We need a constitutional amendment so that the adoption of mother tongues in our administrative fabric is achieved at the earliest. The language policy should not be challenged by any force even by the Supreme Court
Prof. D. Visweswaram
An individual is free to learn any number of languages of his/her choice. The question is when it comes to prescribing which of the languages and the number of languages to be taught in schools, the policy of the government is to be framed carefully. When Telugu speaking people started a movement for their language in the twenties of the twentieth century, the leaders of the freedom struggle prevented them from raising a new issue and told them that other issues would be taken up after we first achieve the freedom.
After we achieved Independence, the Constitution was prepared and implemented. We also reorganised our states. The Kothari Commission gave an exhaustive report on education and its guidelines for the future. The country started implementing it. More than fifty years are over since the Kothari commission’s report was implemented but there is no headway in adopting our mother languages. During this period vested interests came to the fore making money by propagating English through their institutions in the country. The government adopted three language formula prescribed by the Kothari Commission to be implemented by the educational institutions and left the school education to the care of the state governments.
The state governments permitted private schools to be operated parallel to public schools. The private schools started deviating from the policies of the government central or state. Several institutions started nursery education from the age of three years of a child. As a rule, nursery schools should not have any formal teaching like reading or writing. They are meant to develop interest and a school going habit in the children. They are play schools. The pupils should be told small stories and made to participate in games, dances and other activities that train their hands in arts and skills. But these nurseries started to teach reading and writing alphabets, that too English. They were competing with other nurseries in teaching English and attract more pupils. Many of them were involved in mischievous propaganda that our mother tongues will not give us food or jobs and canvass to admit their children in English medium in their institution to get the best education in order to join the best higher educational institution in the country or anywhere in the world. Thus, a bogey of glamour is created for English. Many of the politicians are directly or indirectly associated with several educational institutions with interests other than developing education. It is no wonder that many institutions have grown today to the stage of corporate institutions and feeding the politicians in many ways and making the state governments dependent on them. The state governments cannot take decisions on educational matters without their consent. Thus our education is suffering at the hands of corporate institutions that insist and promote English in the country.
Today several countries of the world follow with pride their mother language in the state matters for communication, court matters and education from KG to PG. All European countries, Russia, China, Japan, countries of South America, Arab countries, South East Asian countries, Israel, etc., follow with pride their respective mother tongues. Israel stands as the best example of love of their people towards their mother tongue. They have resurrected their Hebrew language after they returned to their native land. They have almost forgotten their mother language as they were driven out from their native land and forced to live in different countries of the world for nearly 1800 years.
If we decide to teach a language, we should allot more time for it in schools, train the teachers and make them teach and converse with students in that language only throughout the periodIn our country, one that speaks English is considered educated, though he is habituated to speak wrong English. We are all gifted to speak in our mother languages excellently, but such people are considered uneducated and do not claim the respect of those that can speak and write English. There are movements for mother tongues almost in every region of the country. Even the UNESCO urged in 1999 to observe 21st February as “International Mother Languages Day” in order to protect languages of the world as they form the valuable heritage of the people in their respective regions. But, will these movements achieve the pristine glory to their mother tongues even after several centuries? Only the policies of the governments based on the real aspirations of the people will bring the desired result.
The following points are suggested for implementation by central and state governments of Bharat. Education is a concurrent subject for us. But, the central government should not leave it to the care of state governments which are generally deemed guided by the corporate bodies only with some rare exceptions. There are, in some states, forces that even oppose the movements for implementation of mother tongue. Is it for opposing our language and culture that we fought with the British and obtained our freedom? It is said that a nation is wiped out if its language is lost.
I urge that a constitutional amendment be made so that the adoption of mother tongues in our administration fabric, which is also an objective of our freedom struggle be achieved at the earliest. Even if it is an uphill task like our past Swatantra Sangram, we should be prepared for it, to achieve our goal i.e. Sampoorna Swarajya. Our language policy should not be challenged by any force even by the Supreme Court by that amendment. Further, learning mother tongue should be included in the fundamental rights of all citizens in the Constitution. The language policy and its implementation should not be left to the state governments. We may permit private persons or bodies to start educational institutions but they should cent per cent follow the policies of the government. They are deemed as private bodies assisting the government in the field if education.
