To connect with India and millions of Indians, you must know Indian languages. Is it time to propagate a dual medium education seriously ?
Yet one more time Maharashtra government proposed that Marathi be made compulsory till the 12th standard. I was just more than happy that they did not make Italian compulsory instead!
Jokes and politics apart, (both words which now seem to mean the same in the state which is still a great one!), I think it is time we do a re-think on learning our languages considering the future of India and the future generations. Certainly making some compulsion about learning Indian languages is a must, but we can have a new formula to learn Indian languages now, otherwise it will be too late. It is not about which language is compulsory in which state, but about learning our culture, popularising literature and keeping history intact of our country.
We should not forget the importance of English, but we must accept that we actually value English not just from a career, business and an educational perspective, but that a very large section of the society values it as a status symbol. In fact the status quotient has evolved into a situation where a lot many well off families now consider putting their children in schools affiliated to international board, many to show off their social standing.
No doubt, we learnt English from the British and we took it further as no other country did, and we gained a lot from it. Look at Pakistan to know what happens when you do not value and learn what is sincerely advised to you, and which benefits you.
However, we must soon ensure some very important changes in the education system which also means learning languages if we have to progress into a vibrant, friendly and cohesive economy, for the benefit of masses across income levels and considering the huge expanse of our country.
Time and again, I get requests from young college students and working professionals to help me improve their chances of getting through personal interviews, written tests, group discussions and a few related things for entering management colleges and even for excelling in technical / software related jobs. These candidates ( who mostly come from a weaker economic background or from rural areas or vernacular schools ) feel that they are stuck somewhere in their careers and also at times in their lives. Some of them feel that they have hit a wall, and further progress is impossible unless they bring a change in their “personalities” ! Ok , whatever that means- when I drill down into this problem, I realize that most of the people are asking me to improve their communication abilities in English !
As you can understand, the problem has now “outgrown” to such an extent that in India we have started misinterpreting personality development as “Speaking Good English” !. Our craze for English and positioning it in society has even changed our thinking !
One of the most important reasons why English has an edge, is that besides Hindi to some extent, we do not have one unifying language. The fall out of the situation is such that millions of Indians do not know their own languages and culture and extensive literary landmarks, in addition to the fact that they do not speak correct English !
India is a $ 3 trillion economy. English is understood only by 10% of our population and just about 3% of the population can speak good English. The demand that our 125 crore population will generate is the main factor that is going to drive the economy to double the current size, and evidently English has a limited role to play in it. So when a $ 3 trillion economy is up and running with Indian languages, it is worth studying, promoting and pushing Indian languages so that we grow the economy further. Give a boost to Indian language authors who will must sell more, Indian language movies seen more, will drive business, and Indian language classes must be in demand, and Indian language publishers should not be extinct.
Now about the time for learning languages- A study conducted by the MIT in the United States indicates that there is indeed a critical period after which learning a new skill becomes harder, like learning a second language. According to the study, the best time to learn a new language with native-speaker proficiency is by the age of 10. ( Say Std VI or VII ) Children under 10 can more easily absorb information and excel in a new language. Young people under the age of 18 can still show great skill at mastering new language, but things start to get more challenging beyond this point.
And, Why did we not excel in English despite our “intelligence” and despite the fact that we have spent 100+ years approximately with that language being with us? ( By the way, starting a sentence with And and Because is wrong, just like “Myself Rajesh” is- but does it matter ? )- “Because”: we did not have an adequate and correct system or method of learning English, and we had very few English teachers, and a very small number of teachers who really were good in English. Simple !. And, now we want our population to speak good English in offices, on TV debates , GDs and interviews! Is that correct?
