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The Education of Imran Khan

by Newsweek Pakistan

File Photo. Arif Ali—AFP

The PTI chief’s latest attack on English-medium schools prompts troubling conclusions.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan has once again criticized Pakistan’s education sector, claiming the current system is discriminatory because there are “three different systems of education: an English-medium system for the elite, with Urdu medium and religious seminaries covering the rest of the country.” He went on to say that English-medium schools distance students from “Pakistani culture” and recommended that “education should be imparted in the English language only at the higher levels and even then the syllabus should be in line with the culture of Pakistan.”

Khan’s opposition to “English-medium” schools is quite clear. However, he has voiced little criticism of the other two systems—presumably because he thinks they don’t need any improvement. According to Khan, English-medium schools inculcate an “alien” culture in Pakistan. By implication, the other two systems inculcate Pakistani culture. Khan’s exhortations to bring about a change in the country’s education sector, therefore, are squarely targeting English-medium schools. Perhaps he would prefer they shut down, as he does not want them teaching the English language at the primary levels because it prevents the inculcation of Pakistani culture. A question that is almost impossible to answer then arises: what is Pakistani culture?

Based on Khan’s statement, its clear he would abolish demand-driven, private sector English-medium schools if he were to come into power. Instead of reforming the struggling Urdu-medium system, he would end up with a two-tiered system built around the Urdu language and madrassahs. The “single” system he wants would continue to prove elusive. No single politician has ever been strong enough when in power to stem the rise of the madrassahs, which are propelled by the ever-thorny issue of ideology.

Will the culture thus developed be Pakistani? The Urdu-medium system currently starts with “compulsory” English from sixth grade. Unsurprisingly, this instruction tends to be of poor quality. Will Khan reform state-sector schools nationwide to ensure they can fulfill the demands of the job market, which increasingly requires proficiency in the English language? Will he ever investigate why India, which also has two educational streams, is not as bothered about its culture as he is? Or why it is still able to produce high-quality scholars for the global market from this defective system? Perhaps its time Khan did some homework of his own.

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Ozan April 6, 2017 - 5:37 pm

Utter Nonsense, please get yourself educated in the issues of education. There is almost everything (from your presumption about khan’s statement to global comparison) wrong about what you write in the note.

Asad April 7, 2017 - 2:26 am

I agree

Ali April 7, 2017 - 1:57 am

Are you kidding me?! Has this author just climbed out from under a rock? Khan has Namal College affiliated with the Univ. of Birmingham, a British university. Yes, Namal is in Pakistan. It’s not a madrassah. The author should take a class or two.

Kasam April 7, 2017 - 4:52 am

I take my hat off to you sir Ali. What an excellent point – Namal College. However, it is affiliated with The university of Bradford and not Birmingham, sorry brother.

Srinath April 7, 2017 - 3:25 pm

Khan is clearly playing to the Mullah gallery. The author’s question on ‘Pakistani culture’ is pertinent. Remember, he succumbed to the pressure of JUI in KPK and allowed distortion of Pakistan history in the textbooks.

Amar April 7, 2017 - 2:25 am

Imran khan has made many mistakes. He will be punished accordingly. However, on this subject I think Imran Khan is 100% correct. We need a fairer system. I’m surprised at the other parties who haven’t even spoke about these types of issues that affect the everyday person.

samiravian April 7, 2017 - 11:49 am

The author should listed to Imran Khan’s speech again. and not only the latest speech but also few more speeches from past, and Author should do some research on Education reforms in KPK then write an article again.

Mujeeb April 7, 2017 - 2:49 pm

Article is misleading and author is not aware of Pakistani culture and effects of different level of education here.

Jamshed Memon April 7, 2017 - 3:46 pm

What an idiot. Author probably doesnt know that Khan’s party is in power in KPK for 4 years now and if he were against English medium school system he would have abolished it in the province first. He has always advocated for uniform education system. Therefore he introduced english in primary as a subject only not as a medium of instruction while it will become the medium of instruction in secondary and higher secondary education once these batches of primary progress to secondary. This is because he knew that current state of student enrolled in SSC and HSC is not that good and it would be disastrous for them to adapt English as medium of instruction.

Imran April 8, 2017 - 3:25 pm

What Imran khan is suggesting is similar to Bhutto’s nationalisation of schools back in 1973.
Nobody likes to pay higher fee’s of private English medium schools. The answer is to improve the quality of state schools.

Jeremy Frankel April 8, 2017 - 10:17 pm

Would Imran Khan be what he is today had it not been for his “elitist” English education? Does he really believe that closing English medium schools would bring about higher standards of education in Urdu speaking schools? The same cry is heard in the UK when talk of reopening “elitist” grammar schools is made. The youth of Pakistan would not thank him if this should ever come about.

haji yar mohammad khan Mulakheel kohistani bahrain swat August 18, 2018 - 8:31 pm

Imran khan best men of the world


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