a chance to learn whatever we want?Whatever we love to learn?whatever motivates us to go for?Recommend

  • BlackJack

    You need to introspect on why you felt that I was cursing Urdu in that article. I have great respect for Urdu, I think it is a beautiful language.Recommend

  • Sindh.

    Don`t you look like a materialistic person. Do you apply the same rule in your family?
    Treat Sindh as your Mother, she adopted you people some 66 years back, when you were stranded, and nobody in the world was there to adopt you. Today you are ready to divide your Mother, as she asks you something in return. Shame on you.Recommend

  • Sarfaraz

    I don’t understand! Language works as medium of interaction between two sides and here we are hearing this so-called gentleman dubbing language to be ‘barrier’ – creating province in Sindh is difficult thought, let’s keep it aside, will we?Recommend

  • Sarfaraz

    We need Sindhi, Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto and all languages just as Arabs do need Arabic.Recommend

  • Sarfaraz

    @Needroos I smell ‘race-stereotyping’ and total ‘ignorance’ in your comment – I hail from middle-class family originating from Larkano, all my siblings and myself studied at govt. primary schools without roofs – they work at Cleveland Clinic USA (third largest hospital in the world) / software engineer at software company in Berlin as / Dept. Manager at Australian high commission, Islamabad / associate professor at NED Univ. / C. Surgeon at Baqai and there are many more who are utilizing their English unbeknownst to Needroos –Recommend

  • Sarfaraz

    I agree on this – my sister is surgeon and she tells us about the incompetency of non-speakers to understand case –Recommend

  • Sarfaraz

    ‘In developed countries there is no such concept of dividing the people on quota basis’

    …Sadly, we are not developed country! There is no ‘New Sindhi’ or ‘Old Sindhi’ in any dictionary, there is just ‘Sindhi’, don’t spread false information here.

    Pakistan’s largest population lives in bigger cities Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Rawalpindi etc the rest of smaller cities are deprived of excelling institutions, hence, these people need jobs to survive likewise.

    CSS and provincial commission exams have paved way for competent and mostly middle-class students –Recommend

  • Sarfaraz

    It does not mean that now Sindhi language, people and culture should be wiped out – Neither, Pashtoons, nor Punjabis would let the similar thing occur in their provinces.Recommend

  • Abid P. Khan

    Sindhi is the sweetest language.
    So is Inuit I heard.Recommend

  • Abid P. Khan

    Sindh is now home to not only Sindhi speakers but also Urdu, Pathun,
    Balochi, Seraiki and even Brahui speakers. The authors recommendation is

    Gujrati/Kathiawaari, Kachhchi, Maraathi, Kokni etc should not be mentioned. As speakers of these languages were not acceptable to the Wadera class of Sindh as they were not that easy to manipulate.

    The (Black People’s/Dravidian) Brahui speaking language should not be mentioned either even if they have been living here for a much longer period. Seraiki, Shidi and Makrani folk have inhabited these tracts for centuries.

    Under the cover of quota system “Sindhis” were transported from Interior Sindh thanks to ZAB his daughter or aka Darling of The West, rewarded by governmental jobs. PPP has big enough vote bank now.

    Talpurs (Baluchis) were the rulers of Sindh when the English captured Sindh.Recommend

  • Khalq e Khuda

    I think it is good for people of Sindh to make Sindhi compulsory in all schools if Sindhi Muhajir divide has to end. In areas like Sukkur, Nawabshah and Larkana there is alot of integration since the Urdu speaking population is fluent in Sindh. This is in stark contrast to Karachi and Hyderabad where the population is divided into ethnic group and little integration has taken place among the masses.Recommend

  • Roshni

    Dr. Sahar Imdad Hussaini

    Why Sindhi Should Not Be Taught In All Schools Of Sindh ?

    Mr. The Sindhi Language is an important aspect of Sindhi identity and is an essential part of our cultural heritage and Sindhi language existed from time immemorial – even before the age of “Mohen-Jo-Daro”.

    Macaulay and Auckland both are the supporters of the Vernaculars. The supporters of the vernaculars argued that education could not be disseminated through a foreign language. Colonel George Jervis once the Secretary of the ‘Native Education Society’ at the time of British Rule argued, that the British rulers should not impose “the burden of the foreign language of a handful of Rulers on the Millions of our Native Population.” Most British officers favoured “Native Language Policy” , and thus, Sir George Clerk wrote:

    “We should introduce the language of the country (namely, Sindhee) -mark the word: ‘country’- as the medium of official intercourse. I do not see what way our revenue and judicial officers (however their offices and courts may be constituted) can work effectually through a foreign medium of communication, such as Persian or English (Clerk, April 24, 1848: para 68).”

    So shall we claim that British Rulers are fool who insisted on “the language of the country (namely, Sindhee) as the medium of official intercourse” and thus implemented Sindhi as an educational language as well. Just to implement those laws we have to import those rulers again? And if a foreign ruler had such vast vision for ‘the offices that still to be constituted’, why not our own rulers can do the same! After all Sindhi is an ancient language and native language of Sindh (now a province of Pakistan) and now it is a ‘Pakistani language’ and

    not a regional language as said. It’s a fact that Pakistan is a multilingual country , I don’t know why they are afraid to admit it.

    I don’t see any problem in it, these orders just gave an opportunity to Sindhi speaking students to opt their mother tongue Sindhi as a subject, while Urdu speaking students are already enjoying the facility. Those Sindhi parents who wish for a great future of their kids and want them to study in good schools with excellent environment with a fusion of Sindhi are happy with this decision. Textbooks from Sindhi lazmi to all other subjects from pre-primary to intermediate level are very much available in Sindhi language, new syllabus will be available in 2014 from new session, only thing that government or private schools has to do, is to appoint Sindhi speaking teachers (in real) or to train already available teachers for teaching mothertongue!Recommend

  • Guest

    While I am no expert of how Pakistanis deal with Language related affairs, I take this as a good step- Workable understanding of a province’s native language should be mandatory. This is the least the migrants frm outside can do for using thRecommend