Education and Neo-Colonization: A Critique of English Literature Curriculum in Pakistan

By Makhdoom, Monazza; Awan, S. M. | South Asian Studies, July-December 2014 | Go to article overview

Education and Neo-Colonization: A Critique of English Literature Curriculum in Pakistan


Makhdoom, Monazza, Awan, S. M., South Asian Studies


Introduction

Independence from the British colonial oppression was a tremendous achievement in the history of colonization. Many former colonies of Britain raised question to the continued use of English language and literature. According to Ngugi the language issue is a very important key to the decolonization process. However, the approaches to the continued use of English in the colonies were not uniform, and there were many and clear differences between them. For example, even in the white settler colonies, the use of their own literatures in the English language curriculum is swamped with problems. Some of the problems have to do with the national identity, whereby the literatures of the white settler colonies, many of whose texts explore questions of identities that are distinct from the British or English identity, need to be taught in school and university, but are not found in the curriculum. The situation innon settler colonies is not very different. In fact, it may actually be stronger. Achebe (1975, 19), for example has declared that "art for art's sake' is just another piece of deodorized dog-shit' . Achebe believes that there is an authoritative link between literature and education as conceived in a broader context. Ngugi (1986) on the other hand suggested not to incorporate British literature and gave preference to other literatures of the world in the curriculum.

As Pakistan is also a former colony of the British Empire and major changes in the curriculum should have been addressed. However, one feels that policy changes are slow in Pakistani educational context to acknowledge more diverse cultural issues of our indigenous heritage and tradition and to implement programme of change.

The institution of education does not exist in isolation. English literature has its roots in a complex web of social relations of which it becomes an important part. In many ways it has a connection with bodies such as the state, with issues of gender, the social classes, ethnicity, economic system, politics and above all representation. Moreover, Literary education should be analyzed as to how it interacts with complex areas such as the various groups and social classes in society. Therefore, regarding the prevailing social class in the society and its alliance with that social force, education can perform a broader role: education can be liberating, critical, conservative, or closed, it may be subversive or suppressive it can also be emancipatory. Education in a society has a prospective to be both, subversive or liberating. In this political context, it is important to note that as a social force English education frequently serves the interests of powerful groups in society. For the prime reason that the state itself is more often than not a representative of powerful classes, and it is a matter of common observation that the education through English literature thus it imparts essentially carries the values and interests of the dominant classes. The mixed cultural attitudes towards learning English in Pakistan have been addressed to publicly by an ex-minister for education, Zobaida Jalal Khan (as cited in Saigol,1993,126):

It is my experience as minister of education that the position of the government in respect to English in not enviable. We may be satisfied with what we are doing but apparently we are the target of criticism from two sides - the sides that are working for and against English.

The problem of this study is that the English literature curriculum at masters level needs rethinking in introducing and incorporating indigenous knowledge and content in its selection while revising curriculum which is primarily dominated by the Eurocentric model. Therefore, in order to educate and liberate the learners from purely dominant the Western literature and criticism, there is a lack of research to provide insight into indigenous knowledge in English curriculum.

The purpose of this study was to contest over the marginalization of our local and cultural component in English literature curriculum. …

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