School Bag Policy 2020: Weight Of School Bags Increases Further

I have written about how School Bag Policy 2020 is a casual and miserable attempt to help students. The policy is such a wretched document that just the primer and the notification took up an entire article. In fact, each sentence of the policy is such a gem in itself that even an epic cannot do justice to its marvellous and spectacular silliness and stupidity.

Anyhow, to keep the discussion short and save you the long-winded road to nowhere, let’s go directly to the recommendations in the School Bag Policy 2020 for the reduction in the weight of school bags.

Pass The Buck To Parents And Students

Sample some of the advice put forth in School Bag Policy 2020:

  • School Bag Awareness Programme needs to be held in the beginning of every academic session, wherein parents and students would get orientation on this issue.
  • Information about the heavy bag needs to be communicated to the parents of the child and the bag needs to be monitored for a week or two for ensuring that the child starts carrying a lighter bag.
  • Counseling sessions for students to bring lighter school bags. Parents are asked to monitor the weight of school bag.

Does the policy imply that it is a hobby of students to lug heavy school bags to schools? Does the policy assume that every parent wants their child to be a champion weight-lifter and hence deck them up with the hefty school bags? Or is there a hypothesis that each day children carry some kind of hidden treasure from their respective homes to unload into the schools?

Each parent of a school-going child and the child will vouch that they have no say in what’s to be carried to schools each day. The schools barrel them down with textbooks and reference books, notebooks and activity books, diaries and journals etc. What options do the parents and the children have apart from toeing the line, paying the bills and hauling the school bags?

Who needs to attend the School Bag Awareness Programme? The parents and the children or the flawed educational establishment? The schools themselves have stuffed the school bags and mandated them to be carried in full. What purpose does the information to the parents about the heavy bags serve? Who needs counseling here? The expert group who drew up the School Bag Policy 2020 is a sure-shot candidate, but the students???

Cloud Cuckoo Land

The reality as mentioned by the expert group is in stark reality to the flight of fantasy recommendations arrived at by the same fanciful group, in the same report.

The reality: In Classes I-II, the homework hours vary from 0 to 2 hours daily. Whereas, for Classes III onwards, it varies from 2 to 5 hours daily.

The recommendation: NO homework up to Class II and a maximum of two hours a week from Classes III-V.

The expert group knows that children are loaded with homework. Yet, it makes a pious announcement that there shall be no homework going ahead. Who is going to ensure the implementation of this cuckoo recommendation?

The reality: Though only 2 subjects are recommended for Class I-II, yet many schools offer other subjects. For Classes III-V, beyond NCF-2005 recommendations, there is a range of subjects which is offered by the schools.

The recommendation: As per the NCF-2005, schools shall offer two Languages and Mathematics in Classes I-II and two Languages, Mathematics and Environmental Studies in Classes III-V.

Nation Curriculum Framework 2005 exists since 2005. Yet, the schools do not follow it. What makes the expert group think that now suddenly the schools will consider it a gospel?

The reality: Schools prescribe more than one textbook for the same subject in secondary and higher secondary classes.

What? Leave aside school bags, why not penalize these schools for violating basic norms?

The expert group has unearthed all the above reality in their survey. And the expert group knows very well that the schools are a law unto themselves and there is no curbing their behaviour. Yet, it gives sermons to follow the laid-down directives that nobody has followed till now, not following as on date and not going to follow in future.

The Other Gems

  • The issues related to heavy school bag need to be included in the pre-service and in-service teacher education curriculum.
  • Designing of textbooks with less information and more space to experiential learning.
  • Students need to be taught on how to use ‘filing’ in an efficient and intelligent way.

Well, I am going to stop here. Hope you get the picture.

In nutshell, the National School Bag Policy 2020 is full of inanities and absurd recommendations.

Ministry of Education, CBSE, NCERT, Schools, Expert Group – are aware of what goes into the making of a heavy school bag. They, themselves, are part of the problem and they cannot be expected to arrive at a solution. With them at the helm of affairs and their beloved School Bag Policy 2020, the weight of school bags is only going to increase further.

