The virtual Jirga: the 2009 education policy and the medium of instruction debate in Pakistan__who is participating and what are the implications for Balochistan?

Ashraf, Muhammad (2014) The virtual Jirga: the 2009 education policy and the medium of instruction debate in Pakistan__who is participating and what are the implications for Balochistan? PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Since the independence of Pakistan in 1947 almost every education policy was accompanied by the key question of, “Which language do we choose for instruction and why?” In 2009, after lengthy discussions commencing in 2005, the Government of Pakistan enacted a new National Education Policy (NEP), which proposed that the issue of the medium of instruction (MoI) would be addressed by the federal government with the help of provinces. As soon as the NEP came into force, a strong debate in public and social media began among teachers, students, politicians, educationists, linguists, and journalists, among others, regarding the implications of the policy and its statements. This research explores the debate on NEP 2009 with regards to MoI through views expressed publicly through digital media in the course of a one-year snap-shot. The study aims to contextualise the participants of the debate and their views in terms of the implications of the NEP policy for MoI in Balochistan Province, the least literate, ethnically marginalised area of Pakistan, which harbours one of the most confrontational separatist movements in recent times. The thesis explores the extent to which the concept of the Jirga, the traditional forum for managing conflicts in the region by engaging in public negotiations and discussions, to solve issues within the community could be applied in the context of participation in debate conducted on-line as a ‘virtual Jirga’.

The research is exploratory and hypothesis generating in nature and a documentary analysis strategy was used to explore contributions to public debate of the impact of NEP on MoI within one year via the Internet. 37 texts were collected and analysed using Wordle and Wordsmith computer software to find frequently used words in the dialogue, identify themes and examine the rhetorical forms in which they were expressed. The corpus of 46,316 words proved to be a rich source for gaining insight into what was being said, by whom and where thus enabling tendencies in the association of issues such as ethnicity, class, regionalism, class and educational background to be mapped. The impressions from this snapshot were subject to further examination in the light of the review of literature and perspectives from Critical Policy Sociology theory and Social Constructionism were employed. The resulting conceptual framework, drawn from linguistics and policy study and referencing traditional forms of debating controversial issues, was found to be a useful means of inquiry at a ‘distance’ as whilst not directly involving the participants their voices can be ‘heard’. What was in part a pragmatic decision given the situation of the researcher also had the benefit of working with a medium conducive to reflection on contributions less reactive than might otherwise be the case where debate on the question of MoI can often shed more heat than light. Digital technology and the internet are part of a rapidly growing trend of use in academia for communication and as research tools; this thesis combines the use of such tools with a study of their use and as such contributes to a growing body of scholarship. As with any tool, however, there are limitations as well as affordances, the researcher recognises that the findings cannot be generalised and the use of other data collection methods, such as interviews, or a larger sample of texts gathered over a longer time-scale could lead to different conclusions. However, every effort has been made to make the process of the planning, conduct and analysis of the research transparent and open to critique as is set out through the use of the metaphor of uncovering layers in an onion.

The identification of themes including the English as MoI supporters tendency to favour neo-liberal views on education, the Urdu as MoI supporters having a propensity to Islamism, the mother- tongue supporters inclining towards regionalism and those in favour of the uniform MoI having a partiality to a uniform single-tier education system offer confirmation of trends identified in existing research. The analysis of the corpus also indicates a degree of tension as participants want to promote quality education for the progress of the country based on research- based policy but are suspicions of the motives of other groups who might be on the ‘winning side’. In summary, the findings suggested that participants in the debate from all groups were positive about the importance and promotion of quality education in the country, but have reservations on the education system as being divisive and unproductive. The study concludes that the internet could offer a way forward by supporting a style of debate based on the Jirga, a Virtual Jirga, stress the referred language, i.e. English, and contributes to knowledge creation by proposing that the traditional philosophies of Pakistan can be revisited and some ideal within those practices used to move towards a harmonious society.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Education Policy; Medium of Instruction; Debate; Pakistan; Balochistan; Neo-liberalism; Islamism; Regionalism; Uniform Education System;
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Vivienne, Professor Baumfield
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Dr Muhammad Ashraf
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5769
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2014 11:33
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2014 09:18

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