ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Question of Language in Education

The Report of the Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy displays neither rigour nor vision. Its introduction of a provision for instruction in the mother tongue up to Class 5 is to be welcomed, but its complete neglect of these languages in higher education will ensure that this cannot be implemented. 

It is only to be expected from a document that proposes a New Policy on Education (NPE) for the country that it would build a convincing case for its own raison d’etre. Chapter 3 of the Report of the Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy (Subramanian committee report), chaired by T S R Subramanian attempts to do precisely this. The laudable goals and objectives of older NPEs (1986 and 1992), we are told, have not succeeded because of the absence of a “clear workable road map” with “clear operational guidance.” Over the past three decades, “heavy politicization at every level” and “increasing corruption” have led to “extremely poor educational conditions at the ground level,” despite significant increases in the gross enrolment ratio and improvements in overall infrastructure (MHRD 2016: 33). The Subramanian committee report defines as its own focus, a concern for “quality in every element of the entire system” which has “hitherto effectively been relegated to the background,” given the stress that earlier policies laid on equity and access. While the latter goals should not be compromised, the report declares that “it has now become an imperative necessity to lay major emphasis on improvement of quality across the board” (MHRD 2016: 35, 36).

It is of course an open question as to whether significant milestones have been reached in terms of both equity and access, or, indeed, and the issue of quality can be easily spliced from these two issues. In a reality in which disadvantaged sections do not have an equal opportunity to access school and higher education, the very definition of quality is bound to be based on partial experience. For example, one may construe quality in language education to be the achievement of written language fluency in Hindi by Class 2, but, since this is based on an assumption that every child who attends school in Hindi-speaking areas is necessarily a Hindi speaker at her home, this benchmark cannot (or rather should not) be maintained without amendment when (socially/economically) disadvantaged non-Hindi-speaking children gain access to the school system.

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