Use of mother tongue in foundational education, now and earlier

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Source: The post is based on the article “Use of mother tongue in foundational education, now and earlier” published in Indian Express on 29th October 2022

What is the News?

The Minister for Education has released the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for foundational stage (children aged 3 to 8 years) education.

What has the NCF recommended?

NCF has recommended that the mother tongue should be the primary medium of instruction in schools, both public and private, for children up to eight years of age.

NCF observed that English can be one of the second languages taught at that level.

Why mother tongue?

Since children learn concepts most rapidly and deeply in their home language, the primary medium of instruction would optimally be the child’s home language/ mother tongue/ familiar language in the Foundational Stage.

What is the impact of this recommendation?

At the national level, in schools affiliated with the CBSE or ICSE, English is the main medium of instruction in the primary classes itself. That has been the case despite efforts to get the boards to adopt the mother tongue or dominant regional languages at least for the primary grades. 

Most state boards have their regional languages as the main mode of instruction. However, every state government also runs schools in which English is the medium of instruction. In fact, the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments have taken policy decisions to gradually get all schools to impart education only in English. 

What did previous education policies recommend?

First education policy: It was based on the recommendations of a commission headed by D S Kothari. It observed that regional languages were already in use as the medium of education at the primary and secondary stages and steps should be taken to adopt the same at the university stage as well.

National Education Policy(NEP),2020: It marked a departure from the past, as it made a clear case for the mother tongue. It recommended that wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the mother tongue/ local language.

What did the previous NCFs recommend?

First NCF: It was published in 1975. It said clearly that as far as possible, primary education should be in the mother tongue”, which was the child’s most natural medium of communication.

NCF 2005: It said the language of interaction and communication in Early Childhood Care and Education(ECCE) would normally be the child’s ‘first’ language. However, in light of socio-political realities, English has to be introduced early as a second language either in Class I or at the preschool level.

What is the Constitutional position on this issue?

Under Article 350A of the Constitution, the government must try to ensure that children from linguistic minority groups are educated in their mother tongue.

Article 351 says: It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other language specified in the Eighth Schedule.

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