Published: 10th August 2020
Why I believe the NEP’s move to teach in one's mother tongue up to Grade 5 should be welcomed
The NEP’s move to the medium of instruction up to grade 5 in the mother tongue or local language is a true game-changer. Here’s why this is important
In today’s globalised world, good English communication is definitely a critical skill. However, this should not come at the cost of not knowing one’s mother tongue. While knowing English certainly opens up many opportunities, we need to pay attention to the loss of heritage and cultural identity amidst rapid globalisation. There is no better way to affirm one’s cultural identity than by kickstarting formal education with the language we hear and learn from birth — which can only be one's mother tongue. And never fear, the ability of young children to learn a new language is exceptional and children can easily learn English after grade 6.
Research tells us that children exposed to more than one language during the initial years of life reap more benefits than those who are monolingual. Here are a few of the benefits of the inclusion of the mother tongue at the primary level of schooling:
- Most children are typically exposed to their mother tongue or native language from birth. Learning in the same language in school ensures that children learn faster and remember and retrieve information better.
- Exposure to more than one language in the early years leads to greater synaptic activity in the brain due to multitasking and multiprocessing which boosts mental agility. This mental flexibility is transferred to other areas of learning as well.
- Imparting instruction through the mother tongue ensures that the language is not forgotten and that its use remains strong. Consider the colossal cultural loss to our country and the world if we were to start losing our languages.
- The use of the mother tongue expands the reach of education especially in the semi-urban and rural areas, where the imposition of the English language has been deterring learning and achievement among students.
- Learning in the local language reinforces students’ self-esteem and confidence by affirming their cultural roots.
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that ‘everyone has the right to education’. An imposition of a single foreign language for learning shouldn’t come in the way of our own fundamental right. The use of the mother tongue doesn’t mean that the child will lag behind or rigidly fixate only on one language. It’s effective to learn from the known to the unknown. Why not with our medium of instruction? Learning in the mother tongue will act as a medium to make the shift easier to know the unknown.
Saraswathy Ramamoorthy is the co-founder and CMO of Learning Matters. The views are the author's own