Need of the hour is to explore ways to convert English medium schools to mother tongue medium and not the other way round.
Andhra Pradesh government recently decided to convert all the government schools using Telugu as medium of instruction to English. I am not sure who advised this but it is completely against the expert opinion in this matter. However, I will not doubt the intentions of those who took the decision. It is typical of people belonging to former British colonies to believe that only English is suitable for education, and learning it is a must to secure jobs. This is the reason why most parents send their children to English medium schools in former British colonies. With the exception of Government schools, there are hardly any Telugu Medium schools left in Andhra Pradesh. Let us now delve a little more deeper into the issue to understand it better.
I don’t want to make this into a cultural issue or an issue related to the survival of language. The only thing that bothers me is quality of education that our kids are going to get
It is typical of people belonging to former British colonies to believe that only English language is suitable for education
In order to understand the issue better, it is necessary to know answers to a few important questions. They are:
- Is English language a must for obtaining jobs?
- Is it compulsory to use English as medium of instruction to impart English language proficiency in students?
- Should the medium of instruction be Mother tongue or English? What does the research say on this?
I will analyse each of these questions, so you can get a clear understanding on the whole subject.
Is English language a must for obtaining jobs?
The reason why English has become compulsory is not because of the nature of the jobs
Whether we like it or not, the situation at the moment is more or less that way. If we leave small jobs aside, for all the higher level jobs English has become almost compulsory. But, the reason why English has become compulsory is not because of the nature of the jobs, but our system. I say this because, these jobs are done in their native tongues in many other developed countries. For example, in countries such as China, Japan, Israel, France and Germany, software engineers do not need English. All their education takes place in their respective mother tongues. So the problem here is our system and not the nature of jobs. British imposed English on us and we have been continuing it.
However, I will not be going deep into this matter at the moment. Whatever might be the reason, it has become a necessity to have basic knowledge in English language for securing better jobs. Now let’s move on to the second point.
Is it compulsory to use English as medium of instruction to impart English language proficiency in students?
Definitely not. We have lakhs of examples to back this up. Today, in countries like United States there are many working as software engineers who were educated in their mother tongue. Likewise, many of us can speak more than one language. For example, many people in Hyderabad can speak Hindi, apart from Telugu. Did those people study in Hindi medium? No, isn’t it?
Requirement is basic spoken/written english and it can be taught without imposing english as medium of instruction
So, to get proficiency in a language, that language need not be the medium of instruction. Similarly to have proficiency in English, using English as medium of instruction is not mandatory. It is enough to teach “Spoken English” at school level, for that. By doing so we can teach children the English language, while using mother tongue as medium of instruction. So far as technical terminology is concerned, using the English terminology along with Telugu (or Mother Tongue), during teaching will solve this problem.
Here, we need to know another important point. Without the strong foundations of one’s own mother tongue, it is impossible to learn any other language. Which means, even to learn English language, it is important to learn mother tongue. All the research done on this topic indicates the same. UNESCO an arm of United Nations Organization (UNO) has conclusively stated the same in their report on this particular subject. This is primarily the reason why many, in spite of studying in English medium schools from the childhood, are not acquiring even basic proficiency in English. Most of these are not even good in their mother tongue. That means our Education system is producing crores of people without proficiency in any language. And, how is it possible to acquire knowledge without reasonable command on a language? This is one of the biggest problems that our country is facing at the moment.
Research by unesco, unicef etc proved that teaching in mother tongue is superior to english
Should the medium of instruction be Mother tongue or English? What does the research say on this?
Now let’s get to the third and most important point. The primary goal of a teacher is to make sure that children understand what is being taught. For this it is must that the language being used is understood by both teacher and student. Without it, no matter how great the instructor or the student is, there is no use. For obvious reasons when a classroom teacher uses the mother tongue to teach, the child will understand the subject better. All the research done on this topic also indicates the same. The UNESCO and UNICEF of the United Nations Organization (UNO) in their reports have confirmed the same beyond any doubt. The reports titled “Enhancing Learning of Children from Diverse back grounds”, “The impact of language policy and practice on children’s learning: Evidence from Eastern and Southern Africa” are available over internet for anyone who wants to study.
I have done my own research on this particular subject. I have taken into account all the countries with a population of more than 10 lakhs (Total 168). Let me put forward some of the interesting findings from my research.
98% of nobel prizes went to countries with mother tongue as medium of instruction
- Like us most of former British colonies are using English as medium of instruction. Similarly the countries which were once ruled by France, Spain, Portugal are using French, Spanish, and Portuguese respectively.
- Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Ethiopia are the only countries which use foreign language as medium of instruction in spite of not being colonized. Ethiopia is the only non colonized African country and is being under heavy influence of other African countries. Remaining three are being influenced by India. If using English language has any specific advantages, many countries would have by now started using it as medium of instruction.
- The rich and powerful countries like US, China, Japan, South Korea, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, England, and even the smaller countries such as Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg, use their mother tongue for education.
- More than 98% of the Nobel Prizes awarded till 2017 (excluding the Nobel Peace Prize) went to those countries which use mother tongue as medium of instruction.
- 28 of the first 30 countries in the world based on per capita income use mother tongue as medium of instruction. The remaining two are Singapore and Hong Kong. Though both are technically countries, they are no more than large metro cities. So the policies over there cannot be implemented by large countries like ours.
- Lot of people assume that English is a must for globalization. But there is no truth in that. As per the KOF Globalization Index 2018 – 48 out of first 50 countries in the index are using their mother tongues. The other two are Singapore (population 6 million) and Malta (population 5 lakhs).
- There is also a strong belief that English medium instruction is a must for doing advanced research, and this is also not true. Every year the “Global Innovation Index” and the “Bloomberg Innovation Index” compiles the list of different countries based on their innovation capabilities in the fields of science & technology and releases their analysis/rankings. More than 90% of the top 40 – 50 countries in these indices use mother tongue as medium of instruction. For example, Switzerland tops the rankings in “Global Innovation Index-2018”, and South Korea tops the rankings in “Bloomberg Innovation Index-2018”and both these countries use only their mother tongue in education.
Several african countries like ghana, tanzania, zambia are now replacing foreign language with mother tongue as medium of instruction
While, as a result of such research, countries like Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana and many other African countries are slowly coming out foreign language and are starting to teach in their mother tongue, it is unfortunate that we in our country assume that English medium is great and convert the remaining mother tongue medium schools to English.
Therefore, using English or any other foreign language as a medium of instruction is not a right approach. Need of the hour is to explore ways to convert English medium schools to mother tongue medium and not the other way round. English can always be taught as a language with an additional stress on spoken English. I request the Andhra Pradesh Government to rethink its decision, as it will seriously affect the lives of crores of people
English Translation: Sree Kishore Dattu
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.