NEP: Mother tongue clause needs relook

On July 29, the Narendra Modi government announced the National Education Policy, 2020. It is aimed at aligning India’s education policy with its values and carrying out reforms keeping in mind national goals.

NEP: Mother tongue clause needs relook
NEP: Mother tongue clause needs relook

One of the biggest talking points of the NEP is having the mother tongue as the medium of instruction up to a certain grade. The policy tells us that the medium of instruction until at least grade 5 shall be in the home language/mother tongue.

This is qualified by a ‘wherever possible’, and thereafter, this medium of instruction shall be ‘preferable’ till class 8 and beyond. The logic is that children grasp faster in the language they speak at home and, therefore, will be more comfortable in school.

On paper it holds good, but as they say, the devil lies in its implementation. This part of the NEP is out of touch with ground reality.

The first hurdle: to ascertain a single mother tongue in a cosmopolitan city such as Delhi, Mumbai or even a smaller but diverse Visakhapatnam.

An analysis of a school in any city will tell you that many students come from diverse cultural backgrounds. The 2011 census puts the number of internal migrants in India at 450 million.

So, it would be unfair to impose Marathi or Kannada as the medium of instruction on wards of Bihari migrants. The NEP also does not account for the 5 million central government employees with transferable jobs.

For a child to study in Malayalam medium till class 3 and then shift to Bengali, on account of the parents’ transfer, would be devastating.

Secondly, the sudden transition from grade 5 to grade 6 – from regional medium to any other — would be anything but smooth. It may lead to a lot of dropouts in grade 6 and prove to be a challenge especially for students who till now have had minimal exposure to English. Lastly, people of this country know the importance of English.

A report has shown that those who speak English fluently earn up to 34% more than those who do not. This confirms the link between education in English and the scope of opportunities and employment. The exodus of students from regional medium schools to English medium is proof of what people prefer.

In a recently concluded exercise by the Andhra Pradesh government, it was found that 96.17% of parents – out of 17,85,669 — wanted their children to study in an English medium school while only 3.05% chose Telugu. Just 0.78% chose other languages. These figures are saying something the NEP isn’t acknowledging.

While I am all admiration for the Modi government’s move to bring out a new educational policy after a hiatus of 34 years, it is this aspect regarding imposition of native language that I’m skeptical about. While it is important to preserve local languages, one must look at things from a practical point of view.

We live in a world where MNC’s rule economies. Keeping in view that India is still a developing nation that needs to be integrated into the global fabric, we must understand that language and technical education are two tools one needs to concentrate on. It’ll make Indians capable of competing on an equal footing, anywhere in the world.

No doubt, one should be fluent in their mother tongue and it should be taught in schools; but the distinction has to be made between teaching a language and teaching ‘in a’ language.

The regional languages should be taught in state-run schools as they are, possibly with better course material and teachers, but the medium of instruction for subjects such as Mathematics, Physics and Social Sciences should be English.

This would balance the need for being well-versed with their mother-tongue as well as the aspirations of the people to have their wards study in an English medium.

The NEP is a visionary document, but as far as the medium of instruction is concerned it needs a relook to keep up with the times.

(The writer is member of Parliament; parliamentary party leader & national general secretary of YSRCP)
NEP: Mother tongue clause needs relook
NEP: Mother tongue clause needs relook
NEP: Mother tongue clause needs relook

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