Select IITs and NITs to offer engineering courses in mother tongue from 2021-22
As the Union Government forms a task force for imparting technical education in the mother tongue, it is time to introspect on the merits and demerits of the decision and the ground realities.
National Education Policy (NEP) states, “wherever possible the medium of instruction until at least class 5, but preferably till class 8 and beyond, will be home language/ mother-tongue/ local language/ regional language’’. The statement demonstrates that the Government through the new NEP is emphasizing learning and development. Education must aim towards the overall development of a student along with streamlining education to global opportunities and standards. With the new NEP, one can hope for a positive transformation in education that is not fixated only on English language abilities. Imparting technical education in the mother tongue is a step towards achieving that much-needed transformation It also serves the purpose of inclusive education where an underprivileged student (in any manner) who had to miss technical education due to lack of proficiency in the English language will have access to technical education in the best set of institutions available in the country, the IITs.
This blog aims to review the pros and cons of imparting technical education in the native language/mother tongue. The Government must address the following questions concerned with students and the system at large:
- Does technical education in the mother-tongue result in decent job opportunities for students that are on par with the other students who study technical courses in English medium?
- What would be the morale of those students who fail to get a job due to lack of communication skills in English though they have earned their technical degree in their mother tongue?
- How to address the challenge of providing translations of International research papers and journals, seminars, etc. which are predominantly in English (as reference materials)?
- Does Government have adequate faculty, training, resources, funds, and bandwidth once they start imparting engineering, medicine, and law in tier-two and tier-three institutions? The news about unfilled vacancies in teaching areas keeps hitting the media.
Industry experts and professors at engineering institutes are of the view that the Ministry should first look at the availability of teachers for this purpose. “The Ministry wants to ensure that students who are not good at English don’t miss out on technical education purely because of this reason. But we need to ask whether there is an adequate number of teachers who will be able to explain technical terms in a language that is not English,” said an IIT professor.
The biggest concern that the Government should address is students’ employability in multinational companies after their graduation in their native language. Mumbai’s Prateek Daga, who will be completing his Class 12 in 2021, in response to a question asked by moneycontrol.com said that questions will be raised on the skills and technical ability of candidates during placements. “My parents studied in a Hindi medium school. I agree while this will help grasp a lot of concepts quicker if it is taught in Hindi, but won’t we be discriminated against by the English medium students during placements after our education? International companies may not find a Hindi-speaking or any Indian-language speaking candidate for their global roles. Won’t students then miss out,” he asked.
Sources say that initially, the plan will be to train existing teachers in their respective languages (mother-tongue) to ensure that the first batch of students can be taught in their mother tongue. At a later stage, teachers will be recruited locally. However, not everyone is convinced of this strategy. Close to 15% of the teaching posts across technical education institutions are vacant in the country. Added to this will be the requirement to get teachers trained to teach in non-English languages. “We find it tough to fill existing roles for faculty. How will we find teachers in Marathi?” said the professor in-charge of recruitment at a Mumbai-based engineering school. She added that for students too, there would be a need for flexibility to shift to English-based instruction if he/she is unable to cope with the technical portions in the mother tongue. But according to her, the area to be closely watched is how a language is chosen. “Say 10 Tamil students in a batch of 300 students want to study in their mother tongue at a Tamil Nadu engineering college. Will their request be accepted since their ratio is so low? Or will special arrangements be made for them? If they are taught separately, how will these students work on group projects with other classmates?” (asked by a professor).
The move to impart technical education in the mother-tongue helps the deprived students in fetching engineering, manufacturing, and other jobs where a technical degree is a must and not necessarily proficiency in English. It also helps bright students who are proficient in their mother tongue and not in English to produce and publish research papers in their mother-tongue. The research article written in mother-tongue will be much more qualitative as students can express exactly what they intend to express.
Research in India, and across the world including UNESCO, has shown that children who are educated in their mother tongue learn better than children who start schooling in a new language. Research from around the world shows that teaching in the mother tongue improves student learning. ‘’This is seen in countries like Germany, Finland, and China but it is only in previously colonised countries where English continues to be a medium of learning,” Niranjan Aradhya said to ‘The News Minute’.
All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) chairman Anil Dattatraya Sahasrabudhe welcomed the suggestion for imparting technical education to students in engineering colleges in their mother tongue, saying it will benefit those hailing from rural areas. “We have not barred any institution from imparting technical education in the mother-tongue. It is nowhere mentioned in our handbook of the approval process. I recall that one of the professors I saw in past had done engineering in Urdu. Anna University, if I am not wrong, offers two engineering courses in Tamil,” he told Deccan Herald. The AICTE chief, however, suggested that implementation of this on a “wider scale” would require “people” from academia to extend their support in the preparation of teaching-learning material and a robust strategy.
Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has expressed support for the idea, saying it required “deeper consideration” to give impetus to the youth-led development of the country. “Manju’s point on imparting technical education in local languages merits deeper consideration. It will give impetus to youth-led development,” Prime Minister said in one of his tweets. He, however, did not share any details about Manju. The Prime Minister was referring to suggestions that he had received from people on the issue of bringing reforms in education and skill development.
In a meeting on NEP implementation, Hon’ble Education Minister, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ said that "while no language will be imposed on any student, enabling provisions should be made, so that bright students are not deprived of technical education due to a lack of knowledge of the English language."
Any development is feasible only when we consider positive aspects and move forward. Amidst all the concerns, challenges, views, and realities, a fundamental question which one cannot set aside is, “what would happen to a student who does well in technical subjects in his mother tongue and struggles to study further purely because of unavailability of technical education in his mother tongue?”
The task force will submit its report by mid-January 2021. Post this, the education ministry will hold discussions with institutions to look at how the mother tongue policy will be implemented. Till then, it is a wait-and-watch mode for teachers and students.
The views & opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent those of QS-ERA India Private Limited and/or its employees, partners, shareholders, or other stakeholders. The source of the blog is a news article that is in the public domain.
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