The real solution is fair and simple – School Bag Free Education. I will write about it in the next article.

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent.

School Bag Policy 2020: A Casual And Miserable Attempt To Help Students

Ministry of Education, Government of India released School Bag Policy 2020 on 24th November 2020. One might think that now the load of the school children has been taken care of. The children and the parents can have a sigh of relief. Finally, the issue of “weight of school bags” has been resolved.

Wrong on all the counts. The so-called School Bag Policy 2020 has nothing, repeat nothing, to lessen the burden of school children. At best, it is a casual and miserable attempt to address a crucial issue and ends up doing a disservice to the future generations of the country.

Let’s go through what the School Bag Policy 2020 has to offer.

The Primer

School Bag Policy 2020 is an 83-page document. A policy expected to lighten the weight is itself bulky. You would suppose the Government policies are meant to be cumbersome. Else, what’s the proof of the long-winded deliberations made?

It has been drawn up by an expert group of 7 administrators and academicians. You would wonder why the parents and the primary stake-holders i.e. the children would not get to discuss and decide on an issue that affects them the most. Well, that is not how the know-all and decide-all Indian Government is known to function.

The policy has been made in reference to the judgment of Madras High Court dated 19.05.2018, a good two and a half years before the policy announcement date. The Expert Group members met four times from October to December 2018, so that the report could finally see the light of the day 2 years later. But, again you would know that the wheels of the Government move slowly.

The policy refers to Learning without Burden, Report of the Yash Pal Committee, (MHRD, 1993); The Children’s School Bag (Limitation on Weight) Bill, 2006; CBSE Circular No.07.2006 on Subject – Reducing the Bag Load on Children and 4 other documents of guidelines/measures/decisions on managing the weight of school bags.

You would wonder if such has been the history of our failed attempts to rein in the weight of school bags, how the latest one will succeed. Needless to say, the current one does not list earlier efforts as failures or mentions any learning from them. Anyway, the Government is not expected to be backward looking, so that should be fine.

The Notification

The order of the Under Secretary to the Govt. Of India notifying the School Bag Policy 2020 mentions that “the School Bag Policy would be suitably modified/revised”. This is beyond belief. I mean what can be more meaningless than this.

You are announcing a certain policy after so much huffing and puffing. And when you do it, you say in the same breath that it will be changed. Then, what’s the whole purpose of huffing and puffing? Why not publish the policy after “suitable modification/revision”? But, I suppose all these are trivial to the mighty Indian Government. Maybe, another expert group is already in the pipeline. Who knows?

The notification mentions “The compliance report in this regard may be shared with this Department”. That’s it. No mention of the format/frequency/scope/process/time-line of the compliance report. No mention, at all. You would suppose the compliance report is a top-secret hush-hush affair. The lesser mortals should not get to know how Government compliance happens.

You would think the notification will list the essence of the policy or the major recommendations of the policy. Again wrong. The notification tom-toms the NEP 2020 and nothing but the NEP 2020. From the phrasing of the notification, you would be forgiven to believe that it is for the promotion of NEP 2020 and not about some abstract notion of School Bag Policy 2020. Well, the Government has to multi-task, beyond the understanding of common citizens.

Meaning of School Bag

The expert group has elucidated the meaning of school bag as per the Collins English Dictionary and Cambridge English Dictionary “verbatim” for reference. You would just love these guys, wouldn’t you? I mean they take the weight of school bags so literally and exactly – the physical load. Unless for them, how would anyone know the meaning of the words “school bag”?

The expert group would not venture into the mental load of non-comprehension i.e. the curriculum load. To be fair to them, they have mentioned it once and I have picked the terminology from them. But that’s about it and no further. Maybe, it is another expert group’s weighing up – the mental load on the school children.

Casual And Miserable

Well, I did not take up the School Bag Policy 2020 for an enlightening on the insipid working of the Government of India. But, that’s what happened before I reached the main contents of the much-awaited but utterly indecisive and faltering policy. The Government’s approach is casual and miserable, to say the least.