Talented vernacular students( mainly from non metros ) have been forced to take a back seat because of this new issue and average students speaking good English have been made into “smart guys” with a so called “good personality’ The repercussion of the “English Speaking” phenomenon has serious implications. Vernacular medium schools in metros are slowly shutting down. Even the poorer section of society want their children to study in English medium schools. The outcome of all this is going to be evident after 20 years, when we will have adults who are neither good in their own mother tongue and just average in English. Unless we make our vernacular medium schools as “dual medium” with a lot of emphasis on English right from the start, we will actually end up closing these schools and hurting a lot of weaker students who cannot afford costlier education. Don’t forget that the best of doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists and writers in India have studied in the vernacular medium. English is just one part of the process of development. Let’s give it the right amount of importance it deserves, and some importance to Indian languages.
I think we have made English into a very commercial proposition and actually made it into a monster. I think its high time to allow other languages to be considered for selection processes into management colleges and other places. To push our culture and languages, some compulsion is essential, but the choice of language to be studied also has to be open. If we do not do it now, most Indians in another 2 to 3 decades would not be connected to their origin, state and country, besides the fact that Indian languages will be on the chopping block.
Solution to issues:
1. What possibly is wrong is the way we have limited ourselves to teaching Indian languages. We cannot suddenly dictate learning languages beyond a particular age. We must make a National Testing System for Indian languages ( similar to TOEFL / IELTS etc ) where in you can select 2 Indian languages (one could be Hindi ) and learn them wherever you want and from which ever state that you reside and then write a test at the end of the year and have a rating system. Then make a minimum level of proficiency and score requirement for all types of jobs. This way a Tamilian in Dehra Dun can study Tamil and so for many others the same way we study our own languages elsewhere. The testing ( and training of course ) can be off line and on line. Schools will teach the languages and prepare students for free/or paid, but a lot of private coaching classes will help drive the economy and improve language standards in the country.
2. Another more easier way for millions of Indian students across small towns, villages and even larger cities is that we introduce a DUAL Medium of study- that is prevalent in many states including Maharashtra. The system is perfect, but we possibly did not have the best resources to make it popular. NOW OUR COUNTRY HAS THE RESOURCES. Except Maths and Science, all subjects are taught in the local language from lower class levels. We can take this further, by teaching all subjects in English from the 8th standard, except of course Hindi and the local language. By age 12/13 one would have reached a level of proficiency where all students would have gained mastery in 3 languages including English. After 13, learning a new language is a bit tough.
3. We need to put in a much larger funding into education. Maybe it is time we make education free for all till the XIIth. Consider the developed countries. This could be the biggest investment decision that will bring in a huge change for the future. This could also create huge competition within India and improve us further. Why huge amounts have to go in infrastructure projects only?
Here I would like to write about Harshal Vibhandik, an investment banker from New York and a great social worker in Dhule, whom many people just don’t know. Quality of education matters more than the language. Digital education is the transformation. Vibhandik returned from the U.S., and propelled digital classrooms in over 1100 schools of Dhule Zilla Parishad. He is a hero and a role model for villagers, teachers and students. Actually thousands of students from private English schools moved to government schools of Marathi/ Dual medium schools, as quality of education was at a much higher level. All was possible due to his digital initiatives for schools and unique financial modelling to sustain the change, which the local bodies and even the state government supported actively.
The young generations and parents must also understand that eventually the connect with the markets and customers and business / financial success is in a local language or Hindi, though your learning is in English. We are no doubt the back office of the world due to the fact that we are far better than China as regards English is concerned, but there is a huge back office created for our own country in time to come using our own market and creating jobs within.
In the company that I head, we work for a lot of overseas clients with 75% of the staff not excelling in English and who hail from small towns and Tier 2 or 3 cities in Gujarat and a few other states. An English teacher trains them to excel gradually and we are doing very well with this model, which was promoted by my American Indian company owner. If you have the desire to learn any language, you can, provided you are interested enough and have a good teacher around,. Everything is possible -Yes, but someone has to drive this all. May be only a crazy politician can do it.
Written by Dinesh Bandiwadekar ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
Dinesh Bandiwadekar launched Persona Academy ( http://www.personaacademy.in ) a personality development institute in Mumbai in 2014 after working for 30 years and currently holds a top position in an USA based Engg I.T. KPO which works for international clients. He can be reached at email@example.com / 9619545460