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Q. Despite playing a crucial part in initial cognitive and social development, the objective of early education in the mother tongue confronts notable challenges.

Examine in the light of National Education Policy 2020.

Introduction:

The importance of using the mother tongue for students’ conceptual clarity and cognitive growth is undeniable. UNESCO’s 1953 declaration on the use of the mother tongue recognises it. 

India’s Language Policy: 

  • 1968 Education Policy: ‘Language’ has been a term of reference ever since the first Education policy was formulated in 1968 based on the Kothari commission, which gave us the “Three Language formula”, which promoted learning in English, Hindi and a regional language.
  • 2020 Education Policy:
    • Mother language to enhance cognitive skills until grade 5 ‘wherever possible’, and preferably till grade 8.
    • The three-language formula should be continued & flexibility in its implementation must be provided. But there would be flexibility for those who want to change the language in 6th/7th grade.
    • Languages from other parts of India must also be taught in Hindispeaking regions.  Scientific and Technical terminology will be expanded to include all fields & all disciplines to strengthen vocabulary in Indian languages. To preserve and expand the horizon of local languages.

Challenges that the Mother’s tongue confronts:

  1. Lack of resources and material: Scarcity of instructional material in mother languages or regions which will hinder the enhancement of reading, speaking, and writing skills of the learner
  2. Diversity in the Classroom: No classroom is monolingual, especially in urban areas. Students come from different backgrounds. Training teachers to communicate in variety of languages is a challenge.
  3. Lack of trained staff: Local languages have been marginalised in many education systems, often resulting in a shortage of qualified teachers who can understand, speak and teach in a learner’s mother tongue.
  4. Limited Budget: States with limited budgets find it difficult to implement the policy.
  5. Limited years of mother tongue instruction: One of the weaknesses of this bilingual education system is that schooling in the national language is limited to a relatively few years.
  6. Quantitative problem: Many students fall behind as they are instructed in school in a language they need help understanding.

Solutions:

  1. Promote digital education: Institutions will have to improve substantially to make digital learning programmes in regional languages.
  2. Trained Teachers: Teachers and staff must be trained in supporting children to continue developing proficiency in their mother tongue, especially if most children do not speak it.
  3. Sufficient Funding: Sufficient funding is crucial for the effective implementation of policy; a shortage of funds hamstrung the 1968 NEP.
  4. Providing sufficient incentives for schools that use local languages or promote multilingualism among learners.
  5. Raising employability through local languages: State government should encourage mother tongue, and local jobs should be linked to the local language.
  6. Higher student participation in fun projects/activities on ‘The Languages of India’ under the ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ initiative.

Conclusion:

Acknowledging that the instruction in ‘Mother Tongue’ is a challenging task, it is only recommended by the National Education Policy 2020 to be included “Wherever Possible”. Nowhere in the policy is it mentioned as ‘compulsory‘.

Nevertheless, in the long run, education in the mother tongue is one of the most valuable investments a nation can make to promote human resource development and social cohesion. In its absence, programmes such as NIPUN Bharat, Bharatvani web portal and Bhasha Sangam App should be encouraged for disadvantaged students to compensate for their hardship and combat educational inequalities.

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