Education, Language, and Policy : A Scientific Approach / PDC 01
Peninsula Discussion Club – Past Event
PDC 01: Education, Language, and Policy: A Scientific Approach
Date: 19 October 2019
Discussants: Professor Ramu Manivannan PhD, HOD – Dept of Political Science, University of Madras & Dr Vasanthi Vasudev PhD, Educationist
Recent draft of National Education Policy invoked multiple debates among various Indian states with regards to the Three Language formula recommendation. In this context, The Peninsula Discussion Club initiated dialogues among youngsters from Chennai to discuss on different facets of the issue. The discussion was spearheaded by Dr. Vasanthi Vasudev, Educational consultant, Dr. Ramu Manivannan, Professor & Head, department of Political Science, University of Madras and moderated by Air Marshal Matheswaran, Chairman of The Peninsula Foundation. The semi-formal discussion started with our experts explaining their opinions on the role of language in education. Language symbolizes the best communication, a child’s cognitive development takes place during primary stage and language plays a key role in imparting foundational clarity in learning process. They also spoke on the history of development of language and how language can be developed only through practice and not by simply learning from text book. Mother tongue is instrumental in processing certain technical information during early childhood development. Expression of thoughts and ideas through mother tongue would enable a student to acquire the same proficiency while learning any other foreign language. Children from diverse backgrounds, while learning in a classroom, struggle to perform as they fail to achieve clear understanding of concepts and abstracts if the medium of instruction is other than the mother-tongue. Simplified communication of technical subject concepts in a language which is most familiar to children would confirm more effectiveness in classroom teaching. Dr Vasanthi was of the opinion that students can learn multiple languages and they should be encouraged to do so with growing technology. Participants coined some of the most pragmatic questions relating to language and education. Ms Varsha, a budding lawyer supported the realistic preference of learning English. Participants pointed out the reality of urban parents undermining the importance of learning mother tongue. It is important to acknowledge the utilitarian purpose of global language and try to balance it with local language for an enhanced learning process. Aryan, student from IIT Madras questioned the very concept of mother tongue in today’s environment where children may grow up in many regions due to their parents’ job profiles and thus get exposed to many languages in their early ages. Since children pick up languages easily through informal processes, mother tongue may no more be defined as one language but can be many and children can learn to think in any of these languages.
While the new education policy recommends students to learn three languages and in principle there are evidences that children have the capacity to learn languages easily, the issue still has a few complexities in Indian context. One of the major problems is the resource constraint of many schools and state infrastructure to provide adequate number of facilities and teachers to teach various languages. Thus the third language, which should be an optional choice of the child for any language, may in reality be limited to just one option in view resource constraints. India is exceptionally rich in the diversity of its languages and culture and hence, it is critically important to encourage multiple choices for the third option to students. If a homogenising approach is pursued by the state in the name of one nation – one language, it would turn out to be counter-productive and could light up the fuse of divisive sub-nationalism. Bigger question exists in terms of the utilitarian aspect of the third language. It is clear that India with multiple national languages has to eliminate politics out of education and focus on development of education in absolute terms. State has to be flexible in terms of implementing such a policy to assess the current status of infrastructure and execute in a multi stage process to avoid inefficiency.
The discussion brought out various issues on the topic and participants had contributed greatly to drive the debate. The two hours session was fruitful and important observations on issues of language identity and freedom in the context of education and policy was recorded.