February 2nd, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Prominent educationists and opposition senators from Pakistan Peoples Party have expressed concerns over the passage of bill in the Senate for compulsory teaching of Arabic language in schools across the federal capital territory.
On February 1, the Senate passed Compulsory Teaching of Arabic Language bill, moved by PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi, amid opposition from the Pakistan Peoples Party. The bill calls for compulsory teaching of Arabic language from class 1 to class 12 in all educational institutions in the Islamabad Capital Territory as well as institutions affiliated with the Federal Board of Intermediate Secondary Education and institutions owned and controlled by the federal government. The bill now has to be passed by the National Assembly. In his address, Senator Abbasi said that besides having religious Importance for the Muslims, Arabic is among the five largest spoken languages of the world. A large number of population from around the world seeks to do business and employment in the rich Arab states. He said the knowledge of Arabic language will not only enlighten the understanding of Islam and the message of Holy Quran it will also broaden the employment and business opportunities for the citizens of Pakistan as well. “A foundation has been laid and hopefully it will shortly sail through the National Assembly as well,” Abbasi said after the passage of the bill.
‘Attempt to impose Arab culture’
However, Senator Raza Rabbani told the senators that the bill sought to impose a culture of Arab as well as undermined importance of regional languages, adding that the bill sought to enforce teaching of Arabic within six months of its enforcement while the Constitution did not set a timeframe for teaching of regional languages in the country. Supporting the bill, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said that one needs to understand Arabic to be a good Muslim. “You cannot understand the message of Allah, if you do not know Arabic,” he told senators.
‘Students overburdened with fourth language’
Speaking to Voicepk.net, educationist Baela Raza said the addition of another foreign language will overburden school children already struggling on literacy and languages. “Where there is no room for mother tongue why there is such a huge focus on Arabic as a fourth or fifth language,” she said. Sadly, Arabic too will be taught as Islamiyat in top of Islamiyat as a subject, she added.
‘Arabic not language of technology’
Educationist Dr Abdul Hameed Nayyar said Arabic language is not the language of technology and science in the modern world, adding that children would be overburdened learning a language that might limit learning of other vital skills. He expressed concern that the present federal government was bent upon enforcing the madrassa culture across schools in the country.
He said the Arabic language was previously made compulsory in military tenure of Gen Zia as thousands of people were employed there and the logic than was that the language skills would help export manpower to Gulf countries. “Now, the Gulf countries want technological skills and not just language,” he pointed out.
‘No conducive environment for Arabic learning’
Dr Hafiq Muhammad Iqbal was of the opinion that the conducive environment of teaching Arabic or English language was not available in schools and homes. “It will not be an easy task teaching Arabic to young children, you need proper syllabus and trained language teachers,” he said.
Dr Iqbal pointed out the ambiguity in the bill about teaching of Arabic language from Class 1 to 5 and teaching Arabic grammar from Class 5 to Class 12. “The law makers have to clarify what the mean by language and grammar as teaching of a language includes its grammar,” he added.