The English/Urdu-Medium Divide in Pakistan: Consequences for Learner Identity and Future Life Chances

Fauzia Shamim, Uzma Rashid

Abstract


Both Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, and English the official language are widely used for spoken and written communication in different contexts in Pakistan. In education; however, a linguistic divide is evident in the two-stream system of education - mainly referred to as Urdu medium and English medium - according to the dominant language of instruction in an institutional setting. Urdu medium schools are normally the state schools providing free education to the poorer communities while the English medium schools are private fee-paying schools for the economically well-off sections of society. This disparity in the educational system has loaded the labels English medium and Urdu medium with a range of meanings that constitute self and other’s perceptions of identity, in addition to signaling linguistic capital, particularly in terms of proficiency in English. This paper reports findings of a small-scale qualitative study undertaken to understand how students at a higher education public-sector institution in Pakistan experience and construct their own and others’ identities in relation to their previous and current educational and social experiences of language learning and use. Insights gained from this study further our understanding of how linguistic inequalities can be sanctioned by the state’s language policy and related practices.


Keywords: English/Urdu as medium of instruction, identity, language policy,
linguistic capital, linguistic inequality, Urdu-medium.


Keywords


English as medium of instruction; Urdu-medium; linguistic capital; identity; linguistic inequality; language policy

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22555/joeed.v6i1.2235

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License