Friday, May 12, 2006


The one Raj legacy other than cricket that keeps haunting India is theEnglish language and the continuing debate on the dominance of English over mother tongues. Those with good English knowledge have always an overriding advantage in Indian society and the respect they earn due to their command in that language is also immense. A young student from an educated and well-to-do family automatically prefers English medium ofeducation; English medium schools are normally keep up good standards and facilities; this automatically makes him eligible for good courses in higher education; he ends up with a plumb job and becomes a successin life. This has made everyone draw a line between the success in life of a person and the English-medium education he got. A simple equation is thus made: English medium schooling leads to good jobs and success inlife. No denying of this fact.

But there is one another side for this argument. All said and done,after all English is a foreign language and thought processes will always be in one's own mother tongue. Hence there has to be a gap between learning in one's own mother tongue and in a foreign language. Especially this is very much so in lower classes, say, till the end of schooling. So a student can acquire more knowledge faster if he does his studies in his own mother tongue and his comprehension and mastery over the subject would be much better. What he has to do in addition is to learn one another language, English and he will have definitely enough energy to do well in one more language since his learning process of other subjects through his own mother tongue would be considerably and comparatively easier than being through English. Our schooling focuses on quantity and not on quality. Loads and loads of information are fed to the students not worrying how much is being grasped, absorbed and assimilated by the students. This leads to rote learning. The cognitive levels of understanding, comprehension,analysis and appreciation are left out from our schooling system. Many a time what a student would do in lower level gets simply repeated at his college level. The pity is the college students in general donÂ’t show even a trace of knowledge of those lessons they already studied, nay, 'covered'in schools. It is because they would have learnt it then by memorizing it without understanding and simply forgotten them then and there. Anyone who teaches in the college level would be familiar with this but if nothing has been done to rectify this, the blame is squarely on the shoulders of the teaching community.

What could be ideal is to teach and lay a strong foundation in at least two languages, mother tongue and English and if possible, one more language at least since it is said that till the age of ten children have aptitude for learning languages. Once the children finish the elementary education with strong foundation in languages then in high schools different subjects could be taught up to knowledge and comprehension levels in the mother tongue. A good foundation in languages would stand in good stead both in their understanding of the subjects and also in their communication skills. This lack of a good foundation in languages - in the mother tongue as well as in English - is a common feature and this had been deteriorating fast in the last two decades. Quality or depth of knowledge has become the first sacrifice in the altar of avaricious educationists who vie for quantitity.

English is essential, no doubt, as a bridge with rest of the world. But those who have to cross that ‘bridge’ will be so few and with a strong foundation of basics in English any one can develop his virtuosity in English as and when he needs it. A noteworthy point is that even in many of the developing countries that got their freedom from earlier colonization recently have switched over to education through their own mother tongues. But in India with its multilingual and multicultural ethos a common compromising language formula is very hard to reach and we reap the consequences of it.

But, for how long?


tbr.joseph said...

Hi Sam,

Our schooling focuses on quantity and not on quality. Loads and loads of information are fed to the students not worrying how much is being grasped, absorbed and assimilated by the students.//

I agree with you.

But no one has the courage to put a stop to this nonsense.

It is true that English is only a langauge and the one who is fluent in English need not necessarily be the most knowledgeable. But he can simply manage his way thro' a job- interview with his ability to express whatever little he knew unlike the other who could be more knowledgeable than him. Inability to converse in English is indeed an obstacle, I feel. The pity is the present generation of youngsters are unable even to write in English. Our generation could at least write decent english even if they were not able speak fluently.

Otherwise, why do you think our Thamizmanam boys are unwilling to write in blogdesam?

sam said...

Hi Joseph,
The recent news on the winners in UPSC Exams may prove my point - learning thru mother tongue could be more effective.

Many of us keep saying the need to teach languages effectively.

Kalam has said about the academic 'load' of our young students

But none concerned hear this and do something solid.

Orani said...

Hi sam, you maynot believe what I am going to say but it is a piece of truth. I have been thinking about it all along since I switched my medium of learning from Tamil to English at my Higher Secondary level to College.

I felt that pinch in me. Why all at a sudden I should go through this nerve breaking hardship, switching to a language where I am less familiar with. In other case, my another brother happened to fail in all classes. In spite, of his first rank in YMCA school (+2), where he studied in Tamil medium.

When he joined for his higher studies with MCC, he was very much threatned and discouraged for not being able to grasp the essence of the very subject he very much loved to pursue. The consequence of it, he quit in mid term. It was unfinished.

So I understand what do you exactly mean. In my case, I self-taught pretty much in every aspect of it. I am proud of myself where I am today with What I know of. Yet, still I am learning in a hard way.

That fake illusion should be unveiled from both the parent and kids alike, for that case even our very government and the society in whole. Thinking that if we do speak in english we are being treated like a king and get a special treatment etc., It is a sheer shame and ignorance in our side.

You see the Japanese and Chinese are very competent in terms of new invention and technology because they value their mother tongue and learn the fundamental principles of complex issue where they can shine with it later on in their future.

It is not the case with us. However, I see the hope at the end of the tunnel. When the mojarity of the population get more education and awareness of their, they will be grounded and appreciate what for who they are.

And that is my hope. Right now what is going is just a mere ignorance, mimicking with copy-cat attitude.

I am going to publish this same feedback as a separate essay in my blog. With your article in the front line! I need it very much please understand me.

Good piece very much needed at this era, where we are today!

Another one of the good thoughts from your side ;-)


P.S: Perhaps if the teacher is taught and trained really good, they might resolve the problem too, I suppose. Since, they can find some other alternative and creative way to teach the fundamentals of a language to the kids. Govt. funded schools are the worst in that case.

Orani said...

Mr. Sam,

I am going to post a separate article here, blaming how the teaching system in public school failed with ignorant teacher...hope you won't mind... :-)))


Sivabalan said...


//A noteworthy point is that even in many of the developing countries that got their freedom from earlier colonization recently have switched over to education through their own mother tongues //

It is excellent Lines...

I 100% agree with this.

cinna said...

Sir, I remember a student who had done his schooling in Tamil medium joined our college in P.U.C. His pronounciation was made fun of by all the English-medium guys. But he had the last laugh. He got the first rank in the university that year!

தருமி said...

i always used to see three types of students: 1. guys form english medium with their complexes -superioity..? - do little to keep themselves to maintain their level of achievement; 2. boys from tamil medium with their natural inferiority feeling go down the drain without a whimper; and 3. some boys from tamil medium and also from lower levels of social mileu try hard with vengence and really achieve greater heights.

புருனோ Bruno said...

A relevant post is at