GHHF writes to Jaganmohan Reddy
Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) requests the Andhra Pradesh Government to abandon the idea of introducing English as a medium of instructions replacing Telugu for the classes 1 thru 6 and gradually increasing each further class up to 10th grade. Our reasons to continue the Telugu medium are listed below.
Our request is in response to the Andhra Pradesh government’s issuance of G.O. Ms. No 85 giving permission to the Commissioner, School Education to convert all classes from I to VI in primary, upper primary, high schools under all managements into English medium from the academic year 2020-21 and to gradually increase each class further from the next consequent academic year in supersession of the previous G.Os., referred therein. It is said, Telugu and Urdu shall be a compulsory subject depending on the current medium of instruction in all the schools.
Gandhiji reiterated, “It is the mindset that has created the gulf. It is our mental slavery that makes us feel that we cannot do without English. I can never subscribe to that defeatist creed.”
The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly also passed the Education Bill 1/1982-(Amendment Act) 2019 on December 16 (Monday), which enabled English to be introduced as the medium of instruction in all government schools with Telugu as a compulsory subject.
What is the rationale for opposing the English as the medium of Instruction?
Importance of Mother Tongue
An overwhelming majority of organizations and countries recommended that the mother tongue would be the best medium of instruction for children to perform better. In fact, UNESCO in 2003 has strongly recommended that the mother tongue for teaching in primary schools to build up the quality education, knowledge, and experience, required for overall development.
The High Court said that “the action taken by the Government is without any recommendation of academic authority, without application of mind and without any research, reason or rhyme, hence, it is writ large.” (P: 9)
Swami Vivekananda was very emphatic in suggesting the mother tongue as the most important tool for educations. “The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols”:
“Though all-natural languages are capable of expressing sublime thoughts, modern schools believe that the language one acquires as the mother tongue is the best medium for transmitting information, ideas, and knowledge. The concepts presented in the mother tongue are grasped much easier than any language that one learns later through formal instructions. The mother tongue is to the mind as blood is to the body. Therefore, teaching children in the mother tongue can produce better results. There is enough evidence to show that learning and language are closely related to each other. Every man is capable of receiving knowledge if it is imparted in his own language.”
Mahatma Gandhi likened the mother tongue alike to mother and observed, “We do not have that love for it, as we have for our mother.” In Young India 1921, Gandhiji said “I must cling to my mother tongue as to my mother’s breast, in spite of its shortcomings. It alone can give me the life-giving milk”. Citing the example of Russia, which has achieved the scientific progress without the knowledge of English, Gandhiji reiterated, “It is the mindset that has created the gulf. It is our mental slavery that makes us feel that we cannot do without English. I can never subscribe to that defeatist creed.”
In general, studies have shown that the children who are taught in their mother tongue in the schools do better than children who are taught a different language other than their mother tongue.
Telugu is the 2nd most spoken language in India and ranks 16th across the world. It has been widely acclaimed since the ages of natives as well as foreigners. The great emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya, a multilingual himself, once said “Desa Bhashalandhu Telugu Lessaa,” of all the languages in the country Telugu is the most versatile language.
Rabindranath Tagore is said to have stated that Telugu is the sweetest of all (Indian) Languages. A famous Tamil poet Subramanya Bharathi has sung “Sundara Telunginil Pattisaithu” which means “Sing in beautiful Telugu.” During the British reign, many Britishers showed interest in learning Telugu and one of them is C.P. Brown, who even mastered poetry and became the first person to write the Telugu dictionary.
Poor Families and Telugu Medium
The argument that poor families are not getting the privilege of English medium to advance in their studies. There is no evidence that being poor and attending a Telugu medium school is disadvantaged. First of all, one should know that of all the NRI’s in the USA, Telugu people constitute more than 60 percent of all the Indians who came to the USA. Many of these families came from villages and poor families who went to Telugu medium schools. It is the family environment and the encouragement that prepares the child for higher education. There is ample evidence to prove that many professionals in the USA came from families whose mothers worked either in the fields or as servants in the cities. Their poverty did not prevent them from excelling in the field of education.
How Mother Tongue Impacts the Children
The language that is heard in the womb and a baby learns after birth plays a crucial role in the development of the personality and in connecting to the richness of their culture. If we move away from the mother tongue and adopt English, we move the child away from the mother, the family members, the community, and the culture itself.
