Wednesday, 22 March 2017

English education

Coincidentally, I got similar messages from multiple sources this week. One was a Whatsapp forward about NASA saying Sanskrit is the best language. NASA says so many great things about India and our sanskriti, I wonder why they don't move their offices to Varanasi or Rishikesh. (also why NASA? why not WHO or world bank or even Oxford university?)
The second was a short TedX talk, and the third was a talk by Shashi Tharoor.
Of course they were not of the same intellectual calibre.
The common thread was the English education.
While I have read some research that says early education must be in the child's mother tongue and I do believe that to be true after my experience teaching some children, we cannot deny that English education has been of great use to us. I notice even the most 'nationalistic' people do not advocate abolition of English as a medium of instruction.
It is maybe a case of the price we pay for this English education being too high.
Even small two room private schools in slums are now 'English medium', but their teachers do not speak fluently in English. The result is the children neither learn English nor their mother tongue with any degree of fluency. No one is familiar with literature of their own culture and the English stories for example, are too alien culturally for our children. (as a kid, I always wondered what anchovy was)
But what are our choices?
Ideally, instructions in the mother tongue till the 5th with English as a strong second language with the medium of instruction for science and a few subjects shifted to English in higher classes would perhaps be one way. But as an example, I schooled in UP, my mother tongue was Tamil and I was woefully poor at Hindi. If Hindi had been the medium of instruction, I may have failed in school......(or maybe I would have become proficient in Hindi). Could we have had a Tamil medium school in the small towns of UP where I studied?
What about a child in Telangana/Maharashtra whose mother tongue is Gondi?
I cannot see any good answers to this problem. 

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