This study tries to investigate whether the 2011 Punjab language policy that makes English the Medium of Instruction (MoI) from grade 1 supports meaningful teaching and learning in Punjab government schools. It uses observations from English, science, and math classrooms, as well as in-depth qualitative interviews with parents, head teachers and teachers from six districts of Punjab. Findings show that instead of addressing the problems relating to content-knowledge deficit and teacher practice that pre-date the policy, another layer of difficulty has been added. Neither the teacher nor the students are in a position to use English to their advantage and interactions conducive to the learning of these subjects have become further restricted.

A number of recommendations have been presented as a result of these findings. English needs to be taught at the primary level as a subject from grade 1, or later, depending on the availability of competent teachers and not as the MoI. It should be taught as a subject with a focus on communication. There is also a need to review the policy of using English as MoI in math and science in earlier grades to maximize student understanding, which, as research shows, is best done in the language that they are most comfortable with. Efforts should be made to ensure that teachers are competent in the teaching of English as a second or a foreign language and the curriculum, textbooks and examinations framework should reflect an emphasis on a communicative rather than form-based approach.

Abbas Rashid, Irfan Muzaffar, Salaeya Butt with Ayesha A. Awan and Ayesha Bashiruddin
Sponsor(s):Open Society Foundations