Islamic Voice
Shaban/Ramadan 1422
November 2001
Volume 15-11 No:179

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Urdu Medium Schools: Luring New Converts

Urdu Medium Schools

Luring New Converts

Urdu medium is winning converts in Maharashtra. Lured by the ranks at exams,
several parents prefer Urdu medium over English

M.H. Lakdawala

Habibah Dabir thinks, speaks and teaches English. Why not? She has been a lecturer in English in a Mumbai College, has herself studied in English medium school. Yet when it came to choosing a school for her son Asif, Habibah didn’t hesitate before enrolling him in a Urdu medium institution.

“I knew my husband and me could very well teach Asif colloquial English at home. We converse in English most of the time at home which takes care of the Asif’s spoken English,” she said. Helping her to make decision was her husband Siraj, a businessman. “My husband speaks better English than I do, and in any case learning a language is no big deal, where as securing high marks at the SSC level does count,” she said.

The Dabirs are not alone in taking this rather bold step. In a world where English is the Lingua franca, a few couples in Mumbai and Pune have dared to swim against the tide, with remarkable success. Atif Zari, an Architect, was convinced that Urdu was a better medium of instruction for his son, Aziz as compared to English. “I insisted he go to an Urdu medium school, because Urdu, our mother tongue, is richer in vocabulary and expression,” say Atif. This move met with a lot of opposition from friends and family arguing how would Aziz compete in a world driven by communication in English. But Atif was adamant, as he was sure that as compared to English medium, Urdu medium schools offer better scope in career. He firmly believes that concepts taught in one’s mother tongue make learning easier for the child. “English doesn’t fit into the Indian milieu and culture. If the child is to understand the world around him where most of his friends and family speak Urdu, he would definitely benefit from an education in that medium of instruction,” he said.

Basit Ali, a journalist is learning Urdu as he plans to admit his son Faqih in an Urdu medium school. Since he knows Hindi, learning Urdu is not difficult for him. Since Basit is in print media, he is aware where the growth is. “The future is in electronic media. But the pre-requisite is command over Hindi or Urdu. Hence I want my son to have education in Urdu. English I can take care, as I am from English medium.” He remarked.

With electronic media being one of the fastest growing industry the decision of Basit appears quite sensible. More over he argues that the Bollywood has huge potential for good scriptwriters. “Without the through knowledge of either Urdu or Hindi one cannot become scriptwriter either for films or TV,” he said. Neither Dabir nor Zari believe their children have suffered complexes because of the traditional stigma attached to non –English medium schools. On the contrary, Dabir finds that Asif has picked up Maths faster than students in English medium. “Due to his felicity with Urdu, his verbal mathematics, like reciting tables, was fast, and his concepts clear,”said Habibah.

Unaiza Parekh, a web designer has also preferred Urdu medium school in Pune for her son Aves. Although her husband Javid was against the decision initially but Unaiza convinced him. “We sat together and did a SWOT analysis of Aves career prospect. Going through the records of last five years of the SSC results, it became evident that most of the merit holders are from the vernacular medium,” she said. “Hence we decided to opt for Urdu medium, as it will be less difficult to score high percentage.”

Not only good performance, even the jobs in the State Govt. and Hindi-Urdu media attract potential students.

Dr Rani Raote, psyco-analyst opines that a child will recognise and respect the values and attitude towards religion and tradition if raised in the mother culture. “There is a close link between culture and language. As literature pertaining to religion and culture is available in vernacular languages, it helps in developing concern for one’s mother culture,”she said.

In Mumbai and Pune increasing number of parents who were educated in English, want their children’s to have a firm grounding in their own languages and culture. Zahid Namakwala was alarmed after reading a survey published by the National Geographic, about the vanishing culture and languages. According to the survey, out of the six lakh indigenous languages 50 per cent are on the verge of extinction.

After reading the survey, Zahid became more firm with his decision to opt for the Urdu medium for his daughter Naseem .His elder son Hakim is already studying in Urdu medium. What’s helping these children grow confident about using more than one language is the encouraging home environment. The Namakwala family makes it a point to converse in English at home, which has helped Hakim become fluent in the language.

While some students who have not been exposed to English at home or school may be hesitant to speak it. “Children need to be taught languages, among other things at home as well as school. My Wife and I speak several languages, English among them. So my son who is educated in Urdu, never had a problem with English which was spoken at “home”, says Zahid.

The trend is more discernible in Marathi medium schools. Marathi that was losing its number one position in Maharastra is recovering its lost glory. Many Muslim parents have also realised that job prospects in the State brighten up if the medium of instruction is Marathi. Soab Parker, an electrician who had himself studied in Urdu medium school has chosen Marathi medium school for his son Asfaque. “Most of the state government undertaking and enterprises have Marathi as a pre-requisite for the employment. Hence, I decided to opt for the Marathi medium for Asfaque, as also our mother tongue is not Urdu but Marathi,”he said.

Irrespective of the medium of instruction one thing is certain. What is very crucial for the success of a child in academics is environment condusive for studies, proper parental guidance, motivation and desire to move ahead in life and grow. Sadly Muslim Parents lack motivation, ambition and to change their destiny by their own acts.


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