Impact of cultural and linguistic diversity on education in Pakistan


The culture and linguistic diversity of Pakistan are unmatched and often understated. We mention “Pakistan” as one entity and assume that the majority of the population of the country speaks only one language (Urdu) and follows one unified “Pakistani Culture”. The reality on the ground is starkly different. There is no such thing as a unified “Pakistani Culture”, rather it is a blend of different strands of culture, Sindhi, Punjabi, Saraki, Pashtun, Hazara, and Urdu Speaking, and even between them, there are sub-groups and further divisions. The same goes for the language too, on paper, the official language of the country is Urdu, but hardly 20% of the population speaks it, and that too in the mainland. People in the peripheries and in the rural areas prefer to communicate only in their regional language and a rough estimate would suggest that the number of local languages spoken in Pakistan is more than 10, and every language has a different accent and lexicon. And we can observe the implications of such diversity in the country’s economic and overall progress, and the field of education is no exception. The impact of cultural and linguistic diversity in Pakistan is mostly overlooked while designing any policy framework concerning education and or even while proposing changes in the curriculum. It is pertinent to keep these impacts in my mind while proposing any long-term policy related to education.

Impact of Cultural and Linguistic Diversity on Education

The impact of cultural and linguistic diversity on education in Pakistan can be seen in several ways. Firstly, the diversity of languages spoken in Pakistan can make it difficult for children to learn in school. Many children come from homes where their mother tongue is not Urdu, which is the official language of instruction in most schools. This can create a language barrier that makes it hard for children to understand what is being taught in class.

To address this issue, some schools have started offering bilingual education, where children are taught in both their mother tongue and Urdu. However, this approach is not yet widespread and there is still a need for more resources and support to ensure that all children can access education in a language that they understand.

Another impact of cultural and linguistic diversity on education in Pakistan is the challenge of creating a sense of national identity. Pakistan is a country with a diverse range of ethnic and linguistic groups, which can sometimes lead to tensions between different communities. In some cases, this can spill over into the education system, with students from different communities feeling excluded or marginalized.

To address this issue, it is important for schools to promote a sense of national identity that is inclusive of all communities. This can be done through initiatives such as celebrating cultural festivals from different parts of Pakistan, promoting interfaith dialogue, and encouraging students to learn about the history and traditions of different communities.

How cultural and linguistic diversity of Pakistan can be used to strengthen the education sector?

The cultural and linguistic diversity in Pakistan presents a unique opportunity to strengthen the education sector by incorporating a culturally and linguistically responsive approach.

One way to leverage this diversity is by developing curricula that incorporate the diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds of students. This can help students feel more connected to their cultural identity and foster a sense of pride in their heritage. Additionally, teaching in a student’s native language has been shown to improve academic outcomes, as students are better able to comprehend and engage with the material.

Incorporating cultural and linguistic diversity into teacher training programs can also have a positive impact on the education sector. Teachers who are trained to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students are better equipped to create inclusive learning environments that meet the needs of all students.

Furthermore, promoting cultural exchange programs and opportunities for students to learn about different cultures can also strengthen the education sector in Pakistan. These programs can broaden students’ perspectives, promote empathy and understanding, and foster a more inclusive and tolerant society.

It is also important to recognize and celebrate the contributions of different cultural and linguistic groups in Pakistan. By highlighting the achievements and successes of diverse communities, students can feel a sense of pride in their heritage and develop a greater appreciation for the diversity of Pakistan.

Finally, incorporating technology into the education sector can also help to promote cultural and linguistic diversity. Digital tools such as language learning apps and online resources can provide students with access to materials in their native language, as well as opportunities to learn about different cultures.

In conclusion, the cultural and linguistic diversity of Pakistan presents a unique opportunity to strengthen the education sector. By incorporating a culturally and linguistically responsive approach, promoting cultural exchange programs, recognizing and celebrating diverse communities, and incorporating technology into education, Pakistan can create a more inclusive and equitable education system that meets the needs of all students.

Related: It’s Time We Take Pride In Our Local Languages

Mohammad Saad

By Muhammad Saad

The writer is an MPhil Scholar, perusing his Masters in Political Science from GCU, Lahore. He tweets @hafizsaadriaz

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