MoI: Balancing the causes

By Cleofato A Coutinho
09 June 2012 20:38 IST

The issue of medium of Instruction stands settled at least for the time being and irrespective of the interpretation given by the section which was opposing grants for English Medium Primary Schools, the principle that has prevailed is the choice of the parents for primary education for their children. It is the parents’ vision for their children.

It has been argued for long that child learns better in mother tongue and that primary schooling in mother tongue is in the interest of the child. Irrespective of the merit of that argument, when overwhelmingly parents choose otherwise, could it not be said that the government has no option? The parent’s obsession with English Medium education even at the primary level is keeping in tune with the economic and cultural aspirations of the ‘new generation’ that has emerged since the nineties. The economic mobility of our elite and upper sections is so intense that lower sections have felt the situation of being left behind.

The obsession with parents’ choice of English language is the social and economic mobility of the new generation in the new global economy. Mulayam Singh Yadav, one of the strongest proponents of Hindi, was forced to dilute his allergy to English language and computers in the last Uttar Pradesh elections after the decision of Mayawati to introduce English from first grade in Uttar Pradesh was hailed in the state and by Dalits across the country. Dalit community as a whole sees English as the language of their empowerment.

Taking a second look at his stated position on the language, Dr. U.R. Anantamurthi, one of the greatest proponents of medium of instructions in mother tongue says “I believe we must teach at least two languages in our schools - our mother tongue and English. I am not against English; we do need to learn it since it is today the global language. But I would give equal importance to teaching in our mother tongue as well. We need English to keep in touch with the world and we need to keep in touch with the world and we need out mother tongue to keep in touch with our roots”.

He further adds: “I have often talked of an analogy of a house with the frontal portion and the backyard. In the front there is a sitting area where guests are entertained, business gets transacted, intellectual discussions take place. And on the back there are ladies working in the kitchen, doing household work, telling stories to children. I believe both these parts are equally important and you cannot have one without the other. The front part helps us to keep pace with the modernity while the backyard helps us to maintain our traditions, our roots”.  

That is certainly a pragmatic approach in the new economic order that has emerged since the nineties.

As against the principle of the child’s right or the parents’ vision for the child the fear of local language and identity withering away is a concern that would have to be addressed. But to say that the only way to address that concern is by not giving grants to primary schools other than those in mother tongue/regional language would be a dogmatic approach and against democratic spirit.

Gurucharan Das refers to Hindi as “my street language,” which according to him shall withstand the onslaught of the English language.

Special scholarships for those excelling in local languages, compulsory local language up to a particular level, special incentive for those who study the language at higher level including university level and designing of syllabi in such a manner as to offer local language in a present curriculum could be some of the solutions. Special economic incentive for local language schools like the one in the present policy. How to design the curriculum is a specialized job for those in the field of education. We have to be innovative Charles Darwin: “the future will always be for those fit to survive. It is not the strongest of the species that survive; not the most intelligent but the most responsive to change”. Changes shall have to be made keeping that spirit in mind.

Compulsory Marathi as a language from fifth standard was introduced in Maharashtra. The policy was justified for day to day affairs of the people living in the state of Maharashtra and for proper carrying out daily administration. It received approval of the Supreme Court when Gujarati linguistic minorities complained of being forced to teach four languages as against accepted three language formula. (Usha Mehta and others V/s State of Maharashtra and other 2004(6) SCC 264).

Mother tongue education and multilingualism are increasingly accepted around the world. Encouraging education in the mother tongue, alongside bilingual or multilingual education, is one of the principles set out by UNESCO in a new position paper.

Languages are now regarded as an integral part of a people's identity, as shown in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), which recognizes the importance of languages in promoting cultural diversity. But the technical issues of how to teach them are involved too. The main thing is to respect local languages and legitimize them within the school system as well as giving pupils access to a national and foreign language, says full bench of the Karnataka High Court.

The language of hope would have to be balanced against the language of identity. More languages would only make our state and the country culturally a richer nation. Local Languages due their richness shall continue to grow irrespective of the government grants at the primary level education as long as people love and nurture that language.

Konkani survived despite a decree banning it. Similarly Hindi, Marathi and Kannada shall flower despite the medium of instruction not being in the mother tongue/regional language if appropriate measures are taken by those in the field of education.  Let us not get alarmed at the instance of language chauvinists. Let us work out a balanced formula for the protection of our language and identity. Let us take a realistic view of the matter.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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Previous Comments

Two things are involved here ,

One is that language identity .

Well one should not be worried about it .

it well remain as long as there are people talking that language.

Second is what I feel is more important ,

The KNOWLEDGE building .

Which suffers in all this issue .

- anand masur, madgao | 30 th June 2012 23:54


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