Medium of destruction?

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
29 March 2011 21:33 IST

I am neither a linguist nor an educationist. However, as a parent, I feel the issue of Medium of Instruction at primary level is not being debated in a proper perspective. Due to this, it is slowly taking communal colour and has already become a political issue. With Assembly elections round the corner, the politicians are playing to the gallery and children are being taken for a ride once again. Nobody seems to be interested in tackling the issue objectively. What is going on at present is completely superficial.

I have personally studied in Marathi medium till standard tenth – SSC. Though my English is not perfect as it should be, it is definitely not worse than those who studied in English medium in similar schools right from the first standard. I also know that my knowledge of Konkani, Marathi and Hindi has helped me immensely in today’s multilingual era with service industry booming in our country.

Both my children have studied in English medium from Kindergarten level. When my elder son had to be admitted to first standard, we had tried our level best to start a proper Konkani medium primary school in Panaji, run by Konkani Bhasha Mandal, as they run it in Margao. I still consider it to be the best Konkani primary school in Goa. When I compare these students (sons and daughters of my friends and family in Margao) to my children, I find a huge difference between them. None of them have suffered in terms of English. In fact their English is as good as my children. Contrary to this, my children have suffered immensely in terms of confidence, boldness and vast knowledge of the world the KBM students have acquired by becoming ‘locally global’.

Of course, the KBM students have also suffered at different level, compared to our children. We sent both our children to Nisha’s Play School at KG level and Shiksha Niketan (same management) at primary level. It’s a full-day school. They are oriented towards answering examination only in the fourth standard. No traditional exams otherwise but continuous and thorough assessment. They learn through play way method – dancing, singing, playing, drawing, craft etc. They know swimming, cooking, traffic rules and even how to behave in a civic society. Since no school was available in and around Panaji to match this standard and no school was teaching in real Konkani like KBM but teaching Konkani in English, we chose the play way method learning for our children. They gained immensely; but also lost equally since they did not study in Konkani medium.

We then decided to send our daughter to a private aided Konkani primary school. Fortunately, teacher Joaquina and principal Nisha D’Cunha detected her Dyslexia when she was in KG. It’s not a deformity, but a learning difficulty. Comprehension of words was a problem – a milder version of the famous film ‘Tare Zameen Par’. Dr Nandita D’Souza’s Sethu, an NGO dealing with such children came to our rescue. Anjali Barreto from Sethu became a favourite teacher of my daughter. She pulled out my child from Dyslexia with the help of special software prepared in English. I have heard that Sangath, another NGO, has now started experimenting it in Konkani. But we missed it. Once again, our second child was also deprived of Konkani medium at primary level.

What we need today is imparting primary education in play way method; in Konkani. It would play wonders in Goa. We have also not developed a methodology to pull out children from such problems like Dyslexia, a problem found among 10 to 15 per cent students in every class. These same children then lag behind and are called ‘Drop Outs’. They are intelligent, but victims of a wrong education system.

In that sense, if we go by the arguments put forward today by those who are fighting for primary education in ‘regional’ language, I am an anti-national. And if the same argument is stretched further, then whole Goa should be called a state of anti-nationals since it’s 90 per cent English medium from fifth standard onwards. If the same argument of colonial mentality is applied to those who study in Marathi medium, they should be called Maharashtrawadis. It means Goa is full of colonial slaves and expansionists from fifth standard onwards!

Ultimately, all of us are proud Indians. Does it mean that all ‘these’ parents, till they were sending their children to Konkani, were nationalists? Does it mean that all those, who are already sending their children to unaided English primary schools and also those who are running English primary schools with ‘government recognition’, are anti-nationals? And does it also mean that everybody becomes nationalist even if they learn in English from fifth standard onwards? In reality, these are mere arguments, with no substance.

Secondly, why to blame Christians alone for English medium? I was at a family party recently at a friend’s house. Not less than 20 to 25 people had gathered. None of them was a Christian. As it happens at any such get together these days, the parents were discussing the issue of medium of instruction. I and my wife had a tough time arguing with them. Everybody was for English medium at primary level. At one corner, all the children had gathered. Their common language of discussion was English. None of these parents are affected with the ongoing controversy since their children are/were already studying in English medium unaided private primary schools. A well-to-do Hindu, Christian or Muslim is already ‘English’.

May be the Diocesan Society of Education had taken initiative in supporting a rally in Panaji to demand government support to English medium primary education. But are they alone to be held responsible for it? What about the government authorities and the so called educationists sitting in the education department who permitted hundreds of English medium unaided private primary schools since 1991? Since then, the ‘affordable’ class belonging to all religions and castes study in English and the children of ‘unaffordables’ don’t. It’s also because of – like my friend Shridhar Kamat has put it rightly in one article recently – their livelihood is dependent on their service abroad or in the tourism industry locally. In both the areas, English is a language of communication.

Perhaps due to these factors, Goa for almost two decades is suffering with a phobia of English. In order to improve English of our children, we have started conversing with our children in English. “Baba, Hello say” is the kind of English we teach them even before they enter the school. It’s purely impure. We could call it Konglish – English in Konkani style; but definitely not English. On the other hand, most of the Konkani medium aided primary schools also teach them Konkani in English – ‘Hanga Yo’ means ‘Come here’. For all practical purposes, the mother tongue of these children is English (actually Konglish) and definitely not Konkani. What has actually spoiled English of our children is this English phobia; not primary education in Konkani.

