India/ 17 August 2020/ https://www.newindianexpress.com/Source:
Many a time, while speaking in Parliament as an MP, I have asserted categorically that India is respected across the world because of its good foundation in higher education.
Is compulsory education in mother tongue or regional language a boon or bane?
Well, this is the debatable portion of an otherwise progressive National Education Policy. India sees unity in diversity and has around 22 officially recognised languages. We have mother tongues, state languages, national languages, and of course, the international language of English. If a child is taught in the state language till Class 5, and switched to the English medium afterwards, what would be the repercussions on his/ her ability to learn? Of the 58 lakh students in Telangana, around 50 to 60 per cent are studying in English medium.
At what age do children learn languages? When is the best time to learn a second language?
A myriad of studies by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in USA and the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking suggest that children learn languages from the age of 10 to 12 months. The ability to grasp languages gets blunted by the age of 18. Kids learn languages via sight, play, touch, feel and interactions with other kids and families. The best time to take in languages is before the age of 10, as they would have less inhibition and more time. Besides the mother tongue, a majority of schooling is done in English.
It is better to teach English as a second language or the medium of instruction from pre-school, because then, students would not have to spend more time on language than subjects after Class 5. In terms of language learning skills, children reach 50 per cent capacity by age 4 and another 30 per cent by 8. As English is the Lingua Franca of the world, proficiency will help children in many ways. New tools of language learning, like videos, apps, video games, teaching aids, phones, TV, in addition to post-Covid online teaching, are going to play a huge role in getting education to even the most remote part of the country.
In general, the NEP-2020 is flexible, creative, and more productive. At the same time, English being a pan-Indian language, implementation of NEP-2020 with the States’ freedom to choose the medium of instruction from pre-school will help make SDG Goal 4 a reality. As the Prime Minister said, the mantra should change from “what to think” to “how to think”.
DR. BOORA NARSAIAH GOUD