Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 10 : 10 October 2010
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.
         G. Baskaran, Ph.D.



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A Report on the State of Urdu Literacy in India, 2010

Omar Khalidi, Ph.D.

What is the status of Urdu literacy in India at the turn of the twenty first century as gauged through school education? Or how many students in primary schools in various states of India are studying through Urdu as the language of instruction? How many students are learning Urdu as one of the subjects under the three (or four) language formula in various levels of schools? Have the various levels of government-central, state, and local-facilitated or obstructed learning of Urdu in various states since independence? To what can we attribute the uneven levels of Urdu literacy and education in various states? Besides schools run by the state, who are the other institutions involved in promoting Urdu literacy? This Report thus asks five critical questions as noted earlier, and answers to these questions will enable reasonable projections about the future of literacy (as opposed to orality) in and education through Urdu. Essentially, then, this Report quantifies and measures Urdu literacy in India since the 1950s. For the purposes of this Report, literacy is defined as the ability to read and write elementary Urdu in its own script of Perso-Arabic origin. The term "education through Urdu," is defined as education through the medium of Urdu from primary to secondary level in most, if not all subjects. In answering these questions, this Report will concentrate on the question of Urdu literacy and its higher stage, education through Urdu, in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi in northern India, and Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra in southern India. The role of institutions outside the formal schools system-in particular the Madarsas will be discussed through a quantitative exercise to gauge the number of students involved in this stream of education through Urdu. The Report concludes with a summary of key findings and a set of immediate action proposals for reversing the decline of Urdu literacy.

The Report is based on four primary sources. These are: statistics on Urdu literacy and education provided by the Union Government's Commissioner of Linguistic Minorities located in Allahabad, U.P.; data available from the District Educational Officers of the ministries of education in various states, interviews with the officials of public organizations/NGOs, and information available from State Madarsa Boards, both official and non-official. It is surprising that previous official committees on Urdu, weather that chaired by I.K. Gujral or Ali Sardar Jaafari did not bother to collect detailed statistics running over years to get a clear picture of Urdu literacy as measured by number of pupils, schools, and teachers in the nation. Neither did the well-funded National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language run by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Before the advent of British rule on the subcontinent at the dawn of the nineteenth century, Indians received education through two patterns. One, shaped by vocational relevance was given in locally dominant languages to cope with the day-to-day needs of society. The other pattern was to provide education to the elites-sons of literati, the ruling class and high officials-by readings of scriptures and historical texts through classical language such as Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian in Pathshalas, Gurukul, Maktabs and Madarsas. During the Mughals and its immediate successor states in the subcontinent, the language of the royal courts, diplomacy, higher levels of administration, judiciary, and revenue collection was Persian. With the consolidation of the colonial rule, the British abolished Persian (in 1836) as the language of judiciary and administration, replacing it with English. The British administration could not resolve or was not interested in resolving the three basic issues of education: the content, the spread, and the medium or language of instruction. While sons of the Indian elite were educated in English schools in urban areas, right from the primary level, the large masses of the population went to schools imparting education through regionally dominant languages in eastern, southern and western India. However, in large chunks of British territories of Punjab, Northwest Frontier, Oudh, United Provinces (modern UP), the princely states of Hyderabad and Kashmir were exceptions to the rule, where Urdu became the language of instruction in schools, and remained so until the late 1940s. During the long years of struggle for independence, nationalist leaders such as Gopal Krishna Gokhale, (1866-1915), Mohandas Gandhi, (1869-1948) and intellectuals like Muhammad Iqbal,(1876-1938), Rabindranath Tagore, (1861-1941) and Mawlawi Abdul Haq (1870-1961) saw the need for universal elementary education through mother tongue. They hoped that education through mother tongue would be the agent and catalyst for liberation from the European intellectual hegemony, which they thought was as much necessary as political freedom from the colonial power. In Hyderabad, in his Dominions, the enlightened Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan (reigned 1911 to 1948) established a full-fledged, well-funded Osmania University in 1917 that imparted higher education through Urdu given that it was the language of instruction throughout the state.


English Loanwords in Meiteiron A Linguistic and Sociolinguistic Analysis | A Report on the State of Urdu Literacy in India, 2010 | More Than Meets the Eye Reasons Behind Asian Students' Perceived Passivity in the ESL/EFL Classroom | English for Medical Students of Hodeidah University, Yemen - A Pre-sessional Course | Education as an Indicator for Human Resource Development | Representation of Malaysian Women in Politics | A Modern Approach to Application of Abbreviation and Acronym Strategy for Vocabulary Learning in Second/Foreign Language Learning Procedure | Causes of Social Acceptance of "O" and "A" Level Education System in Pakistan | Pronounce Foreign Words the English way! | Dubhashi and the Colonial Port in Madras Presidency | An Investigation of Davis' Translation of SHAHNAMEH - Rostam and Sohrab Story in Focus | Feminine, Female and Feminist - A Critical Spectrum on Selected Novels by Kamala Markandaya, Shahsi Deshpande and Arundhati Roy | Four-letter Words and the Urdu Learner's Dictionaries in Pakistan | Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin - A Study of the Impact of War on Historical and Economic Aspects of the Society | Was Gandhi a True Mahatma? | Omani Women
Are Their Language Skills Good Enough for the Workplace?
| Spread of English Globalisation Threatens English Language Teaching (ELT) in Pakistan | Multiple Intelligences, Blended Learning and the English Teacher | A Micro-Case Study of Vocabulary Acquisition among First Year Engineering Students | Imagery of Wilderness in Margaret Hollingsworth's Islands | The Influence of Learning Environment on Learners' Attitude in a Foreign Language Setting | Caste - Gender Ideology in Gundert's Malayalam-English Dictionary | Development of a Hindi to Punjabi Machine Translation System - A Doctoral Dissertation | A PRINT VERSION OF ALL THE PAPERS OF OCTOBER, 2010 ISSUE IN BOOK FORMAT. | HOME PAGE of October 2010 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Omar Khalidi
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Mass. 02139

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