About the nursery education: As a rule, a child should be sent to school at the age of five. But, there are several nursery schools in big and small towns that admit children from the age of three. The nursery education should be recognised by respective state governments. It does not mean that the state should start nursery schools in each village to bring the school within the reach of every child. It would be an additional burden to the government. But, wherever such schools exist they should be made to register with the respective government and their activities should be within the supervision of the government. The nursery schools are attracting the parents in the name of discipline and good habits taught from the very early age of their child. The fees are very high at this level also. There also, invariably English is implemented as a subject and as the medium of instruction. Once a child is admitted to a nursery school, he is forced to continue throughout his education with English as the medium. So, I urge the government to regulate nursery schools to adopt mother tongue only and not English. We have to understand that our movement for Independence is not complete without freedom to learn our mother tongues.
About our link language: In the present circumstances, the three language formula is the best. However, the undesirable situations the country faced till now may be mentioned to find a remedy for adopting in future. There is opposition in Tamil Nadu to Hindi. They say it may lead to the domination of the North over the South. In the North, almost everybody says our Hindi is the Rashtrabhasha. Does it mean that the other languages like Telugu, Bengali, Tamil, Gujarati etc. are anti-national languages? Only Shri Guruji correctly clarified this misconception. All the languages used by the people of our nation and enriched us in several ways for so many centuries are our national languages. Sanskrit is considered as the mother of them all. The British rulers forced on us English. After they left us we should go back to our earlier mother tongue Sanskrit or develop another language existing in our present languages as a link language and official language of Bharat. Any language used in this country may be made a link language. The language, Hindi used in many states and spoken by the majority of the people and used much during our freedom struggle has been chosen as the link language by the members of our Constituent Assembly.
Dr. BR Ambedkar proposed Sanskrit to be made the link language of Bharat and it was supported by Dr. BV Keskar and about 13 members of the Constituent Assembly from Tamil Nadu, Bengal and some other states. Today Sanskrit may not be spoken in any of the states but the languages in all the regions are nourished and made to grow well by Sanskrit. I suggest that one of the two languages Hindi and Sanskrit may be left to the option of the student to be learnt as the link language instead of only Hindi in the three language formula. I urge an amendment in the Constitution to ensure that education be started in all schools in mother tongue and medium of instruction should be compulsory, for the present, up to the end of elementary stage (without prejudice to the Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution).
We need not leave English. We should acquire good proficiency in that language too but not at the cost of mother tongues. Most of our languages are rich. Our Vedic knowledge is translated into these languages and it was made to reach the people through excellent literary forms like prose, poetry, songs or ballads, Harikathas, dramas, dances, Ashta Avadhanams, Shatha and Sahasra Avadhanams, etc. A language becomes rich when it becomes the medium to acquire and spread as much information and knowledge as possible from any quarter of the world. It is not desirable to have one language only throughout the world. Many of our languages are rich and should rise to greater richness along with their own characteristics. Historically, Sanskrit enjoyed that distinction as world language from times immemorial. Takshashila was the only university in the world in those days and students from Egypt, Persia, Greece, China, Tibet, Japan, South East Asian countries and many other countries used to come there to pursue studies on different subjects after learning Sanskrit which was the most developed language in the world and was the medium of instruction.
Next, Nalanda of Bihar also enjoyed that status as university and as a centre of studies on various subjects in the Sanskrit language as a medium. As regional languages developed the other centres got developed. Because Britain had its empire in many countries around and its imposition of English language in its colonies and English being the language of the United States this language acquired its present important position. It does not mean that we all stick to that language as slaves even after getting our Independence.
Only mother tongue brings closer the uneducated and the educated people in the society, which is very much needed today though we make every effort to make all our citizens educated. Today, we are feeling that we did not develop a link language for our nation even after 70 years of Independence. We did not give serious thought to this aspect of our national reconstruction and education. If we decide to teach a language, we should allot more time for it in schools, train the teachers and make them teach and converse with students in that language only throughout the period. The Union HRD Minister is urged to give earnest consideration to these points while drafting new education policy for the future of the nation.
(The writer is former national general secretary of Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal)