Thursday January 18, 2018

‘Higher education in Indian languages aspirational’

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Rohan Joshi, first from the left (Image: Sapan Kapoor, NewsGram)
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New Delhi: In a bid to propose improvements to the New Education Policy that the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) is currently developing to make India a knowledge superpower, seventh School Choice National Conference took place in the national capital on Saturday. NewsGram spoke to Rohan Joshi, the Head of the Research vertical of Centre for Civil Society, on the need to provide education to children in Indian languages.

We also asked him whether his organization would urge the government to work in this direction in the future. Joshi said they would not recommend the government to have higher education in mother tongues although it was “certainly aspirational.”

The School Choice is an initiative of Centre for Civil Society to advocate element of competition in education space through policy reform and create an environment where every child has the Right to Education of Choice.

Here’s the interview with Rohan Joshi.

Q: Studies show that children learn the best in their mother tongue. If a child in South Korea can become a doctor after studying in Korean, why cannot a boy in a Tamil Nadu hamlet become one after studying in Tamil? What are your views on this?

Ans: It’s not a factual statement to make that children are not learning in their mother tongues because apart from a few states we actually don’t have government English medium schools. So the children who attend the government schools essentially study in the vernacular medium that is in their mother tongue at primary level.

Q: That’s at the primary level. Why should not they get the chance to pursue higher studies in their mother tongues? Why can’t students learn science in their own languages?

Ans: The clear issue here is having that curriculum developed in mother tongues. We ought to remember that this also has a correlation with livelihoods of the people because what happens is that at the primary stage it is more about the acquisition of competency, skills and knowledge. However, as you go towards higher education it starts getting far more driven by livelihood like what do they earn out of it.

And unfortunately, or fortunately, the language of transaction and livelihood at the moment is English. And it is actually true about a lot more other countries, not just India, where we can see a clear shift towards English medium education. I am just not talking about developing countries here but also about developed countries. For instance, in Spain and Italy where knowledge is available in Spanish and Italian, the conspicuous shift is towards English medium education.

Q: But countries like China seem to be doing pretty well by learning in their own language.

Ans: If you look at overall data China is an outlier. China is not a standard example because a shift is happening towards English there as well. Is it good or bad? I would say if it is serving the purpose and as you move up the education ladder the parental expectation is that children should be equipped with necessary skills for the job roles they would be performing in the near future.

Q: New Education Policy aims to provide affordable, quality education to all the children of India, irrespective of their backgrounds. How can a costly English education achieve this purpose?

Ans: It is not that English education is costly. Higher education, in general, is expensive. So even if it is a vernacular medium education, there’s no guarantee that it is going to be cheap.

Q: Should we make a shift towards learning in our mother tongues instead of a foreign language like English?

Ans: No, I do not think English is a foreign language anymore in India because we have pretty much internalized it. It is not this or that. You can actually teach both, English and mother tongue. Human beings are multilingual creatures and are capable of learning many languages. Is higher education in mother tongue good? Is it aspirational? It is certainly aspirational. I am not saying children should not have education in the mother tongue; they must have an option. At the same time making it compulsory is not the way because then you try to force it upon parents who do not seem to be willing for this at the moment.

Q: Would you recommend the government to chalk out a plan to have education in Indian languages?

Ans: For higher education ‘no’ and for school education definitely ‘yes’. As for higher education, it is not because we do not want to, but because that is not a concern for us. It’s an aspiration. We understand that people want their language to advance. The issue is we put too much burden on education to serve all the purposes. For instance, if people wish to show love for their language, it can also happen outside schools. Isn’t it?

We would like the New Education Policy to focus on the quality of education among other things. That is the need of the hour.

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8 must-read works of Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore was a versatile artist who provided an earnest insight into society and humanity with his various short stories, novels, essays, songs, plays, and paintings.

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Rabindranath Tagore was the pioneer of Bengali Literature. Wikimedia Commons
Rabindranath Tagore was the pioneer of Bengali Literature. Wikimedia Commons
  • Rabindranath Tagore was the pioneer of Bengali Literature.
  • He has many landmarks works to his name which continues to inspire masses.
  • His collection of poems, Gitanjali got him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913.

The Nobel Prize-winning writer, Rabindranath Tagore, also known as Gurudeva or the Bard of Bengal, was the trailblazer of Bengali literature. He possessed literary genius through which he brought a revolution in Bengali literature and music.

A painting by mullti-talented Rabindranath Tagore.
A painting by multi-talented Rabindranath Tagore.

Tagore was a versatile artist who provided an earnest insight into society and humanity through his short stories, novels, songs and paintings. His works even today inspire the masses and young readers and writers. Here is the list of some of his remarkable works:

Gitanjali

One of his best work is a collection of 157 poems called ‘Gitanjali’. The poems in this book vary in their themes, from spirituality to complexities of life. It was originally written in Bengali and was later translated into English. This work was so remarkable that Tagore got a Nobel Prize for it in 1913.

Gitanjali is the landmark work of Tagore. Wikimedia Commons
Gitanjali is the landmark work of Tagore. Wikimedia Commons

 Gitabitan

Rabindranath Tagore was a skilled and sensible songwriter. Throughout his life, he wrote a total of 2230 songs which are popularly known as ‘Rabindra Sangeeth’. The songs were compiled in this exquisite book called ‘Gitabitan.’

Chokher Bali

Chokher Bali or ‘A grain of sand’ is a Bengali novel written by Tagore, which was later translated into English. The story revolves around an extra-marital affair and depicts passion, desires, relationships and honesty in all its complexities. The novel is well known for its portrayal of complexities in a relationship.

Gora 

Rabindranath Tagore wrote 12 novels, and out of these, this one is the longest and most complex. It raises a number of concerns, which are relevant to our nation even today. This book aptly reflects different social standards in colonial India.

Rabindranath Tagore produced many works which changed the literature in India. Image source: buddybyte.com
Rabindranath Tagore produced many works which changed the literature in India. Image source: buddybyte.com

Kabuliwallah(The Fruitseller from Kabul)

The Kabuliwala is about an Afghan vendor who came to Calcutta, trying to earn a living. Along the way, he creates an emotional bond with the narrator’s five-year-old daughter. It is a very touching and heart-warming story which will leave you emotional.

Ghare Baire (The Home and the World)

This book has an autobiographical aspect. It reflects upon the deeper meaning of life by showing the struggles of three individuals. The story represents a war between the western and eastern ideology. Tagore chose Swadeshi Movement as the backdrop for this novel and provided a deep insight into the Bengal history.

The Postmaster

This is another one of Tagore’s work which revolves around the search for the meaning of life. This story of a city man working as a postmaster in a village to earn his living will give you lots of food for thought. The story represents loneliness in a beautifully haunting way.

Shesher Kabita

This novel was first released in a serialised form in the magazine ‘Probashi’. It was published as a book in the year 1928. The translated version of the book is called ‘The Last Poem’ and ‘Farewell song’ in English. The book portrays the platonic love of a matured couple and its complication. It is an epic love saga.