Studies show that children who come to school with a solid foundation in their mother tongue were able to develop personal and educational skills faster; improve intelligence better and develop the ability to function better in their entire life. FHO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) in 2003 asserted that intellectual development is linked to the language they speak; if they are taught in their mother tongue in the schools, their intelligence improves. In fact, by using the students’ mother tongue in the classroom to teach subject content, the students’ cognitive skills would be developed. In general, studies have shown that the children who are taught in their mother tongue in the schools do better than children who are taught a different language other than their mother tongue.
Over the years, children learn numerous stories about various scriptures, acquire so much wisdom from their parents, hear several stories, and listen to quite a few ethical and moral lessons in their mother tongue to be followed in life. English translation of Telugu material does not carry the same meaning and essence the mother tongue carries. In fact, translation may even distort the meaning of several words from Telugu. The mother tongue establishes bonds and connectivity with our culture, literature, and roots. English translation of the great literature of the spiritual scholars and poets would deprive the children of their cultural identity and pride. Speaking in the mother tongue would make people proud of the rich heritage they represent.
Modern Science on why Mother Tongue should be medium of Instruction
The children learn the language from the womb of a mother. They experience the sounds of the mother and recognize the language. Our scriptures talk about how children learn from the womb. In Mahabharata, Abhimanyu said to have learned in his mother’s womb about how to decode and enter Padma Vyuha but could not hear the rest of the story to come out of it. Similarly, we have a story of Ashtavakra where he bent every time his father was chanting in a wrong way while he was in his mother’s womb. It shows that they understand the language and the meaning of our conversations. The other mythological story tells that he learned “Hari” mantra from his mother’s womb with the blessings of Sage Narada. As an infant, he started chanting Hari mantra even though the name of Hari is never uttered in his father’s kingdom. Thus, it is important to continue to talk to the child in the womb enabling the child to learn the mother tongue. That is how the children get connected to his mother and our language, our culture, and our scriptures.
By requiring children to learn from other than their mothers’ tongue only reveals the ulterior motives of the government and disrespect for the Telugu language. It only wants to cut off the child from his mother and family members, from their culture, from their rich heritage, from their literature, and from their scriptures. It appears that there is a hidden hatred toward Telugu and a darker motive to deceit the parents with false promises.
High Court of Andhra Pradesh examined the positions of various organizations and the number of scholars over a one hundred years period and concluded that the mother-tongue medium is crucial for the development of a child’s personality and skills development.
Scientific research supports our scriptural narratives about babies learning the language in their mother’s womb. Researchers at Pacific Lutheran University in the US have shown that newborns can pick up the distinctive sounds of their mother tongue even in utero. Christine Moon who led the study concluded that “This is the first study that shows we learn about the particular speech sounds of our mother’s language before we are born.” Newborns have the capacity to learn and remember the elementary sounds of their language from their mother during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy as the sensory and brain mechanisms for hearing are intact after 30 weeks.
Eino Partanen of the University of Helsinki says bay’s in the womb “can hear the rhythm of speech, the rhythm of music, and so on.” The study reveals that sound-processing parts of their brain become active in the last trimester of pregnancy, and sound carries fairly well through the mother’s abdomen. “This leads us to believe that the fetus can learn much more detailed information than we previously thought.”
Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington and co-author of the study says that the mother has the first greatest influence on the child’s brain. “The vowel sounds in her speech are the loudest units and the fetus locks onto them.” The authors of the study say that just hours after birth, babies can tell the difference between their mother’s native language and a foreign language. They said this indicates that babies are able to listen to their mothers talk by the time they reach 30 weeks of gestational age, much earlier than previously thought.
Summarizing the research on the importance of mother tongue Kascha Reed (2018) stated that “Research has shown that an important step in learning an additional language is first developing one’s mother tongue. It has also been shown that in order to have strong language skills later in life a person should continue to develop their mother tongue from when they are young right through to adulthood. This not only helps them to communicate well with people, but it also helps connect them to their culture and history.”
Our ancient scriptures and the modern research concluded with documented evidence that the child in the womb is tuning their ears to the language they are going to speak even before they are born. It is only natural for children to develop an affinity to the mother’s language and it is easy for them to learn and digest than any other foreign language. Imposing the English medium from the first grade itself may have more distress, frustration, and stress at an exceedingly early age. In fact, it will detach one from their past and distance them from their own parents.
The Salient features of Telugu are:
- Many poems, called “Padhyaalu” in Telugu follow some special rules, called “Chandassu” which makes it extremely rhyming, gives a beautiful pronunciation and excellent meaning. This is the reason why many medieval Tamil and Malayali poets had sought Telugu literature and hence even today, in most of the south Indian temples, many bhajans and songs are in Telugu. Thyagaraja keertans, Annamacharya Keertans and Bhakta Ramadas keertans, Shyama Sastry, and Dikshitar songs are sung even today in many Temples across South India and many Hindu Temples in the USA and other countries.
