Lahore: Pakistan's Punjab government has removed English as a medium of instruction from primary schools and reintroduced Urdu, saying teachers and students waste most of their time in translation.
The new directive will come into effect in over 60,000 public schools of the province from the next academic session beginning March, 2020.
English was introduced in Punjab's public schools by the previous PML-N government in consultation with the UK's Department for International Development and the British Council.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, who reportedly cannot read or write English, made the decision to revert to Urdu as a medium of instruction at the primary level school on the plea that teachers and students "waste most of their time in translating their lessons from English to Urdu".
The decision has drawn widespread criticism of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Buzdar, with academics saying that the step may take the country "back to the stone age".
They reminded Khan of his promise to introduce uniform syllabus in all schools elite, private, public and seminary - after coming to power.
"The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's manifesto clearly stated that the medium of instruction would be Urdu at the primary level," Buzdar said.
To support his decision, he claimed that the provincial education department conducted a survey of students, parents and teachers in 22 districts over the medium of instruction and almost 85 per cent of the respondents in each category voted for Urdu.
"English would be taught as a separate subject," the chief minister said.
Interestingly, the Punjab government's enrolment campaigns are failing to meet targets and a large number of children remained out of schools.
According to a government survey, most parents are interested in sending their children to English medium private schools instead of public schools.
"Your own kids will go to Cambridge schools and later to the US and the UK for education and poor kids will study in Urdu. If you want to compete in this world then it is imperative to start teaching English from the 1st grade. Please discard your retarded thoughts," said Imad Qureshi on Twitter.
"After 72 years of the country's history, we are still confused and no clue what we want to do. Our higher education is all in English. Instead of focusing on teacher's training, only switching between Urdu to English or English to Urdu is our policy," says former Punjab University Lahore Professor Mugeesuddin Sheikh.
"Emphasise must be given to improve English literacy so that students have the opportunity to further their education beyond undergraduate level," he said.
Sir Michael Barber, an education consultant, in his book 'The good news from Pakistan' had claimed that a large number of children from private schools had shifted to the English medium public schools in Punjab.
Instead of reverting to Urdu, the PTI government should focus on training teachers so that they could efficiently teach English terminologies to children in primary schools, academics said.