The implications of mother tongue as medium of instruction in multilingual India


The education minister of India announced the new economic policy on 29th July last month.  This is the first refinement done to education system in 21st century. There are many salient features and even hidden implications of this bill, but majorly it is showing clear indication that the union government wants to focus on literacy rates and technological skills. Moreover, it looks like that the central government is also determined to make children of developing India familiar with our diverse ancient culture.

Whenever union government launches new policies, aggressive debates amongst different groups from political parties to association of experts go viral. Similarly, this NEP which came after 34 years is producing conflicts between the Modi government and various state governments who are denying to implement changes in their respective state education laws. Mr. Phokriyal proclaimed many key points but two of them became elephant in the house.

Those were, first the students would be taught 3 languages in accordance with the 3 language formula and second the implementation of mother tongue as medium of instruction in schools till grade V.

Policy makers are making it sure through their guidelines that they had taken pertinent suggestions from various scholars before formulating this sequence and also it has come after very long and rigorous procedure. But still many state governments are raising objections about their exclusion from the drafting committee.

Now before diving into such a dispute we need to first understand that what this formula means in our education system. This affirms that children up to grade V or may be till VIII need to be taught three languages so that they can gain expertise in more than one domain. And here these languages comprise of a regional language and a foreign language including Sanskrit. Now the problem arose when they asked teachers to teach students in the local language till grade V which was initially Hindi and English in most of the states.

It is a trend in India that parents send their children to English medium schools and that is even necessary nowadays as in future they have to communicate in that language. And this doesn’t mean that they need to learn English for working in a foreign land ,it is applicable for this country too. Communicating in English has become a part of today’s culture. So, that is the real concern as the society tends to think in two ways. First section supports this policy by giving justifications that the newcomers would have a knowhow about their cultural language whereas the rest segment believes that this can hinder the growth of the students as they would lack the basics of English language from the start. And hence some states don’t want to implement such an Act. The ramifications are clear though that keeping students away from English language would further provide them fewer opportunities. Also, many private sector schools would not promote it as they run a regime of English medium schools in India.

Also consider the case in which parents get transferred to another- in this case, what would happen to the student, what language would he learn, the regional language of previous state or of recently shifted. Everyone is bemused including the union government which has now given the autonomy to states to think and decide on this matter.

There are several issues such as if any state tries to implement the policy, then they have to recruit teachers proficient in such languages on a large scale, which is again a healthy headache to take. Also, the state boards need to change the entire curriculum and conduct examinations accordingly.

 The scheme could have been different if the country was not India. The situation of India is exceptional as it has many languages and having a standard mode of language for directing instructions is a must (which is English and Hindi for now).

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