Wednesday January 16, 2019
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Language is the base of identity


Identity has become a major question for human beings in the twenty-first century. The desire to search for an identity has created phenomena that we term as an identity crisis.

The rise of an extremist group like ISIS is the result of the existing identity crisis. The previous century was the time of nations and nation states. The wars were fought on national boundaries and as a result many boundaries were redefined.

After nationality, religion became another point to identify oneself. ISIS is based on that. It successfully managed to bring youth from across the world in the name of religion.

However, it has been proved with the time that language is one of the main yardsticks for the identification of a human and a society. The biggest example of it is Bangladesh.

India was divided on the grounds that two different religious beliefs cannot survive. Bangladesh was part of Pakistan. They had the same religion but their language was drastically different and it meant their culture was different, which led to bad communication between both parts and as a result another partition.

Language is something that either becomes a barrier or breaks a barrier. When a person goes in a different country, he tries to find people who can understand his language because without that, it is hard to even let people know what he wants.

India is a nation of diversity. It has a number of different languages and everyone identifies themselves with their language. Every language represents its culture. Kolkata is much more Bengali than the word ‘Calcutta.’

There are a lot of parameters on which people identify themselves but none is same as language. It works at a subconscious level. A person is much more comfortable and natural at expressing himself in his own language. Even the great works of literature lose their bit of greatness during the process of translation.

After gaining independence, many states in India were divided on the basis of language, like Kerala and Tamil Nadu. This is another example that language is the base of identity.

However, the use of language for identity can also be manipulated. Britain did that for their colonial benefits. They created a perception that only English is the language of intellect and civilization and that speaking local languages itself takes a person’s standards down.

This triggered an inferiority complex and it was a factor in the identity crisis. Indians for a long time had this identity crisis where they tried to copy the imperialists to be one of them without realizing that there was never a need to do so.

Time has come that the people proudly identify themselves with their language and culture because it is what their existence depends on.

  • Rakesh Manchanda

    Good political arguements by the writer.

    Language whose fundamental purpose and need to clearity of sharing of work and ideas for survival.

  • devika todi

    well articulated.

Next Story

To Catch Up With China, India Needs To Focus on Improving Its Educational Outcomes

China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

Children learning in a classroom, pixabay

By Amit Kapoor

Both China and India started building their national education systems under comparable conditions in the late 1940s. Different policies and historical circumstances have, however, led them to different educational outcomes, with China outperforming India not just in terms of its percentage of literate population and enrollment rates at all levels of education, but also in terms of number of world-class institutions in higher education, and greater research output.

The roots of China’s successful education system date back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which unintentionally expanded access to the primary education through democratising the schooling system, which was previously elitist in character, thus addressing the problem of mass illiteracy.

In contrast, India continued to focus on its higher education system since independence and only realised the importance of basic education in 1986, keeping it behind China and many other countries in Asia in educational development. In terms of enrollment, China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

In terms of secondary school enrollment, India and China both started at the similar rates in 1985, with about 40 percent of their population enrolled in secondary schools. However, due to a wider base of primary school students, the rate of increase in China has been much faster than in India, with 99 percent secondary enrollment rate in China and 79 percent in India in 2017.

Happy kids in School Uniform
China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

India is closing in on the Chinese rate in terms of access to education, but on the literacy level front, there is a huge gap in the percentage of literate populations in the two countries. In the age group of 15-24 years, India scores 104th rank on literacy and numeracy indicator, compared to China’s 40th rank.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses after every three years the domain knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, science and finance, revealed that students in China performed above the OECD average in 2015. Moreover, one in four students in China are top performers in mathematics, having an ability to formulate complex situations mathematically. Further, China outperforms all the other participating countries in financial literacy, by having a high ability to analyse complex finance products. For India, the comparable data is not available as it was not a participating country in PISA 2015.

However, in India, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 provides data for rural youth, aged 14-18, with respect to their abilities to lead productive lives as adults. According to this survey, only about half of the 14-year-old children in the sample could read English sentences, and more than half of the students surveyed could not do basic arithmetic operations, like division. For basic financial calculations, such as managing a budget or making a purchase decision, less than two-thirds could do the correct calculations.

Schools in India

With regard to the higher education system, both India and China dominate the number of tertiary degree holders because of their large population size, but when it comes to the percentage of the population holding tertiary degrees, only about 10 per cent and 8 per cent of the population possess university degrees in China and India, respectively. By contrast, in Japan, almost 50 per cent of the population holds a tertiary degree, and in the United States, 31 per cent of the population hold a tertiary degree.

In terms of the international recognition of universities, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking for 2019 places seven of the China’s universities in the top 200, compared to none for India. The global university rankings, which are based on various performance metrices, pertaining to teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industrial income, shows progress for several of China’s low-ranked universities, largely driven by improvements in its citations.

In fact, the Tsinghua University has overtaken the National University of Singapore (NUS) to become the best university in Asia due to improvements in its citations, institutional income and increased share of international staff, students and co-authored publications.

While India has progressed in terms of massification of education, there is still a lot which needs to be done when it comes to catching up with the China’s educational outcomes. China’s early start in strengthening its primary and secondary education systems has given it an edge over India in terms of higher education. Moreover, Chinese government strategies are designed in line with the criterion used in major world university rankings, especially emphasis is on the two factors which weigh heavily in the rankings — publications and international students.

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The relentless publications drive, which is very evident in China, is weak in India and has led to a growing gap in the number of publications contributed by the two countries. Further, China enrolled about 292,611 foreign students in 2011 from 194 countries, while India currently only has 46,144 foreign students enrolled in its higher education institutions, coming from 166 countries. The large number of international enrollments in China is a reflection of its state policies granting high scholarships to foreign students.

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes. Massification drive for education has helped India raise its student enrollments, but a lot needs to be done when it comes to global recognition for its universities. Further, it needs to focus on building the foundation skills which are acquired by students at the school age, poor fundamental skills flow through the student life, affecting adversely the quality of education system. (IANS)