NEP 2020 and the significance of Mother-tongue in education
A persistent issue in the post-colonial world is the colonial administration still continuing to percolate in our daily lives. In order to move ahead and establish its own identity it is important for post-colonial nations to unlearn the colonial teachings. A landmark decision heading in this direction is the recently announced - “New Education Policy 2020” (NEP 2020). Approved by the Union Cabinet on the 29th of July, 2020, the policy is set to put forth a more enhanced, inclusive and atmanirbhar (self-reliant) version of the pre-existing Education Policy of 1986. Access to quality education being its key aim, there is additional emphasis on this quality education being provided in mother tongue across state and private schools.
In India, right from the kinder-garden stage, the medium of instruction is dominated by English. During the child’s most crucial years of learning he is conflicted between developing his own mother-tongue vocabulary while simultaneously interpreting instructions in a foreign language. Even so, the child tends to develop multi-lingual communication skills. However, his thinking and knowledge of the surroundings is subjugated by English and not everyone has the ability to contrast between different languages, especially at an early age. It is a post-colonial effect that must be deconstructed not only for the purpose of making quality education accessible to all but also proudly presenting our nation’s culture and its diverse languages. Therefore, it is imperative that the medium of instruction must be what the individual is most familiar with or has grown up with. Deconstructing the effect does not necessarily mean scraping English altogether but rather, making it a complimentary language is the solution. Afterall, only 20-25% of the total world’s population speaks English.
The NEP 2020 has declared education in mother-tongue language up until the 5th grade and if possible, beyond. Recently, there have been speculations that the major STEM courses – Engineering and Medicine should be taught in mother-tongue language. However, there are quite some obstacles in achieving this feat. Firstly, in order to now provide higher education in mother-tongue, a strong foundation must be established in the primary years; which will require STEM courses to be taught in the respective language. Consequently, this poses the question of – are we equipped with the tools like study material, textbooks in these regional languages? For this education to be accessible to all, a direct translation from English will not work but rather, a simplified version that can be well-understood is the need of the hour. Secondly, there will be a demand of teachers/instructors specialising in these languages. In reality, however, Indian Engineering and Medicine professors are spread across the globe and they must be brought back by creating a favourable environment for the teaching professionals. Lastly, fundamental changes in the evaluation methods must be made.
The crux of this piece is to shed light on significance of inculcating mother-tongue in teaching methods since the beginning of one’s education. This would subsequently form the basis of higher education being taught in regional, verncular languages easily understood by all. Drawing from the examples of several global powers like France, Germany, Russia, Japan, China etc. that have rejected the English imposition and embraced their national linguistic identity, NEP 2020 is a great step towards safeguarding the linguistic diversity of our nation. Rather than creating a generation still in the colonial clutches, NEP promotes and preserves the rich heritage of India. Students will now be encouraged to develop, formulate and assess knowledge of their own culture; successively building strong sense of identity and self-esteem. NEP is indeed a rightful and significant step taken by the government aiming at revolutionising our education system.