Does anyone really expect a Government policy made with so much preponderance to help children in any manner possible? Spending a precious two and half years to come up with a wishy-washy policy not even worth the paper it will be printed upon is surely not an approach to deal with an essential issue of India’s future generations. India’s children deserve better.

Please read here, the recommendations of the School Bag Policy 2020 and how it will further increase the weight of school bags.

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent.

Entrance Exams Bypass Childhood To Adulthood Rat Race

These days, the conversation about the kids starts with the only question: “Which School?” We answer that our six-year-old twin daughters do not go to school because they are children. Invariably, regardless of the background of the person, the second question tossed to us has been “But then what about the entrance exams?”

The follow-up questions could have been raised about their learning, education, exposure, interactions, experiences etc for they do not go to school. We, parents, could have been grilled about our thinking and approach for not sending our daughters to school. However, none of these queries gets raised. The second question has always been about the entrance exams.

I don’t get this, at all. Why should anyone raise a question about an event that is a decade down the line? That too, with an air of certainty that the said event is a must-happen occurrence which the child should/must/ has to compulsorily get through. Why the rush? What’s the hurry? Why the unreserved single-minded focus and dedication for entrance exams?

Entrance Exams Are The Reality

I agree that the people who raise a concern about our six-years-old daughters’ lack of preparation for entrance exams have a valid point. In the Indian context, that’s the only point. It is true that unless for the entrance exams, the child does not seem to have a future in today’s India when s/he grows up to be an adult.

Be it the JEE/NEET/CAT/CLAT/CA/CS/IAS or whatever/wherever, there is no escaping the claws of the entrance exams. The private institutions, not to be left behind, have entrance exams of their own. The Institutes of Eminence need to be Eminent. So, how do they go about it? Entrance exams, of course (if only, the world rankings were based on the number of students taking the entrance exams).

There is nothing “New” in the New Education Policy (NEP) to make tomorrow’s India any different from today vis-à-vis entrance exams. When there is no alternative, when there is no notion of a substitute, what really is left to be done? Fall in line and fight it out for the endangered seats. It is a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to college admissions – public/private, JNU/Amity, even fly-by-night!!

All these mean that as soon as a child is born, s/he starts getting wired to be prepared for the impending entrance exams. That’s what the “well-meaning” people ask us when we tell that our children do not go to school. Just that the meaning remains limited to the future of the child decade from today and not today per se. What’s the fuss about childhood?

The Double-Standard Adults

Ask any adult. What’s the life-stage they would want to re-live? What are the memories they cherish? The answer will be childhood. There is a distinct possibility that an adult of today might have an abused childhood. In this case, re-draft the question: What’s the life-stage they would want to re-live “better”? The answer, again, will be childhood.

Today’s adult (parents and grand-parents included) attaches utmost importance to his/her by-gone childhood. But, the same adult has scant regard for the childhood of his/her children. S/he cannot think beyond the entrance exams. What else?

Ask any adult. What do you think where would you be a decade from today? Please list out the sacrifices for today basis the deliverables to your family in future. For example, save on your OTT subscriptions so that the child’s future can be invested in. A realistic question: What’s the contingency plan should you lose your job/vocation? In all probability, the said adult will laugh/scream out.

The adult that cannot plan for his/her future, essentially no thoughts or at best, some hazy ideas, has already thought through the child’s future and put into action. Entrance exams. What else?

As adults, we say that we prioritize creativity, fresh ideas, out-of-box thinking (I would have used more jargons, but I left the corporate job 4 years back). We say that individuality matters. What’s more, we want our child to be unique, just like us!! To back the pretending parents, the schools, with assembly lines (pun intended), promises to churn out exceptional and exclusively chiselled, only one of its kind, child!!

So, how do adults/schools go about this project of raising/schooling a “distinctive/innovative” child?

Common Entrance Exams for all the children, with not a single child left behind. Mission Accomplished.

The Missed Childhood

It is the sign of the dysfunctional and dystopian society wherein the success of the individual gets decided as early as the coding taught to a six-year-olds. What if STEM learning does not teach a child problem-solving skills? How will a child cope unless s/he is skilled and qualified to excel in the future entrance exams?

