The NCERT claims to be a professional autonomous body to guide and advise the Ministry of HRD in matters of school education, particularly in the context of curriculum framing and renewal but it is conducting itself most unprofessionally in these matters and becoming a handy tool of the vested interests in the field of education.
FOLLOWING a proposal submitted by Bangladesh at UNESCO’s General Conference in 1999, UNESCO proclaimed that “21st February will be observed every year as International Mother Language Day” to celebrate linguistic pluralism and cultural diversity and protect and preserve the heritage of humanity.
February 21corresponds to and commemorates the Shaheed Day, the Language Martyrs’ Day. It was on this day in 1952, that a number of Bengalis of the then East Pakistan laid down their lives to protect their mother tongue. It marks a red letter day in the history of freedom struggle of Bangladesh. To recall the events briefly, Mr. Nazeemudin, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan declared on January 26, 1952 that Urdu alone would be the state language of Pakistan. This dictatorial dictate of Pakistan-rulers irreparably offended the sentiments and sensibilities of Bengali speaking people of then East Pakistan. It sparked off a language agitation in East Pakistan. They set up a broad-based All Party Committee of Action which called a general strike on February 21. Five people were killed in the police firing. On February 22, four more people fell to police bullets during mourning prayers that were being offered for the previous day’s victims. Bowing to the public pressure, Chief Minister Noor-ul-Amin moved a motion recommending to the Constituent Assembly that Bengali should be one of the state Language of Pakistan. The motion was passed unanimously but the seeds of disintegration of Pakistan had been sown in then East Pakistan in 1952 itself by this single foolish act of Pakistan rulers. Mother tongue or mother language of people proved a stronger bond than the religion.
The lesson of the story is that whenever the establishment or those who are at the helm of affairs curb the mother language of people of a state and try to impose an alien language over the country in matters of state or education, the results are bound to be disastrous for the country because such an untenable and foolish policy has ingredients in it to disintegrate the society and prove harmful to the country’s ethos, values and culture. Unfortunately, this is the policy which is being pursued by our rulers in India for last more than four decades or so. This writer will come to this matter a bit later.
It is estimated that half of the world’s 6000 to 7000 languages are facing the risk of dying out and may disappear in the next 20 years. Take the case of Indian languages. The VIII schedule of the Constitution specifies our regional or state languages viz. Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu etc.
It is unfortunate that the elite of the country is imposing on the country a language other than the child’s mother tongue in matters of his education even at primary stage just to serve their vested interests and fulfill their nefarious designs against all the tenets of education. They are giving so much primacy to English at this level that the Indian languages face a grave risk of decay and denigration. Some chief ministers and bureaucrats at the helm of affairs in various states have introduced English in addition to the mother tongue or regional language at the primary stage against all principles of education and are flouting the language policy of the Central Government with impunity and the greatest tragedy in this context is that the NCERT is abetting the vested interests in their evil designs with inputs from its own side and turning schools into what can be termed as “torture cells.”
Unprofessionalism of NCERT
The NCERT claims to be a professional autonomous body to guide and advise the Ministry of HRD in matters of school education, particularly in the context of curriculum framing and renewal but it is conducting itself most unprofessionally in these matters and becoming a handy tool of the vested interests in the field of education. It is what the NCERT states in the “Guidelines and Syllabi for Primary Stage”. “The National Curriculum Framework for School Education reiterates that the medium of instruction at the Primary stage should be the mother tongue/regional language. It also prescribes the study of only one language i.e. the mother tongue/regional language at the primary stage!” Does the NCERT believe in it? And if so, how “English” and its teaching-learning fits in the scheme of things i.e. in the curriculum at the primary stage. This means acceptance of two languages in the curriculum transaction at primary stage. Obviously, the sufferer will be the mother tongue/ regional language and hence the learning of the child. Why should a professional body like NCERT be a party to the uneducational and nefarious designs of the vested interests? The NCERT owes explanation to the nation on this point. These machiavellian machinations in framing or transaction of curriculum need to be stopped forthwith.
It is unfortunate and hypocritical that the instruction of the child through his/her mother tongue at the elementary level of education does not form an essential part of CMP professedly meant for the welfare of common people and it is not for nothing that all TV channels and electronic media are transmitting their programmes and advertising in Hindi and Indian languages, despite the ill-conceived essentials of Globalisation. Even Foreign Electronic Media like BBC, Discovery, Animal Planet and other TV channels have started dubbing their programmes in Hindi and other Indian regional languages.
No one can deny the fact that in almost in all developed, democratic and independent countries in Europe (like Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland etc.) and all over world, mother tongue of the child is the medium of instruction. Do these countries and their leaders have no sense of what our leaders and administrators mean by Globalisation in context of education through a language other than the child’s mother tongue?
What is emphasised here is that there is an urgent need to protect mother tongue and other regional languages of India and promote and develop each of them as meaningful and effective medium of instruction and expression, if we have to preserve our cultural heritage and protect our linguistic pluralism and cultural diversity against the consistent assault of vested interests and forces inimical to our languages and culture. And there is no better occasion than the International Mother Language Day to pledge to work towards that end.
(The writer can be contacted at, 660/10, Krishna Colony, Gurgaon- 122 001 (Haryana))