- Telugu is also known for “Avadhanam.” It is a unique intellectual literary game played to test one’s deep knowledge of the language, creativity, and logical ability. No other language is amicable to this kind of feat. A person who answers the questions of the scholars and intellectuals is called the “Avadhani.” Depending on his ability, the Avadhanis have conducted Dashavadhanams, Shatavadhanams, Sahasravadhanams, and Pancha Sahasravadhanam. Sahasravadhanam means that a thousand intellects sit around Avadhani and ask questions from many aspects. Once everyone has asked their questions, Avadhani has the responsibility to compose a poem with a number of conditions. Depending on the type of Avadhanam one conducts, Avadhani would remember up to 5000 questions and compose poems adhering to all kinds of restrictions.
- In the 16th century, a Venetian explorer, Nicolo di Conti, recognized the similarity between Telugu and Italian, and found that almost all the words end with vowels and he concluded that Telugu is the “Italian of the East.”
- Since Telugu is the only Indian language where every word ends in Vowel similar to the Italian language, it is also called ‘Ajanta Bhaasha.’ Achhu means vowel; Anatha means the end. Achhu + Antha: Ajanta.
- In Carnatic music, a vast majority of compositions – Kirtans, Varnams, Padams, Javalis, Thillanas – are in Telugu only.
- In 2012 Telugu has been voted as the 2nd best script in the world by International Alphabet Association, Korean ranks no 1.
- Speaking the Telugu Language activates about 72000 neurons in your body, highest for any Language in the world proven by Science.
- Telugu is a language where one can compose a poem with one letter – Ekakshara Padhyam; two letters – Dyvyakshara; three letters – Trayakshara; and four letters – Chaturakshara.
Literary Giants in Telugu since 10th Century
Nannaya Bhattarakudu, Tikkana Somayaji, Errapragada, Baddena Bhupala. Srinatha, Yogi Vemana, Bammera Potanamatya, Annamacharya, Allasani Peddana, Dhurjati, Krishnadevaraya, Tenali Ramakrishna, Kshetrayya, Kancharla Gopanna, Venkamamba, Thyagaraja, and others have made their mark in the hearts of Telugu people.
There are many literary scholars, speakers, poets, avadhanis, dancer, singers, and others who are building even stronger Telugu edifice to make Telugu as the most versatile language to be continued in the educational system.
Andhra Pradesh High Court Decision
High Court of Andhra Pradesh examined the positions of various organizations and the number of scholars over a one hundred years period and concluded that the mother-tongue medium is crucial for the development of a child’s personality and skills development. They all concluded that the education at the primary level should be in mother tongue language and any consequential education should be in English medium.
Following are the conclusions of High Court:
“Abrupt change, without any basis by a G.O., issued by the State Government, how far is it justified is a matter of concern to the educationists, the academic authority and the competent authority under the provisions of the RTE Act and the 1982 Act. But, as discussed, in the opinion of the Court, without having any basis, issuance of the G.O., by the State Government reflects absolute non-application of mind.” (P; 90-91).
Therefore, the decision of the Government, converting the medium of instruction from Telugu to English medium from Standards I to VI or I to VIII as the case may be, en-bloc, is against the National Policy, on Education Act, 1968 and various other reports, therefore, it cannot be accepted, hence, the impugned G.O, it deserves to be set aside. (P;91)
In view of the discussion so made hereinabove, the inescapable conclusion which can be arrived is that G.O.Ms.No.85, dated Nov 20, 2019, is against the spirit of the various Constitutional provisions and the amendment so proposed by the State Government is repugnant and without its assent, it cannot confer any power to the State Government to issue the said G.O. (P: 91-92)
In the facts and circumstances of the case, the parties are directed to bear their own costs. As a sequel, all pending miscellaneous applications stand closed. (p:92)
Based on the uniqueness of Telugu language, the richness of Telugu language, 10 centuries of a golden period in literature, incomparability of the talent of Avadhanam unknown to the world, the flexibility of Telugu language for the proper mental and spiritual development, the value of mother tongue for the development of a child, the High Court’s well thought out judgement, Global Hindu Heritage Foundation requests the AP government to withdraw the GO 85 and continue Telugu medium in all grades 1 thru 6.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
 First language education in Lubuagan, Northern Philippines – SIL International
 While in womb, babies begin learning language from their mothers – Jan 2, 2013, University of Washington
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