We are almost made to believe that if our children are not prepared for the entrance exams, we are doing a disservice to them. We are robbing them of their chance to have productive adulthood and setting them up for a failed future. Fair point.

I have not been able to raise a counterpoint that the child who is being groomed for entrance exams, throughout the childhood, can/might raise a minor query sometime in life that s/he was robbed of his/her growing up years. Won’t a childhood endowed with stress-free play and learning, along with, lead to a better chance of being a well-grounded adult? Isn’t this a fair point, as well?

What’s your view about the fait accompli of entrance exams on children’s formative years?

Even Without COVID-19, Schools May Not Open In India

There are many things in life that go beyond logic and common sense. In India, we have one such event unfolding right now. Schools were shut down in March 2020 as a precautionary measure for COVID-19. Now, though it has become crystal clear that India has a sole distinction, in the entire world, of a single wave of COVID-19, with the peak coming 5 months back, schools continue to remain closed even now. It seems that even without COVID-19, schools may not open in India.

I know that schools will surely open, sometime in future. However, why the schools remain closed, as on date, is beyond me. Even more baffling is the complete silence of all the stake-holders on the continued closure of schools. Everyone is aware that everything is open in India but the schools and THAT is acceptable to all. No discussion, no questions raised, utter conformity.

What could be the reasons for this fact-of-life behaviour?

The Indian Government

Ministry of Education should be renamed Ministry of Examinations. This one statement shows the sole priority of the Indian Government. It has come up with guidelines and guidelines to open schools; and no action when the schools do not open.

The Indian Government seems to think that if anything goes wrong in the case of children, the Indian electorate will be unforgiving. Why take the unnecessary risk of getting into action mode? Anyways, the priority of Indian parents is NEET/JEE, so we shall conduct that, nonetheless. Rest is business as usual, rather no business at all.

The Indian Parents

There is no discussion on whether online education is delivering, the child is learning, all the children are benefiting – why bother? What matters is that our children go on to the next grade at the end of the year. Across the spectrum of Indian economic and social order, this seems to be the only driving factor.

The Private Schools

2020 might, in fact, turn out to be the most profitable year in history. Collect the fees from the parents. Dock the salaries of the teachers. Remove the support staff. Bare minimum establishment costs. Why bother about the Government protocols to open the schools when the charade of online learning has such a huge payback?

At worst, 5-10% of the parents will be unable to pay the fees. Rest all of them will, of course, pay. Which Indian parent can suffer the ignominy of the school admission of his/her child revoked?

The Government Schools

Even before COVID-19, Pratham ASER surveys showed the dismal learning outcomes of the Government schools. Why bother needlessly during the pandemic, or even after? Rather at all.

The Government School Teachers

The salary continues to get paid, regardless. What’s the nuisance going on about student’s learning?

The Private School Teachers

The threat from the school management of dismissal from the job looms large. Better to remain silent, take the salary whatever is getting paid and get on with the job of online teaching. Anyways, distant-teaching is not any different than in-person teaching. It was a monologue then, it is a monologue now, with the extra benefit of no need to check on the student’s attention.

Moreover, some parents have opted for private tuitions, so the net income has increased. Let the school closure continue.

The Indian Media

The headline-hunters work best from the confines of the TV studio/newsrooms. Reporting from the ground-up is long forgotten. The press releases, the politician’s quotes, tweets are the news.

What’s the fuss about school opening or closures? It is not a newsworthy item. Forget it.

The Indian Society

Once the children are enrolled in schools, they are learning, whether it is in school or online. The school report card at the end of the year is the holy truth, rest all is a myth. So, no questions asked.

Actually, when we were in school ourselves, we were taught to toe the line and not ask questions. It holds us in good stead even now. See for yourself.

The Social Scientists/Experts/Researchers

Getting into the cross-hairs of the mighty Indian Government and the equally powerful school lobby is a taboo. Repeat after me, whatever they do is right.

The Children

Online learning is no fun. For that matter, even the schools were no fun either. Cannot figure out what is worse. Anyways, let me continue my screen time. It is educational, everybody agrees now.

Why would not schools open?

