Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Importance of Mother Tongue

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 children’s educational progress in developing countries.
Many education advocacy organizations are supporting the International Mother Language Day 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.

Monday, September 3, 2018


The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’.”  – Plato
September 5, the birth date of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, is celebrated as Teacher's Day in India. Once, a few students asked him if they could celebrate his birthday, he replied, "Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if September 5 is observed as Teachers' Day." With this auspicious day round the corner I couldn’t stop myself from penning down my thoughts to pay my respect all great Gurus.
I remain in the company of budding minds and observe the teaching-learning process closely, on a daily basis. I have seen young men and women shape into competent and dedicated teachers with time. I see them grow each day and handle the most adverse situations nonchalantly. Teaching is not just a profession in our country but a mission to shape young minds. In our scriptures and epics, we have placed our teachers on a pedestal which is much higher than that of a king. A guru is considered to be an epitome of knowledge and patience. We have great examples of brilliant teachers who have changed the course of time with their teachings.
The first example that comes to my mind is that of Chnakya. Also known as Kautilya, he is the first famous Indian scholar. He served as a professor of political science and economics at the Takshila University. His two famous books Arthshastra and Neetishastra are considered legendary milestones in the field of economics and political governance. He believed, “Education is the best friend. An educated person is respected everywhere. Education beats the beauty and the youth.”
One of the contemporary examples of a great teacher is Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. He was a huge advocate of education as the primary driving force of personal growth. He believed that apart from holding a mere academic degree, a student should also enhance his personal skills and calibre which are utilised more in shaping an individual's career and life. He once said, “Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individual. If the people remember me as a good teacher, it will be the biggest honour for me.”
Teaching is a unique profession which does not limit itself to a classroom. A teacher is any person who has ever been a guiding light in someone’s life. I recently read about a few unique mentors in an article. They are known for being ‘unconventional’ in the field of education and are worth mentioning here.
21-year-old Babar Ali has been teaching since he was 9. At 15, he became the headmaster of his makeshift school which teaches about 300 students today and has 6 full time teachers. He says, “I believe that if you are passionate about something then you can achieve anything. Age, finances, other hurdles, they just don’t matter and eventually everything works out.”
Aditya Kumar, better known as ‘Cycle guruji’, rides about 60 to 65 km on a bicycle every day, and provides free education to children living in the slums of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. This inspiring man has been doing this since 1995. He says with enthusiasm, ““Where ever I got students, I would sit and teach — by the roadside, in parks, near slums. I had a board on the cycle, and students would just read it and stop me. I was one of them, I understood what it meant to be poor and without support.”
A primary school teacher in Malappuram district of Kerala, Abdul Mallik swims to work every day. Why? Because that is the shortest route to reach his school. His dedication is immense, “If I go by bus, it takes me three hours to cover the 12-kilometer (7.5 miles) distance. But swimming through the river is easier, faster and I reach school on time.” 
Roshni Mukherjee has an online education platform called ExamFear.com where she teaches students with the help of videos which she uploads on YouTube.
“Recently, a student messaged me that he has been following my videos for three years now, and they have helped him score well in his exams without having to join tuition classes. He has now got admission in NIT. Such examples keep me motivated.”
These inspiring examples make this profession what it is, prestigious and esteemed.
Now, let me share with you a few examples which mean a lot in this context. I got a chance to interact with many teachers and asked them about their teachers. It was like letting loose an ocean of emotions and nostalgia.
One of them poured out her experience in a reminiscent tone. She loved dancing as a little girl. Her mother wanted to support her interest but her father was against her wishes and she was often scolded and thrown out of her house for pursuing her passion. In this situation, her teacher, Neena Thakkar came to her rescue. She used to give her shelter in her house and sent her back home when things used to cool down. But when this kind of behaviour continued and the father remained adamant she strictly warned him that she would complain to the police if the little girl is mistreated again. She also gave courage to the helpless mother to protect and respect her daughter’s passion. Interestingly this teacher nevr taught her in the class. “Her support transformed my personality”, she says, as she remembers her teacher fondly. “The influence of teachers extends beyond the classroom, well into the future.”
Another teacher shared his story with a smile filled with reverence for his mentor. He owes his confidence and command and love for a foreign language(English) to his teacher. He was a hard working and brilliant student but throughout the schooling he was taught in Hindi medium. Once he reached graduation he had to pursue his education in English language. Due to lack of command over it, he often faced embarrassment and mockery. One of his teachers made sure that he worked on his pronunciation and gave extra classes to him to enhance his comfort with English language. “Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students.” He says, filled with gratitude.
One of the teachers told me that she struggled with the pronunciation of “sh” and that is why reading in English literature period became a struggle for her. She started avoiding the subject she loved. Her teacher of English language, Mrs. Solanki sensed her trouble and made it compulsory for her to read a paragraph in the class every day. Gradually, she won over her problem and today she is encouraging her students to improve their reading skills and speak with confidence. “Everyone who remembers his/her own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.”
The bond we share with our teachers cannot be confined and celebrated in one day. It is eternal. The love and respect we have for them should be expressed every day. But there is something about this day, as it approaches it brings with it a lot of memories. Let me go down the memory lane and share my experiences. My mathematics teacher Mr. Singh and English language teacher Mr. Khan possessed the panache to keep the entire class engaged. Mr. Khan dealt with the class in such a manner that we longed for his presence and earnestly waited for him every day. Mr. Singh had immaculate command on his subject and focussed on our problem areas and solved our queries in such a way that mathematics became fun with him. Their personalities exuded endless energy and made our classroom experience memorable. “Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.”
Lovable and sometimes intimidating figures, teachers present their students with important life opportunities and inspire them to discover their vocation, and motivate and guide them along the way. A teacher’s true appreciation comes with age. It makes me proud when a student gives the credit of her/his success to the teachers. It is beautiful to see the mutual respect that breathes between them.
“Too few of us understand a teacher’s value and effort while we are still students. It is when we mature that we truly admire these people and begin to recognize the positive difference they made in our lives. There comes a point where we start being thankful to all our teachers but the most memorable ones are always the ones who believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves.” I salute all the teachers who are giving their prime to enlighten the young minds.
I conclude this article with these lines by Aristotle, “Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life; those, the art of living well.”