‘English is a class’: Saba Qamar’s Hindi Medium set to hit screens

Hindi Medium’s trailer is out and it certainly has everything to make you want to watch the film. The movie starring Irrfan Khan against Pakistani actress Saba Qamar is all set to hit the screens and the trailer released today gives us a glimpse of what the movie is actually about. While there are funny scenes along with some intense dialogues in the trailer, what it actually discusses is the obsession of the parents with English medium schools, despite knowing that they might not even have the resources to afford those expensive schools for their kids.

The trailer is gripping, and with Saba Qamar and Irrfan Khan in the movie, one thing that can be guaranteed is that the viewers are about to see some exceptional acting skills. Irrfan Khan is known for his character roles like Pan Khan Tomar, and Saba Qamar is also a perfect actress for a character role. But the thing that needs to be discussed is the subject of the movie. Saket Chaudhry has picked up a very tough topic that affects the life of every common man in countries like India and Pakistan. School education is actually a problem in Pakistan too.

The upper class goes to Lahore Grammar, Beaconhouse and City schools etc while the ‘middle classiye’ like me, in order to catch up with them, spend a big percentage of their incomes in schools that are only faking in the name of English. Meanwhile, the poor don’t really get to make such choices. They either send their children to the government schools if they can afford to spare one child from working, or just don’t bother sending them even there. As George Carlin would put it, ‘the poor are just to scare the sh*t out of the middle class’.

And then there are those upper middle class schools, where teachers are treated as labourers by the owners and as slaves by the parents of the students. These schools are neither paying good salaries to the staff, nor are they imparting quality education. Yet, their branches are multiplying in numbers. Some of them don’t even pay the teachers on time. There’s one Lahore based school that has become a mockery of the word ‘organisation’ during the last few days, since the couple owning it is going through their divorce and the staff is the one suffering with delays in salaries.

We don’t yet know what the film is preaching but what we do know is that generally these films end up cursing the English medium of education and the language barrier itself, instead of going to the root cause. The root cause is not the language. Most European students learn around five languages in their schools and they are generally good at all of them. They speak English, French, German and their own local language fluently and it doesn’t become a class problem there. The class problem is not English medium; it is the private ownership of the schools. Yes, the students studying at English medium schools may be from the better off classes but it becomes a class problem only because certain classes join certain schools, and when middle-class parents try to get their students admitted to those schools, they are actually trying to shove their way into the upper class.

So what we need to do is to get rid of this class system. And schools would probably be the best place to begin with. Michael Moore discusses in his 2015 documentary film ‘Where to Invade Next’ the real problem with the schools system in the United States and the one in Finland, the country imparting the best school education in the world according to EI. What he learned was that private ownership of educational institutions for charged tuition was a punishable crime in Finland. In other words, the rich and the poor kids have to study at the same schools, no matter how good, or bad, the standard of the education they impart is. The rich have to send their kids to the same school as the poor and therefore they are compelled to improve the quality of education at government schools, and not just shift their kid from one school to another.

The problem highlighted in Hindi Medium is perfectly applicable on probably every developing country with a colonial past. But the reason this problem persists almost everywhere is that we do not drive the nail where it should be driven. We’re stuck with the language, with standard of education, with faculties etc but we never discuss the mother of all evils – the class system. One dialogue in the trailer that Saba Qamar delivers with a solid, determined voice is actually the problem: ‘English is not a language in this country; it’s a class, and the only way to break into this class is to study in a good school’. The solution is not to break into that class, it is to break the class system.

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