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A language ladder for an education roadblock

  • IASbaba
  • August 5, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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EDUCATION/GOVERNANCE

Topic:

  • GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources 
  • GS-3: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

A language ladder for an education roadblock

Context: The recent decision of 14 engineering colleges across eight States to offer courses in regional languages in select branches from the new academic year marks a historic moment in the academic landscape of the country.

  • This move opens the door to a whole world of opportunities — to students of B.Tech courses, in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Malayalam, Bengali, Assamese, Punjabi and Odia.

On a parallel note, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), has decided to permit B. Tech programmes in 11 native languages in tune with the New Education Policy (NEP).

Benefits of Providing Higher Education in regional languages

  • Benefits Downtrodden sections of Society: Higher education in mother tongue as the medium of instruction will instil confidence in students from poor, rural, and tribal backgrounds to pursue Higher Education.
  • Demand of the students: In a survey by the AICTE, nearly 44% students voted in favour of studying engineering in their mother tongue, underscoring a critical need in technical education.
  • Improves Learning Outcomes & builds Cognitive faculties: Multiple studies have proved that students who learn in their mother tongue perform better than those taught in an alien language. 
  • Builds Self-Esteem & Self-identity: UNESCO and other organisations have been laying emphasis on the fact that learning in the mother tongue is germane to building self-esteem and self-identity, as also the overall development of the student.
  • Democratises Education Sector: India was infamous for creating small islands of higher education (IITs, NITs) that imparted education only in English. This ended up building academic roadblocks, impeding the progress of the vast majority of our students. Offering technical & professional courses in native languages helps improve access to Higher education.
  • International Best Practice: Among the G20, most countries have state-of-the-art universities, with teaching being imparted in the dominant language of their people.
  • Promotion & Preservation of Culture: If we neglect a language, not only do we lose a priceless body of knowledge but also risk depriving future generations of their cultural roots and precious social and linguistic heritage.

Way Ahead

  • Expand the initiative: We must begin with imparting primary education (at least until Class 5) in the student’s mother tongue, gradually scaling it up. For professional courses, while the initiative of the 14 engineering colleges is commendable, we need more such efforts all across the country. 
  • Textbooks in Native Languages: In technical courses there is lack of high-quality textbooks in native languages. This creates bottleneck for more students to take higher education and therefore needs to be addressed urgently.
  • Leveraging Technology in Digital age: Content in the digital learning ecosystem is greatly skewed towards English which excludes the vast majority of our children, and this has to be corrected.
  • Non-exclusivist approach: Educational institutes should not adopt ‘Mother tongue versus English’, but a ‘Mother tongue plus English’ approach. In today’s increasingly interconnected world, proficiency in different languages opens new vistas to a wider world.

Conclusion

India is a land of immeasurable talent. We must unlock the full potential of our youth, without letting their seeming inability to speak a foreign language impede their progress. 

Connecting the dots:

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