Pakistan Institute of Development Economics

JEL Classification : I23, I24, P16, Z13
The Fall of Urdu and the Triumph of English in Pakistan: A Political Economic Analysis
Publication Year : 2020

In this paper, we investigate both how the use of language in higher education in Pakistan has evolved and why the medium of instruction remains a contested terrain. We focus on the struggle between advocates for the use of Urdu and the use of English. By examining the repeated failed attempts by high political authorities to replace English with Urdu, we demonstrate the usefulness of Avner Greif’s evolutionary, path-dependent theory of institutional change. We also argue, however, that Jack Knight’s focus on the struggle over resources is necessary if we are to understand why the futile attempts to make Urdu the dominant language of education persist.