Friday December 14, 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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Conventional vs Unconventional Classroom

So where would you be learning, conventional or an unconventional classroom?

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Unlike the conventional learning in a classroom, online training makes the content available for students digitally. Flickr

Learning is the process of acquiring new skills or knowledge and for quite some time students have followed the process of enrolling in an offline centre to learn and study from the material provided but now, there is a new and an unconventional approach to upskilling yourself and that is through online learning.

While I was growing up, if I ever wanted to learn a new skill, I had to travel a minimum of 2-3 kms to the nearest learning or tuition centre to enquire and then enrol for the desired training. Though there were interactions with the teacher, but inhibitions got the better of me and with time, because of all the unresolved doubts, the learning started to become monotonous and I lost interest. But online learning has made that journey for a student interesting, fun and a cakewalk. You can relax in your seat while the knowledge is displayed on your screen and ask all that you wish to.

To begin with, what is online learning?

Unlike the conventional learning in a classroom, online learning makes the content available for students digitally. Students can learn online, anywhere and anytime. Instead of physical copies of books, e-learning uses visual content and gamification.

To help you understand the differences better I would like to compare both the classrooms and the learning associated on the basis of parameters that are essential for an overall learning.

1.       Affordability: 

In offline centres or conventional classrooms there are a lot of miscellaneous expenses incurred and hence the fee structure is designed accordingly.

Whereas in online learning, students’ aim is to learn so companies spend resources only on developing the content and thereby lowering the cost of the training.

From text to graphics, this software does it all. Pixabay
In offline centres or conventional classrooms there are a lot of miscellaneous expenses incurred and hence the fee structure is designed accordingly. Pixabay

2.       Flexibility and convenience:

In a conventional classroom, if you miss a class it gets difficult to grasp the topic and understand what is being taught. The classes have to be attended on fixed days
and timings, offering almost no flexibility. Whereas in online learning, the classes can be taken as per your availability and thus giving you an opportunity to design your own curriculum. You could also watch the classes over and understand the topics in-depth.

3.       Answers to your questions:

While learning, doubts might arise about the topic being taught but students usually hesitate in asking questions in a classroom. Whereas in online learning, you are an anonymous user and your doubts, as frivolous they may be, can be asked without any hesitation.
4.       Practical experience:
The learning journey in a conventional classroom is about reading and grasping, it involves little or none practical applications of the learnings. Whereas in online learning, the training is designed in such a manner that the content is informative and involves practical applications as well. The test and assignments in the module are made to ensure that the student has a holistic growth.

Also Read- Apple Watch Helps Users in US Take ECG

Only 20 percent of the five million students who graduate every year get employed, industry lobby Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) said in a report, published last year.

The competition is stiff and is going to get worse with time so It essential to make yourself stand out from the rest to increase your chances of getting hired. The certificate you will receive at the successful completion of the training will help in making the employer realise that you have relevant skills and in-depth knowledge about the subject.

So where would you be learning, conventional or an unconventional classroom?

About the Author: Sarvesh Agrawal is the Founder and CEO of Internshala, an internship and trainings platform. (Internshala.com)