Urdu, an SQA modern language: (in)visible in our Glasgow schools

Nighet Riaz

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The aim of this paper is to examine how heritage languages from majority and minority communities are promoted and protected through policy and practice in Scotland, where Gaelic and Urdu are the 2 case studies under discussion.

Gaelic is taught throughout Scotland and spoken by 1.1% of the population who are White Scottish, and is part of a wider political construct to reclaim Scotland’s history, culture and language as an aspect of Scotland’s national identity.

Urdu, a heritage language is spoken by 0.5% of the Scottish population, who are predominantly of Pakistani heritage and Muslim. Urdu, is a SQA modern language which has been taught in 4 secondary schools in Glasgow with high Pakistani student populations, for over 30 years. However, there is a discrepancy in how these 2 languages are perceived by policy makers, local authorities and schools.

Gaelic is protected by legislation, funding, and promoted throughout the country by the Scottish Government and Bòrd na Gàidhlig, local authorities and other public bodies.

Discourse analysis is used to examine the narratives to discuss the linguistic heritage of the people living in Scotland through policy, literature and the media.

The preliminary findings revealed that language policy does not meet the needs of Urdu speaking communities, their children and young people in schools. Urdu is being systematically erased from the secondary school curriculum in the 4 schools in Glasgow, and not introduced at primary schools in wards with large Urdu speaking communities. This raises questions about the validity of the current government’s civic nationalist narrative, as the Urdu speaking community is insidiously moved further from its cultural and linguistic heritage; whereas Gaelic is imbued with value, high status, identity, belonging and nationalism.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2018
EventScottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2018: Critical Understanding of Education Systems: What Matters Internationally? - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Nov 201823 Nov 2018


ConferenceScottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2018
Abbreviated titleSERA 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Heritage Language
  • Urdu
  • Gaelic
  • Identity and Belonging


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