Medium of Instruction in Schools


    In News

    • Over the years, there has been a raging debate over the need for children to have their mother tongue as the medium of instruction in schools.


    • The mother tongue, home language or the first language educationally means the language which the child is using to connect to the world, to people, to nature, to the environment, and to make sense of everything that’s going on. 
    • The first language is the language that you speak and think in, and if you learn to read and write and understand the world through that language, that is what gives you the proficiency and confidence to be able to read and write a second language which can be the state language, and a third language which should be English. 

    Arguments in favour of mother tongue

    • Educationists have emphasised the importance of learning in the mother tongue to enhance a child’s learning and overcome glaring inequities.
    • The National Education Policy 2020 says the home language, mother tongue, local language, or regional language wherever possible should be the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8.
    • There is an almost-complete consensus among educationists, linguistic experts and psychologists that the mother tongue or the language of the region where the child lives is the only appropriate language of learning for the child.
      • A child can be taught any number of languages particularly later in life but the medium of learning should be the mother tongue.
    • This is the language which helps the child to build, grow and develop in every way. 

    Arguments in favour of English

    • There has been an equally steady demand for English-medium schools in several States.
    • NEP’s overall philosophy of the privatisation of education and marketisation with no regulatory control to the state would tilt towards English.
      • There are a growing number of schools, mostly private, that teach in English.
    • Tamil Nadu was one of the earliest States to start English-medium learning in a very big way.
      • Government schools too in States like Tamil Nadu unable to bear the pressure from parents and to stop students from migrating to private schools, are switching to English medium.
    • Millions are languishing because of their inability to learn in English not English as a language but as a medium through which they acquire any knowledge of any subject.
      • English is their dream and their despair.

    Challenges with Indian learning system

    • India has constructed an education system that is among the most exclusionary in the world: The impulse behind this is excluding the vast majority from all opportunities except the lowest and the least-paying jobs.
      • Every component of education, curriculum, testing and certifying methods, and each and every rule of the game is crafted for fulfilling this class purpose.
    • There are political forces especially Dalit groups who insist that English has been the language of liberation for them
      • They look at it like that because of the denial and the deprivation of Dalits in the education system, and that’s important to acknowledge.
    • Learning outcomes: Is a denial of children’s rights, because the NEP too says that it will not focus on inputs and only on outcomes.

    Way Forward/ Suggestions 

    • We don’t have a language policy. We take ad hoc decisions. The three language formula also doesn’t look too much at the pedagogical aspects. 
      • It is important to have a well understood, pedagogically considered language policy. 
    • Reading and writing are different from learning to speak, understand, listen, or think in, and the first language they learn to read and write in is critical.
    • We don’t want any classroom to be based on instruction which is a very didactic, authoritative term; it should instead be interactive, and a transaction. 
    • In many places in our country there are bilingual and multilingual classrooms
      • In Jharkhand the state might say Hindi is the language but 50%-60% of children don’t speak the language.
    • Multilingualism gives equal status to all languages and there’s enough work, history and research on this.
    • Myth must be broken that our education system is class and caste neutral: a powerful political movement will have to take place to make the language of learning a choice that is made democratically. 

    Evolution of Education Policy: 

    • University Education Commission (1948-49)
    • Secondary Education Commission (1952-53)
    • Education Commission (1964-66) under Dr D. S. Kothari
    • National Policy on Education, 1968
    • 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976- Education in Concurrent List
    • National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986

    Constitutional Provisions:

    • Article 45 and Article 39 (f) of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), has a provision for state-funded as well as equitable and accessible education. Education is in the concurrent list. 
    • The 86th Amendment in 2002 made education an enforceable right under Article 21-A.
    • Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 aims to provide primary education to all children aged 6 to 14 years and enforces education as a Fundamental Right. It mandates 25% reservation for disadvantaged sections of the society.

    Salient features of the NEP 2020 

    • School Education
      • Ensuring Universal Access at all levels of school education
      • Early Childhood Care & Education with  new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure
      • Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy
      • Reforms in school curricula and pedagogy
      • Multilingualism and the power of language
      • Assessment Reforms
      • Equitable and Inclusive Education
      • Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path
      • School Governance
      • Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education
    • Higher Education
      • Increase GER to 50 % by 2035
      • Holistic Multidisciplinary Education
      • Regulation
      • Rationalised Institutional Architecture
      • Motivated, Energized, and Capable Faculty
      • Teacher Education
      • Mentoring Mission
      • Financial support for students
      • Open and Distance Learning
    • Online Education and Digital Education
    • Technology in education
    • Promotion of Indian languages
    • Professional Education
    • Adult Education: Policy aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.
    • Financing Education: The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in the Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.

    Source: TH