When Indian languages become the medium of education from primary to higher level, India will realise its soul
India is a country of diversities. The multicoloured geographical construct of the country is such that it embraces several cultures. Diversity in lifestyle, beliefs, faith and food habits amaze foreigners. Language is a key component of such diversities. Man has tirelessly acquired language to express and communicate. With language, he contemplates. The original text of human intelligence, the Rigveda, says in reference to language that 'the steadfast man utters the language with a mind purified like flour filtered in a sieve and pure virtue is established in speech. Saint Kabir said, “Sanskrit hai koop jal, bhakha bahta neer.” Poet Tulsidas, despite being a Sanskrit scholar, created literature in Awadhi and Braj - the two prominent regional languages. The languages of modern times are the result of continuous refinement over a long period of time. Just as threshing chaff is removed from the food grains, the redundant and archaic language is removed through its consistent usage.
December 11 is the birthday of modern Tamil poet Subramaniam Bharathi. Educated in Tamil Nadu and Varanasi, Bharathi enthused the public with his writings during the Swaraj struggle and is considered a bridge between north and south. He composed fiery songs imbued with the spirit of nationalism. The decision of the Government of India to celebrate this day as 'Bharatiya Bhasha Divas' is really commendable.
It is well known that Indian languages occupied the backseat under British rule. These languages were despised due to Macaulisation of education. Consequently, English received protection and promotion. English was imposed on Indians as the medium of administration and education. It was around 1929 that the philosopher Krishna Chandra Bhattacharya emphasized on the ‘Swaraj of Language’ to inculcate Swaraj in thoughts as Swaraj was the dream and dreams are seen only in the mother tongue.
About 20 per cent of the Indian languages have become extinct in the last 50 years and many are on the verge of extinction. For centuries, the traits of our civilization have been preserved in local languages, culture and public life.
The recommendation of the National Education Policy-2020 is succinct that 'as far as possible, at least up to grade five and even till grade eight and beyond' the mother tongue/local/regional language should become the medium of instruction.Higher quality textbooks should be made available in the mother tongue in all subjects, including sciences and technology. The decision of Madhya Pradesh Government to impart MBBS education in Hindi language is exemplary. The inauguration of engineering books, technical glossaries and e-Kumbh portal in Odia language by the President of India Draupadi Murmu is also a trend-setter for the promotion of regional languages. The National Testing Agency has added a new chapter in the sphere of language promotion by conducting Combined University Entrance Test in 13 Indian languages. It should be the endeavor of the educationists to make available all disciplines of knowledge in Indian languages at the earliest.
The beginning may be with translation but the ultimate aim should be to write original texts in Indian languages. To fructify this, the 'Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation' will have to be established soon. However, there are genuine concerns of the stakeholders. The 'National Translation Mission' should be strengthened to perform effectively. Although the NEP talks about education in the mother tongue till pre-secondary level, there is no clarity on the medium education at higher level. In such a scenario, there is an apprehension in the minds of the parents that if English will be the medium of education in future, why should they not educate children in English medium from primary education itself. Government should address this concern on priority. To strengthen multilingualism, every Indian should learn more than one Indian language, so that the eternal culture of unity in diversity remains engraved in the minds of the public and India reaps the dividends of linguistic diversity.
Irony is that the Indian languages, which have been the mother of global culture, are themselves struggling to get rid of colonialism, imperialism and marketism. Realizing this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that 'taking inspiration from the NEP, efforts will be made to teach all technical courses, including medical and engineering, in the mother tongue'.
When Indian languages become the medium of education from primary to higher level, India will be able to realise its soul in the light of its rich tradition of knowledge and knowing. In essence, only those languages survive which are used by the people.
Hindi poet Bhartendu Harishchandra, endowed with modern consciousness, says: “Nij bhasha unnati ahai, sab unnati ko mool; bin nij bhasha gyan ke, mitat n hiy ko sool.”
(The author is Vice-Chancellor, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda)