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.