basic wisdom

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 07 Sep 2018 12:18:07

VICE President Mr. Venkaiah Naidu has stressed the importance of mother tongue as a medium of instruction in schools, as he gave away national awards to teachers. He has asserted that school education in mother tongue will augment the learning process more capably as the children have an innate ability to understand better and correctly what is taught in a language they get used to since birth. Against the current fashion of introducing English as medium of instruction right from start of school education, this assertion of the Vice President carries a special importance. It is difficult to predict if the entire school system geared for English as medium of instruction would ever change its thinking on the issue. Yet, it can be said safely that it would be a golden-letter day if at all the country switches back to mother tongue for school education. For, in that case, the kids would be able to tackle the challenge of learning in a more comfortable manner. Looked at from this angle, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu has insisted upon the basic wisdom that should guide educational activity all over the country. 

By highlighting the importance of mother tongue in school education, the Vice President has joined the league of many thinkers and scholars who have often insisted upon use of mother tongue as the basic medium of instruction at least in early years in schools, if not throughout to the level of matriculation. One of the earliest advocates of this theory was Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak who often emphasised the importance of early education in mother tongue in the last years of the 19th century. Subsequently, men of eminence like Lala Lajpatrai, Bipin Chandra Pal, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Ambedkar, Purshottam Das Tandon, Acharya Vinoba Bhave and several others, campaigned for mother tongue as medium of instruction at school levels.
When many in India thought it impossible to effect a switch, the example of Israel came to fore as the infant nation started using Hebrew language at all levels of education, having successfully implemented a massive project of putting in place a system of translating the latest advances in sciences also in the official and original language of the Jews. If Israel could do it, if France also had done it much earlier, then why not India, many stalwarts asked. Unfortunately, their campaign met with a stolid response from new India’s educational thinkers and planners.

However, that refusal to think constructively on the issue does not diminish the importance of mother tongue as the first medium of instruction in schools so that our kids develop early and better understanding of the subjects taught to them. There is no denying the fact that a switch to mother tongue as medium of instruction in schools would mean a massive national project involving not just huge funds but also a change in mindset of educational thinkers and planners. More importantly, it would mean a change of focus from English to Indian languages. The educational community may find this very difficult since it has been working with an altogether English-oriented mindset.

No matter that, a beginning on this front must be made in due course of time. The lead in this regard can come from Mr. Venkaiah Naidu himself so that every effort in that direction would assume appropriate importance. The first step in that direction should be to underline a fact that teaching in mother tongue would never diminish importance of English. Generations of Indians who studied in mother tongue also had a very good command on English, something we still notice when we happen to read something written by an old person who could study only up to matriculation of old times sixty-seventy-eighty years ago. This example contrasts so badly with countless lakhs of Indian youngsters who have gone to English medium schools right from the start. Their understanding of English is as poor as their comprehension of mother tongue. All these realities will have to be taken into account as we ponder over how to approach the subject raised by Vice President Mr. Venkaiah Naidu.