The mother tongue of a child is part of the personal, social and cultural identity. It brings about the reflection and learning of successful social patterns of acting and speaking. It is basically responsible for differentiating the linguistic competence. Research indicates that having a strong mother tongue leads to a much better understanding of curriculum as well as a more positive attitude towards school, so it is vital that children maintain their first language when they begin schooling in a different language.
In spite of growing evidence and parent demand, many educational systems around the world insist on exclusive use of one or sometimes several privileged languages. Some educators argue that only those countries where the student’s first language is the language of instruction are likely to achieve the goals of Education for All. Rachel Cooper states that the push for teaching in universal languages such as English has been shown to hinder in developing countries.
Many education advocacy organizations are supporting the Campaign, a U.N. program focused on implementing multilingual learning. This campaign is a part of the Global Campaign for Education to ensure mother tongue education for all students. The campaign also holds governments accountable for improving mother tongue policies in schools. Governments in developing countries are resisting the campaign because there aren’t many teachers who are able to instruct in minority languages. Putting mother tongue education in place can often be a costly and time-consuming process.
However, studies show that local language policies decrease dropout rates and increase academic achievement. It is interesting to note that six “underprivileged” countries have reported success after making the switch to mother tongue education; they are Nepal, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Rwanda. The developed countries which have prospered par excellence with the use of mother tongue are China, Russia, and France to name a few.
So, once we have established that it is significant to be well versed in our mother tongue; let’s talk about the land of diversity, India. India is a multilingual nation with two official languages i.e. Hindi and English. There are 22 officially recognized languages in India of which Hindi is the most used. The number of native Hindi speakers is about 25% of the total Indian population. However, including dialects of Hindi termed as ‘Hindi languages’, the total is around 44% of Indians. Other Indian languages are each spoken by around 10% or less of the population.
The constituent assembly of India adopted Hindi as an official language on 14 September 1949. It is a unique language. Every possible sound in the world can be written down in Hindi by simply making use of the alphabet. The beauty of this language is that its script is purely phonetic; words are pronounced exactly as they are written. (Source: TOI) Today, Hindi is prospering on International level. It is the third most spoken language in the world after Mandarin and English. Whether it is magazines or journals, movies or theatre, music or media in India; Hindi stands on a pedestal so high that no other language can imagine outshining it.
Girishwer Mishr, Vice- Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi International University, raises the concern that Hindi lags behind in our country as it is not the medium of instruction in almost all private schools and many governmental schools. It is quite unfortunate that renowned universities, like Guwahati University does not accept research papers in any language other than English. India’s neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have prolific users of Hindi. When Hindi was declared as an official language it was believed that gradually all the translations will be done in Hindi and later when all the states would agree, it will become the National Language. Years have passed since then but this never became a reality.
At the same time we have to accept the fact that we cannot do away with English as an official language. So, when it comes to education we will have to make space for it. This is actually not a bad thing in a long run but research has shown that children’s first language is the optimal language for literacy and learning throughout primary school (UNESCO, 2008). Therefore, I firmly believe that a child’s primary education should be strictly conducted with their mother tongue as the medium of instruction. From secondary school onwards both the official languages can be introduced in the curriculum explicitly.
When it comes to Hindi, the need of the time is that it should be promoted and love for it should be inculcated in our kids. Let us start with the endeavour of welcoming Hindi as an everyday ritual. Expose your kids to the stories of Mahashweta Devi, Shivani, Manu Bhandari, Mahadevi Verma, Premchand and Manto and the poems of Sumitranandan Pant, Harivansh Rai Bachhan, Subhadra Kumari and Neeraj. Bring back the culture of bed time stories and let these stories be in Hindi. Although the critics might claim that the origin of various words in various languages including English is Hindi itself but a lot of our kids are still not exposed to Hindi in its “purest” form. Even if a child gets the privilege to own a little library at home or gets books as birthday present, it is mostly in English language. Parents take pride when their kids speak in English. Everybody wants the mother tongue to flourish but no one is making any attempts. Language is pious and significant. It is quite like values, which cannot be inculcated just through formal education.
This year’s Hindi Diwas celebration at school was awe inspiring. It paid tribute to legendary Hindi poets, Neeraj and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and their revolutionary impact on Indian readers. The way the play and recitals were conducted, clearly indicated that the students were comfortable with the language and possessed great command over it. After the event, when I got a chance to interact with the students, I found out that most of the participants had a keen interest in the language. The reason was their genuine love for the language and its abundant cultural value. The Chief Guest of the event, Dr Vyas addressed the gathering of 500 spellbound students who keenly relished his words of wisdom which were poured onto them in effortless Hindi. The impact was such due to the language as Hindi undoubtedly has the soulfulness to touch hearts and students could connect with easily.
My question is that why Hindi is confined to just as a subject in schools. When I ask a Science teacher, the aim of teaching science or Mathematics teachers the aim behind teaching the subject, I get specific answers. The beauty of Hindi lies in the fact that it is a language and not a subject. Therefore, you cannot confine it to specific marks-based and career-based goals. It is unfortunate that we need ‘Hindi Diwas’ or ‘Hindi Pakhwada’ to reinforce the significance of Hindi. I agree with Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi when he says that Hindi needs a purpose. The teachers of Hindi need to not just teach but pour the messages of Kabir and Sumitranandan pant in the hearts and souls of the students. If science is teaching the structure of atom, Hindi at the same time is teaching the power of nature on atomies. It is time to establish this connection so that the future brilliant scientist remembers the values that were inculcated in him through Hindi poetry and stories as he experiments and invents. Society isn’t structured by scientists, doctors, engineers etc. it comprises humans. Hindi makes you human; it teaches us how to live. Hindi in itself is a celebration of humanity and we need to celebrate it every day and every moment. Here the CBSE and other educational boards and mainly NCERT should take initiative to give Hindi and other Indian languages the same respect and place as these had before. The subject has been equated with maths and science for the sake of awarding more marks to the children in the exams. The quality of the text and the question papers must be brought back what it was 20 years back. I know this is the time of data and economics (dealing with numbers only) but the values and real love for mother tongue and motherland is utmost importance. Countries like Bhutan are not very strong economically but they have for their mother tongue, their religion and their motherland. We have the culture which is considered to be among the oldest hence must be kept intact and the key for that lies in our languages Hindi and Sanskrit.