I know the situation is not bad as I have made it out to be. There are lots of diligent teachers and hard-working students that are trying their level best to ensure the efficacy of online learning. I do not mean any disrespect to them. But, it is a different matter for the other actors mentioned above.

If the opening of schools is such a big pain-point, why not prioritize teachers and the support staff in vaccination? We do not do that also, and will not open schools also. There doesn’t seem to be a perceptible difference with schools closed that warrants urgency/an action plan.

Why would you think the schools have STILL not opened in India, with COVID-19 vanishing in a single wave and the approval of Covishield and Covaxin?

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Ministry of Education Should Be Renamed Ministry of Examinations

Recently, Ministry of Human Resource Development was renamed Ministry of Education by Government of India. A well-meaning gesture, one would say. A long-winding name, hard to decipher, gets replaced by a sweet and short one. The new name connotes the priority and objective of the department – what it upholds and works for. However, basis the actual actions of the department, I propose to rename it as Ministry of Examinations.

Under normal circumstances, actions of a Government department do not come to a layman’s notice unless it does something truly path-breaking. But these are not regular conditions. This is the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the Ministry of Health, if there is one Ministry that would be of utmost importance to citizens – it is the Ministry of Education.

It is the actions during this pandemic that signifies what the Ministry stands for and acts for. This is the time when the students need help, the parents need support for their children, the schools and colleges need back-up aid. Ministry of Education could have taken steps to justify and come true to its new name. It could have been the supreme champion of Indian education and become the most celebrated Ministry in the Government.

In reality, what has been the Ministry up to?

Guidelines and Guidelines and Examinations

Ministry of Education has released umpteen guidelines on online education. There is no follow-up on the efficacy, students left out, execution by the schools etc. The Ministry claimed to circulate a number of online modules for teaching. Again no data on how many students, teachers and schools actually benefitted, the reach etc.

Once the pandemic started to subside, the Ministry released guidelines on reopening of schools and colleges. Post the guidelines, the Ministry went into hibernation with no report on whether the States are following the directions. As on date, few schools and colleges have opened in bits and pieces or they are going to reopen now.

What happens to students left out by online education/unable to cope with the demands of screen-only learning? What about parents that are unable to pay the fees? How about the schools and colleges that do not have the bandwidth for online classes/reopening protocols? What about the well-being of teachers in private schools?

No answers. No ownership. Now, compare this with the self-righteous zeal for JEE/NEET/final-year college exams.

At that point of time, COVID-19 had just about started to recede, but the exams were held nonetheless. There were a big hue and cry by the students and the parents, but ultimately in the dog-eat-dog world of ultra-competitive entrance exams, they had to fall in line.

Though, nothing much has happened post the first-year admissions in engineering/medical colleges. That’s fine. Entrance examinations were mandatory. Final year college exams were a charade and after the graduation, students have few jobs on offer. That’s fine. Final year examinations were mandatory.

What’s the learning from the above-mentioned real-life actions by the Ministry? Mention the word Examinations and the Ministry swings into action. Else, it is the case of some guidelines here and there followed by a prolonged slumber.

No Alternative To Examinations

Indian education is infamous for the single-minded focus on rote learning that can be evaluated only by writing exams. Ministry of Education, coinciding with the name change, released the New Education Policy (NEP). However in that too, the focus on examinations has not got diluted any bit. Apart from the dreadful suggestion of primary education in mother tongue, it has nothing new to offer, least on exams.

The students are told to think out of the box, re-imagine, re-invent and all such theory. However, when it is about coming up with an option to the rote fest, the Ministry is devoid of ideas. Leave aside coming up with an option, we are made to believe that there is no alternative at all.

In regular times, nobody would discuss discarding the fossilized notion of exams that we have. If even during this unprecedented times, we cannot let go of our perception that there is no alternative to the normal exams; what a new normal are we talking about?

To reduce the students’ stress, what has the Ministry done? Reduce the syllabus by 30% but it is the exams for the remaining 70% that will matter. The syllabus can be worked around, but not the exams. The Ministry has let known the priorities to all.

