Freedom to Choose, much to lose

By Prabhakar Timble
28 June 2011 14:16 IST

 

When the whole world, including the biggest multinationals are thinking global and acting local to maximise the benefits of globalisation, the Government of Goa thinks and also acts global as it claims, at the primary stage of education and the soft formative years of the child. Without local thinking and action, globalisation would be inappropriate, misconceived and perverse is understood well in the developed world. Our medium of instruction policy   at the primary stage of education is almost akin to feeding the children free doses of Coke and Pepsi in the formative years, because anyway, they would sip the international carbonated soft drink once they grow up. 

Those who espouse mother-tongue at the primary level are not against learning of English language skills and those committed for English from the birth of the child are not against vernacular is well understood. Both are for strengthening English. It is also undeniable that choice is a fundamental right.  However, the government policy should be to influence right, scientific and desirable choices. The purpose of public policy is also to support the less strong amongst the strongest. There is no threat to English, if not supported by grants.  Assuming that the perceptions and arguably the choices are in favour of English, the greater is the need to support the mother tongue. If we feel that parents and children who choose the vernacular medium at primary level are making a sacrifice, then their hands need to be strengthened.  Grants, additional supports, incentives and motivations are needed to the vernacular to reverse the trend. Sadly and wrongly, Goa is raising the toast for English and shooting down the vernacular, thereby destroying access and choice to the mother tongue at the primary level as the years pass by. The Congress government in Goa has concluded that the vernacular is weak and sick, hence deserves a decent death. So, the Goa cabinet ratified mercy killing of the mother tongue.

Facts and fiction

The consensus of experts in the field of education points out that the primary education for children must be provided in their native language. All experts in the field of formal education have come to the conclusion that the native language provides the best and most natural way to relate to surroundings, things and ideas. On the other hand, a slower development of learning skill is observed when a different language is used as the medium of education in primary schools then the one spoken at home. Psychologically, it is the system of meaningful signs that works automatically in the mind of a child for expression and understanding. Sociologically, it is the means of identification among members of the community to which the child belongs. Educationally, the child learns more quickly through it than through an unfamiliar linguistic medium.

Parents should not remain in the dark and make choices due to invented stories. English medium at primary level gives a larger future to the child, boosts self-confidence, makes the child smarter, sharpens intelligence, improves fluency in English, insures opportunities of higher education and employment and makes the child globally competitive. English medium at primary level is to serve the interests of the unaffordable segment, the OBCs, SC/ST, the rural and urban poor. The changed policy of the government gives credence to this fiction. In reality, it is not the medium of instruction but the methodology of teaching and learning and the freedom to the child in the school and at home that shapes the growth of the child. The poor and illiterate parents will face the brunt of such a policy. Primary education would become costlier for the unaffordable segment with requirement of tuitions from the nursery level onwards. The victims would be children with the joy and opportunities of natural learning totally crushed.

Rabindranath Tagore, emphasizing the importance of the mother-tongue as the medium of education elucidated that the use of English in education hindered assimilation of what was taught, and kept education confined to urban centres and the upper classes. Thus, if the vast rural masses were to benefit, it was absolutely essential to switch over to the use of Bengali in the context of Bengal. Mahatma Gandhi hinted   “Among the many evils of foreign rule, this blighting imposition of a foreign medium upon the youth of the country will be counted by History as one of the greatest. It has sapped the energy of the nation. It has shortened the lives of the pupils. It has estranged them from the masses. It has made education unnecessarily expensive. If this process is still persisted in, it bids fair to rob the nation of its soul………..”

The plain truth

The issue before the government of Goa was simple and straightforward. It was to satisfy the demand of the Diocesan Society of Education to provide grants to pay the salaries of teachers without any commitments from the school managements or the teachers. The demand was steered by the parents who desire to send their children to the schools managed by the DSE.   New justifications are put forth to decide on these grants. The first is the right of choice of parents. Parents expect the government to fund their choice of medium and school. The second is the creation of an academic base around English stating that this medium at primary level will enable children to excel. The third is the economic base of opportunities of higher education and employment. To satisfy a straight demand for grants, we are rewriting the principles, objectives, vision and mission of the beginning and end of formal education. This is dangerous and suicidal for the future.

I am not worried about the future of Goa and Goa’s identity. It is already put on slow fire. I am also not worried about the future of Konkani. My worry is the future of the children. They have definitely to gain as learners with the mother tongue as medium at primary level along with English as one language. Parenthood comes automatically with marriage after a lapse of few months. If this equips parents to make intelligent and fair choices for our children, I have nothing to say. Teachers, educationists, writers, thinkers, artists, institutions like the Church and the government should facilitate and mould the choices of parents and children. The government grants policy at primary level to any medium is a total abdication of this responsibility.

Our own Ravindra Kelekar, noted litterateur and Jnanpith award winner has put it aptly “There is absolutely no doubt that we need to understand and learn English. But, it does not have a status as a medium of instruction…….when it is made a medium of instruction it crosses the respectable boundaries……learning English is different from learning in English”.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Previous Comments

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I am not worried about the future of Goa and Goa’s identity.

It is already put on slow fire.

I am also not worried about the future of Konkani.

My worry is the future of the children.

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One language as medium of expression at home and another language as medium of instruction at school are harmful for child. Same language both at home and school is one solution. In this article, this common language is referred to as "native language" and also as "one spoken at home".

Which language? Is it only English? Is it only Konkani? Why can't there be some schools with MOI as English and some schools with MOI as Konkani? Why should Government give grants only to school with MOI as Konkani?

The vast detail must not be hidden under umbrella of general statements like - "think global act local". But to definition of term "local" specific to Goa must be understood.

The temporal aspect of the context in which various leaders expressed their views must not be ignored. It is very important to understand the "ACTUAL" context prevailing in Goa at present. The voice and concern of parents is a dimension of this context and it cannot be ignored. Surely, every parent is not worried about the identity of Goa and the future of Konkani but about the future of their children. So a parent might willingly adopt English language at home. Isn't that fine if one is not worried about the future of Konkani?

- B Brother, Earth | 02 nd July 2011 00:53

 

Excellent, well thought out article. One of the reasons why experts should be the policy makers and not the politicians.

- Pavan Kulkarni, Margao | 01 st July 2011 17:30

 

I congratulate you for your views.

Choice given to the parents will be creating all confusions in the field of education in Goa. Idea of giving choice to the parents to choose medium of instruction for their child in the second, third or fourth slandered is illogical. This attitude of the parents shows the level of their intelligence and their credibility. What does the politicians, so called educationists and the Dept. of Education wants to tell the people of Goa by allowing the parents to force the school managements to change MOI of the schools where their child is studying. What right the parents has got to decide about the medium of instruction the school must follow? Why the management should open an additional class to accommodate the child of the parent who forces them to change medium of instruction in their institution and goes against the objectives of the institution?. It will be very healthy for the institution to inform the parent to admit the child in any other school imparting education in the language of their choice. This will not create any ill feelings in the field of education. I strongly fill that choice must be given to the parents to choose the school, but not the choice to force the management to change the MOI of that school. Govt. can give the choice of choosing the doctor but not the choice of forcing the doctor to prescribe the medicines of their choice for their child.

- Gunaji Desai, Madgao | 29 th June 2011 23:24

 

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