English Language Teaching in Pakistan: Language Policies, Delusions and Solutions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


English is perceived as a passport to better employment and upward social mobility in Pakistan. In a society characterized by acute class division and intense class consciousness, parents from the lower, lower middle or working strata of society aspire to enroll their children in the English-medium schools. Public demand for English medium schooling has led to an exponential growth of low-fee/low-cost schools over the last two decades where “by the end of 2005, one in every three enrolled children at the primary level was studying in a private school” (Coleman, H. (2010). The English language in development (p. 10). London: British Council). Importantly, behind the rapid spread and intense pursuit of English medium schooling is also a belief that the earlier the child is exposed to the English language, the faster she/he will learn the language. Employing a mixed methodology, this study analyzes English-medium policy in 11 low-fee private schools in part of Pakistan. Based on evidence gathered through multiple research tools such as a questionnaire survey, classroom observation and interviews with students, teachers, school principals and experts observers, the study finds that early English-medium policy appears counterproductive as most students demonstrate poor English language proficiency. Factors such as unavailability of qualified English teachers, poor pedagogies, sociocultural dynamics, and overall institutional weaknesses contribute to the failure of the policy. The study concludes that the maximum exposure and greater learning beliefs associated with earlier English teaching are delusional as those beliefs are underpinned neither by theories of bilingual/multilingual education nor by the schools and social environment of the children. We argue that in broader terms, the English-only policy poses potential reductionist effects on existing language ecology, and English-medium private schooling furthers socioeconomic disparities between the haves and the have-nots. Therefore, we propose that the early-English policy may be reviewed, and replaced by mother tongue based multilingual policy. English is an important language; therefore, it may be taught as a language rather than as a medium at the primary level. As quality English-medium schooling stands the preserve of the elites only; therefore, we advocate for the democratization of English and its equitable distribution across all strata of society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnglish Language Education Policy in Asia
EditorsRobert Kirkpatrick
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Low-fee schools English-medium policy Mother tongue based multilingual education Language policy and planning Pakistan Early English-medium education Additive bi/multilingual education Institutional preparedness Sociolinguistic/ethnolinguistic realities versus English-medium education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics

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