Ministry of Examinations, It Is

All through the COVID-19 pandemic, what have been the maximum interactions of Honourable Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal about? Announcing the examination dates.

What did he speak about other than exams? I have not come across anything. If you get to know, please do share. His Ministry and his good self know nothing other than the exams, exams and the exams. At least, that is what his and the Ministry’s actions show and prove.

In light of the above, I propose to rename the Ministry of Education as Ministry of Examinations.

What are your views on this subject?

PS: PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Primary Education In Mother Tongue: A Disservice To Indian Children

There are lot many things that do a disservice to Indian children. One among the top contenders is the misplaced zeal of promoting primary education in mother tongue. It affects not just the childhood but remains a handicap throughout the life of the child – affecting him/her in every sphere.

Once in a while, the issue of primary education in mother tongue will crop up. Each time, everybody but for the parent will speak in the favour of the mother tongue. Now, it is the turn of the New Education Policy (NEP) to re-start this debate. No prize for a correct guess about what NEP is promoting – primary education in mother tongue.

The purpose of education in India

Education serves multiple objectives. Few start right at the top – to know one’s potential and all such in philosophical realms. We, in India, have a rather straight-forward transactional view of education – get a better job/to improve prospects of a white-collar life/do better than the parents. In short, crack JEE/NEET, excel in a rote fest.

Now, with this two-word purpose of education – JEE/NEET, how and where does primary education in mother tongue fits in? The Central Government has proposed that entrance tests will be held in regional languages. Great. But, after getting admission what language will the medicine/engineering students study in? The Central Government has proposed that IITs will start teaching in Hindi. Even greater.

Now, come the ultimate questions. Will Google recruit an IIT engineer that has studied only in Hindi? Will Ivy League universities abroad give additional marks to the students of the vernacular? Would medical fraternity worldwide (even an Indian pharmaceutical company for that matter) open up the flood gates of opportunities for a doctor who prescribes only in a local language?

The single word answer for all the above questions is NO. Well, when there is no opportunity, apart from applying for a Government job, on what basis is the Government or for that matter all the so-called subject experts promoting primary education in mother tongue.

Everyone including the Supreme Court will pass the order that mother tongue is the best medium to teach a child. The irony of the situation is that this order would have been passed in English and the children of all these education experts would be highly deficient in communicating in their respective mother tongues. A bunch of hypocrites.

Parents know better

Wouldn’t the parents know that their children will learn better in mother tongue? Intentionally, no parent would want to put their children in a disadvantageous position of learning in a foreign language. Nobody would want to dole inferior treatment to their mother tongue. Yet, every parent in India wants their children to study in English medium school. Why?

What do parents see all around them in society? Persons with English background cornering all the privileged and coveted positions, considered in better esteem, have a better chance to rise in economic and social hierarchy etc. Why would any parent not want a similar profile for their children?

So, what do parents do? Enrol the child ASAP in an English medium school, running away from the promised misery of the vernacular school. Why blame them? They are only trying to try their luck at the perverse incentives laid down by a dysfunctional society that looks down at people who studied in their mother tongue.

Yes, some exceptions have excelled and reached newer heights even by studying in the local language. But that is what they are – an exception. And, after reaching their top positions, no prizes for guessing what language will their children be studying in. Nobody would want to be an exception to the norm, but the norm.

The ship of primary education in mother tongue has sailed

If there was a time for promoting regional languages of India, it was right after 1947. The first decade of Independence, maybe the second decade, but after that with each passing year, it is becoming only an uphill task of promoting the vernacular. Now, it is impossible, if not next to impossible, to imbibe primary education in mother tongue.

The politicians screwed up India’s language policy after Independence. The Indian language experts aided them in the destruction of the local languages by being prude, self-absorbed, lacking innovation and refusing to change with times. What do you call “internet”, “computer”, “mobile” in any of the Indian languages? There lies the answer to why Indian parents choose English as the medium of instruction for their children.

It is better if we, as a country, admit our folly and let go of our notion that primary education in mother tongue is good for the child. It is surely good for the child, but for the adult that the child will grow into, it is a sure-shot recipe for disaster.

