Benefits of learning in mother tongue

The fear of standards falling as a result of introduction of vernaculars is unfounded.

Published: 23rd Dec 2016   2:00 am Updated: 22nd Dec 2016   7:11 pm

Much has been said by many a wise and educationally well-versed stalwart such as Gandhiji, Dr S Radhakrishnan and Ch Hanumantha Rao in favour of education through mother tongue. The Telangana State, however, is playing the role of sheep than that of a shepherd. Instead of convincing people that Telugu medium is more student-friendly than English, it has replaced the former with English medium saying, “parents and students want it”. By focusing on this ‘individual good’, the State seems to be compromising on the overall social good. Fundamental rights of society have always been held above those of individual(s) by higher courts both in India and abroad when they come in conflict with each other.

English medium in the Western education system is only one of the inputs with the others being educational atmosphere, discipline, infrastructure, faculty, funding and smooth functioning of the system without strikes and agitations. These are hardly found in most of our institutions, more so in government institutions. How can then English medium alone do good where all other inputs are almost absent?

Earlier Attempt

Way back we had, in a similar fashion, adopted the Internal Evaluation System, which is only a part of the entire education system in the West. We miserably failed and ultimately scrapped it – except in a few institutions – for the simple reason that it was not adopted along with all other inputs. We are doing the same now by extending English medium to any and every institution. This will lead to many failures, much unemployment, frustration, dissatisfaction and dissent if not in the short-run, in the long-run.

Teaching through mother tongue or the regional language with adequate and appropriate facilities is the best. English medium may at best be introduced only in technical courses but not without creating adequate facilities.

I quote a few excerpts from the book ‘From Marxism-Leninism to Nehruvian Socialism Some Memories’ of Dr Ch Hanumantha Rao, a distinguished academician and educational administrator, who was also a member of the erstwhile Planning Commission and Chancellor of University of Hyderabad.

‘Language is a vehicle of thought and not entirely an end in itself. And for a student no other means of communication can be easier than one’s own mother tongue. It must be realised that it is only through vernaculars that the youth can assimilate even the most difficult knowledge in the easiest possible way and can attain capacity and efficiency for original thinking. It is only through this that an effective co-ordination between acquired knowledge and original thinking is possible in a greater measure and one can express oneself in the most clear and direct terms with utmost vigour and confidence.’

Regional Language

The University Education Commission in its report observed, ‘that in near future the regional languages will be principal media of instruction at all stages and in all provinces’. But, unfortunately, the recommendations of the Radhakrishnan University Education Commission have been shelved and the energies of youth are being diverted towards mastering and learning everything through a language, which is completely foreign and, therefore, unknown to the overwhelming majority of our people. The result being that after such a hard struggle with the language when a student comes out of the institution he finds a big wall between himself and the world. He can neither fully understand his own people nor can he make them understand his views.

“We have become foreigners in our own country,’’ said Mahatma Gandhi while discussing the position of English and asserting that “our languages are the reflection of ourselves”. He maintained that a foreign language cannot represent the true national culture and as such it cannot impart to our youth the best from our national culture and traditions.

Teaching through mother tongue has been recognised as the most scientific and the easiest way of imparting knowledge by educationists the world over. In our country, though vernaculars have been introduced up to the secondary stage, English continues to be the principal medium of instruction in all stages of higher education. A student of Intermediate, who completes his course through the medium of mother tongue, finds it extremely difficult to assimilate the knowledge through English. The results of Intermediate examinations have been quite discouraging in recent years. The difficulty of expression through English is, in fact, one of the major causes for this wastage of academic years and funds and is also one of the major causes for the existing lack of co-ordination between secondary and higher education.

It would be nothing short of degrading ourselves if we consider our languages and literature to be conservative and static, incapable of enriching themselves with newer and advanced knowledge. Human knowledge is transferable. And it has spread through the process of its transfer from one language to another. No language in the world can claim to have treasured in it all the knowledge or even a considerable part of it. Even English had to enrich itself much from German and French and from other languages and there is no reason why the same process should not be applied to our vernaculars.