Children taught in mother tongue perform better: Study


New Delhi: Studies show that children learn the best in their mother tongue. For instance, according to a recent survey Telugu medium students surpassed their English medium counterparts and performed much better at the primary level in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Children studying in mother tongues face a lot of difficulties when it comes to higher studies and employment opportunities. Therefore, in a bid to analyze the potential link between medium of instruction and student performance at the primary level, the study used Math scores as a proxy for student achievement while taking into account various socioeconomic factors, The Hindu reported.

915 children from 233 schools from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (coastal districts and Rayalasema) were surveyed for the study which was conducted by Sree Kumar Nair, an analyst at the Bharati Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business.

“The objective was to understand whether the medium of instruction affected the learning outcomes at primary level. It was found that it impacted the achievement levels of students,” Nair was quoted as saying by the newspaper, adding that Math score was a good indicator as a proxy for cognitive development. The analysis was done using Young Lives longitudinal data of primary school children.

Despite the fact that English medium students came from a wealthier background and their parents were better educated, the Telugu students fared better even though they faced odds such as lack of proper infrastructure, lesser nutritional intake and teacher participation.

The findings of the study were important in view of government schemes like mid-day meal programme.

“Improving the infrastructure, ensuring better teacher participation and taking care of the nutritional deficit would benefit the disadvantaged students by ensuring higher learning outcomes,” Nair added.

Sankrant Sanu – an entrepreneur, writer and researcher based in Seattle and Gurgaon – tells NewsGram that a foreign language like English is the biggest hurdle in India’s development and that his own experience suggests that children would be much better learning in their mother-tongues not only at the primary education level but also in higher studies.

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While travelling through Indian villages, Sanu took some IQ test papers with him. His intent and assumptions were that he would find bright children in Indian villages and the results thereof surprised him. In his sample of over 100 students, both in rural and urban schools, he found that rural children surpassed the urban ones by a good margin. However, the fact of the matter was that a large number of these students would usually drop out after class 8, as most of the competitive exams were in English.

“Learning English is no duck soup, as it’s a very tough language and takes years of painful labour and patience to become proficient. Therefore, a student could be a math genius but just because of his poor English, he would be deprived of all the opportunities he deserves. Nothing could be more atrocious than this,” Sanu opines.

Moreover, English is the medium of instruction in IITs and IIMs which further hampers a person’s growth.

“It is a pity that while a child in South Korea can become a doctor after studying in Korean, a boy in a Tamil Nadu hamlet cannot become one after studying in Tamil. Studies show that children learn the best in their mother tongue. Original creative thinking cannot happen in a foreign language. The education system has become so divorced from reality… BPO is not innovation, it’s coolie work,” Sanu laments.