The constructive option would be to adapt and adopt Indian English as our own language. The sooner it happens, more useful for Indian children, more beneficial for India, more practical than continuing with this time-wasting pointless debate raised by an out-of-sync with the times’ NEP.

What would be your views on this subject?

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Indian English Should Be Taught To Indian Children

‘English is a funny language’, this is an oft-repeated quote whenever my daughters study English with me. As a matter of fact, there is nothing funny about the language. It is just that the English language transcends logic and common sense when it comes to pronunciation, spellings, grammar and whatnot. This makes me propose that Indian English should be taught to Indian children.

I suppose all of us have learnt our English in schools. At that age, we would not have been able to ponder over the absurdities of what we are being taught by our English teachers. And, the teachers are in the profession of teaching what they are taught to teach. So, the saga of the Queen’s English keeps perpetuating, no matter how silly and ridiculous.

The Unscientific Language

How does one teach English to Indian children? LSRW is all hogwash. Except for an extremely tiny minority, children do not get to listen and speak English as their first step to learning this language. So, the phonetics makes an entry with alphabet identification, writing and reading, in that order. So far, so good. Now, slowly the eccentricities of the Queen’s English will start showing its tentacles.

The pronunciation of “C” will keep changing as per the whim and fancy. “G” will follow suit immediately. “I” and “E” are enough to drive a sane person crazy. “Y” and “O” decide to join the fun. Try teaching the spelling of “Two”, “To”, “Too” / “Four”, “For” scientifically to the child. How about “One” or “Eight” for that matter? We haven’t even reached the silent alphabets, homonyms, “Cough/Dough” etc.

You will say that English is not a 100% phonetic language. Everyone knows it. What’s the big deal? Well, it is not a big deal as an adult. Try telling it to children – Indian children. Our mother tongues i.e. Indian languages are all nearly 100% phonetic (most letters are consistently pronounced). Comparatively, English is only about 75% phonetic.

Why should Indian children be subjected to the strange and senseless way of learning a language in their growing years? Why cannot we make it simple and easy for Indian children to learn English by just following the phonetics? Speak and read as is written, and write as is spoken and read.

This is the big deal.

Adapt and Adopt Indian English

The educationists and prudes will scoff at the idea of any changes in Queen’s English. First and foremost, they will claim that there is no need to change. It will be termed as an un-wise and un-called for. It will be said that any change in English will be detrimental to the prospects of Indians, as we will end up being the only ones with the changed pronunciations, spellings, grammar etc.

Today, who would be the largest mass of people using English globally? We, Indians. If we are the biggest users, why cannot we make it to our liking and preferences? There is, at least, one more version of English doing the rounds – there is English (UK) and there is English (American). Why cannot we have English (Indian)?

We use every kind of Hinglish words while speaking. All sort of spellings and short forms are a part and parcel of our social media communications. But, when it comes to teaching to our children, we bow our heads to Queen’s English. Why should that be?

How many Indian children are going to read classical literature of the variety written by English-born writers? If Indian children go abroad for further education or work in call-centres, the only two instances wherein the Queen’s English might be required, they are more than capable of learning the different version.

The only issue to Indianizing English is that each region of India will claim to have its own pronunciation, spelling and grammar rules. To be honest, even this is fine. India is a diverse country and each region should have a say in what is taught to their children. The Indian educationists can put up a broad list of changes within which each region can pick and choose.

Focus On Indian Children

As an adult, we accept and live by the norms and the traditions that we are taught in our childhood. We do not question the practice and the routine assuming that this is how things happened in the past, take place in the present and will keep occurring in future. There is no need to suspect or mistrust the obvious. Our needless and foolish deference to British English falls in this category.

It is a hellish experience for Indian children to learn English in its current format. Simply put, it is stupid. Teaching Indian English will make the lives of our children easy and learning enjoyable. Plural of a ship is ships, but the plural of sheep is sheep. There is no fun in telling a child that English is a funny language.

The sooner we have Indian English, better for Indian children, better for India.

What would be your views on this subject?

Please do not start the primary education in mother tongue debate; it is even a bigger disservice to Indian children.

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.