And what is the ultimate result? These children can neither speak proper Konkani nor write or read it properly, since Konkani medium has been ‘exploited’ purely to get salary grants for the teachers and not to impart education in proper Konkani. Since 1991, from the time many schools shifted to Konkani medium overnight, no DEd has started in Konkani till date to train the Konkani teachers, except few workshops organised by the DSE in initial years. Our so educationists have been sleeping over this basic requirement. On the other hand, the Konglish has spoiled our English. They don’t know the difference between “than” and “then” or “its” and “it’s”. Many of them “aks” and don’t “ask”. Teachers in the schools try hard to purify their Konglish, but don’t succeed all the time.  These children simply can’t compete with others in the world market and then blame the Konkani medium education at primary level.

Contrary to this, students who have learnt in Konkani medium (and even Marathi) excel far better in English - as a language as well as the medium. Their base is very strong since they learnt without any stress at preliminary level. They also learnt English as a language with proper grammar, without getting affected with impure Konglish. Children, especially coming out from schools like KBM, are also prepared well to shift over to English medium. They face no difficulty in writing or reading English from fifth standard. In addition, they have a great advantage of knowing Konkani well (including local culture) while also have an advantage of knowing Hindi and even Marathi sometimes. The multilingual candidate obviously is more preferred in the service industry today than the one who cannot write, read or speak even one language properly.

I must share this experience. We recently made friends with a Telugu couple, who was also in Goa for some years, but living in England. Their son has made a film course and wants to settle down in India to make his career; not in Mumbai or Hyderabad but in Goa. The simple reason is that he knows no other language than English, which Goans can converse a bit as it’s a tourist state. He knows neither Telugu nor Hindi. His parents are repenting today for the biggest mistake they committed – not introducing him to his mother tongue - Telugu. His future lies in India, the progressing country. But he is completely lost...

I can’t understand why our educationists come on roads only when the issue of medium of instruction is raised and not to streamline our whole faulty system of primary education. I can’t understand why all educationists had turned a blind eye towards the ‘cheating of teaching’ going on all these years. I can’t understand why we shy away from speaking our own mother tongue but prefer spoiling our child’s English with its obsession. I also can’t understand why our politicians politicise education, in which lies future of our children. 

As a parent, who was a victim of circumstance, my only humble request to all the stakeholders is to maintain the status quo and study the issue thoroughly. We need to conduct a proper survey of the harsh realities at grassroot level before reaching any solution. We need our children to know proper English (and not Konglish) to compete in the world market. We also don’t want our children to be uprooted from the local culture and local language. We also want them to be multilingual so that they branch out in any direction they desire to. We need all-round development of our children.  

For this, we need a well-planned roadmap for the prosperity of Goa. Such an issue cannot be resolved by coming to the streets or getting emotional over it. Such an important issue also cannot be resolved with temporary solutions or mere eyewash. We can’t afford unscientific short cuts but need a scientifically thought of permanent solution.  

Because, it’s Education; not Politics!

Blogger's Profile

Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of HCN and Prudent, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities.

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Previous Comments

Swataaak Konkaniwaadi mhanaytaat ani aaplya bhurgyang maat 'ENGLESH' Shikaytaat.

Kaaran kite tar bare iskol ponje naa..

Kitlo re dhongi panaa.

- Paresh, UAE | 31 st March 2011 21:28

 

SandeshBhai, I do not want to sound like "biting the hand that feeds you". Thank you for providing this forum, where we can air our views.

We are talking about the English language, which presently is not owned by any country. The English language forked its way into American (or US) and the Queen's English, but then came the Internet and perhaps gave it direction, as an Universal language or 'lingua franca' ( I still don't get it whether franca means French).

Most people will know that in the US, not all the places or states speak English as a national language. I have worked with the natives of English and I was not surprised that they were not perfect in both spoken or written English.

So whoever learned the primary in Portuguese, English, French, Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Malayam, studied in well researched, developed languages we can all do well to learn. But, to say that Konkani has been or will strive to become one such developed languages, is difficult to say. The Konkani protagonists of Devnagri all say they studied in Marathi and now they are supporters of Konkani. How about that and the recent grouping in far off Canacona? Instead of bickerings develop the 'mhai-bhas' to hold it alift, I should say. Konkani is not a dialect of Marathi.

- Ludovico, Old-Goa | 31 st March 2011 17:29

 

Good article which is balanced. The so called experts should not force any of their decisions on others at least so far as the medium of education of their kids is concerned.. The parents are intelligent enough to decide as to what is good for the future of their kids and the duty of the Government is to extend all possible help -it can. One should not forget that each family has it's own unique compulsions of educating their kids and also it depends on many factors such as the ability of their kids, their financial status and so on. One should also remember that the education is a means for many to make a living. All can not become professionals and many may have to leave their education mid way and take up a job on the ships or Arab Countries for which ability to communicate in English becomes the primary requirement. Imagine what would happen if all those who presently take up jobs abroad and remit valuable foreign exchange to the tune of almost equal to our annual Budget-are forced to come in the Goan job market ,

The medium of education should never be made a political issue to divide the society for political gains...

- vishwas prabhudesai, loliem | 30 th March 2011 11:11

 

I do agree with you . I feel Many parents are sending their children to English medium school not because they love English but because they do not have quality education in Konkani or Marathi . secondly many parents send their children to English medium school is because they are run by private management. conditions in some aided and govt, school in villages are responsible for increase in number of English medium school (many cases school run on business model) . and its very said even after 20 years govt. is not doing any progress in improving MAIBHAS .There are no resources and manpower available to start school in local languages.

For me English language is only for commercial and business purpose it has no place in my heart .

- sanjay Dessai, Curchorem Goa | 30 th March 2011 06:29

 

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