International Mother Language Day: Using both English, mother tongue best way to educate, say experts

At a conference, the experts said that a child could gain the confidence to lead a successful life through his/her mother tongue
In what medium should children be instructed? Here's the experts' take | (Pic: EdexLive)
In what medium should children be instructed? Here's the experts' take | (Pic: EdexLive)

On the occasion of International Mother Language Day, educationists and language experts pointed out that the early bird doesn’t always get the worm, especially when it comes to introducing English as a medium of instruction in schools and tuition centres. They said a child can gain clarity about basic concepts and the confidence to lead a successful life through his/her mother tongue.

Speaking at a conference on Education in Mother Tongue, organised by the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) in Hyderabad on Tuesday, February 21, experts pointed out that translanguaging, which is using English and mother tongue seamlessly, is the best possible way for educating children, as per a report by The New Indian Express.

Many children in India, particularly those from tribal communities, do not have access to education in their native language. The Indian government has officially recognised only 22 languages, leaving many non-scheduled languages, mostly tribal, without state support. Prof Duggirala Vasanta, a linguistics professor at Osmania University, cited a book to explain that the dropout rate among tribals is high. As many as 50 per cent of tribal children never make it to fifth grade, and those who do often struggle with reading. Only 20 per cent complete the years of schooling required to take the high school final exams, and of those, only 8 per cent pass.

Citing the examples of coastal Telugu and Telangana Telugu, she explained that officially recognised languages may have many associated varieties. In undivided Andhra Pradesh, textbooks were written only in the ‘so-called’ standard coastal Telugu for over 50 years. However, when Telangana became a separate state in 2014, the Telangana variety of Telugu was introduced into textbooks, which would have been beneficial for children.

Education rights of speakers

The professor emphasised that the homogenisation of mother tongues under dominant languages reduces linguistic diversity and diminishes the educational rights of speakers. According to her, using the mother tongue as the medium of instruction is the best approach for concept formation and cognitive flexibility, which contributes to enhanced metalinguistic ability. This ability is demonstrated by bi/multilingual children’s superior performance in language games and translation, as per TNIE.

Pointing out that the importance of English cannot be overlooked, Professor Aditi Mukherjee from IIT Hyderabad spoke about being “Janus-faced” in the debate of education in the mother tongue versus in English. All academic research highlights the obvious benefits of mother tongue education, but all aspirations are in the favour of English education, she added.

In addition, Professor Surabhi Bharati of The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) discussed the language-related aspects of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which emphasises the use of the local language for instruction until at least Class V. She stressed the need for a shift to a more inclusive model that prioritises linguistic diversity for equitable and high-quality education.

Use of Hinglish in movies

Professor Pingali Sailaja of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) emphasised the need to find a “golden path” between education in the mother tongue and in English. She provided examples of movies like Sholay and Jab We Met to illustrate translanguaging in the media, where Hinglish is used without any issues. She spoke about the possibility of employing similar translanguaging techniques in the classroom, as mentioned in the TNIE report.

Related Stories

No stories found.