Teaching up to grade 5 in mother tongue, regional language: school leaders have varied points of view
While teaching students up to grade 5 in the native or regional language will promote multilingualism, students may have difficulty adjusting in upper grades where the language of instruction is English, according to many school principals.
In accordance with the new National Education Policy (NEP), the language of instruction up to at least class 5, but preferably up to class 8 and beyond, will be the language spoken at home, mother tongue, local language and regional language.
“We must first distinguish between language and literacy. Language is talking and is natural for our brain. Literacy is reading and writing that must be learned by our brain, ”said Vishnu Karthik, Director of Heritage Schools.
He said that children’s brains are designed to learn multiple languages, and the more they are exposed to many languages, the more they can absorb them from a young age. “So teaching in just one language is not the best use of the critical learning windows that nature has provided for language learning. Teaching only in English or only in the mother tongue is not a good practice. A healthy mix of 2-3 languages is pretty good for kids in primary school, ”he said.
When it comes to literacy (reading and writing), Karthik said it’s best to keep it simple by focusing on just two literacy languages. “For urban parents, English and a vernacular should be good. A third literacy can be acquired after the fifth grade, he added.
According to Alka Kapur, Principal, Modern School, Shalimar Bagh, English is a universal language and in the guidelines it is written that it can be used wherever possible. “It is not clear whether ‘as far as possible’ means subject or place. English should be a common language because everyone wants their child to know the language and I think if it is taught at the basic state it would be great, ”she said.
“The regional language along with the English language would be a good idea because the English language is a window to the world and every child in the foundation should focus on learning English,” she added.
A representative from Green Fields Public School, who declined to be identified, said: “It is okay to promote multilingualism, but making (vernacular) languages the language of instruction is not a wise approach. Suddenly, when students move up to the next grade, we find them struggling with English, which is now the official working language in majority places ”.
Pallavi Upadhyaya, Director, DPS Raj Nagar Extension, Ghaziabad, said the new education policy focuses on a three-language approach and aims to teach students in their early developmental years more of a mother tongue.
“The policy clearly states that no language will be imposed on anyone, it will be the choice of the school and the students independently. The approach of the Ministry of Education is to promote multilingualism and national unity. We will only plan our action plan after discussion with stakeholders, ”she said.
When the first version of the policy was unveiled last year, language issues aroused the most outrage, as they called for compulsory teaching of Hindi to all students. The clause was then dropped and the final policy document makes it clear that there will be more flexibility in the three-language formula and that no language will be imposed on any state.
The three languages that children learn will be the choice of states, regions and of course the students themselves, provided that at least two of the three languages originate in India. Sanskrit will be offered as an option at all levels of school and higher education, the policy said, adding that other classical languages will also be available, possibly as online modules, while foreign languages will be offered at secondary level.