If a government proposal goes through, you may soon get a chance to study engineering or medicine in Tamil, Bengali, Marathi or even Hindi. The education ministry wants to look at offering courses like engineering, medicine and law in the students’ mother tongue.
As part of the National Education Policy (NEP) implementation plan, the ministry is setting up a task force for preparing a roadmap for imparting technical education in mother tongue. This would include programmes like B.Tech in Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).
However, industry experts and professors at engineering institutes are of the view that the ministry would first need to look at the availability of teachers for this purpose.
“The ministry wants to ensure that students who are good at English don’t miss out on technical education purely because of this reason. But we need to ask whether there are adequate number of teachers who will be able to explain technical terms in a language that is not English,” said an IIT professor.
He said that at IITs and other technical education institutions, students who need help with English are given additional attention.
In a meeting on NEP implementation, education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said that while no language will be imposed on any student, enabling provisions should be made, so that bright students are not deprived of technical education due to lack of knowledge of English language.
What are the concerns?
The biggest concern, among students, is whether studying will hamper their chances of securing an international job.
Mumbai’s Prateek Daga, who will be completing his Class XII in 2021, said that questions will be raised on the skills and technical ability of candidates during placements.
“My parents studied in a Hindi medium school. I agree while this will help grasp a lot of concepts quicker if it is taught in Hindi, but won’t we be discriminated against during placements after our education? International companies may not find a Hindi-speaking or any Indian-language speaking candidate for their global roles. Won’t students then miss out,” he asked.
The mother tongue concept has brought in confusion because a student whose home language is Tamil or Bengali could be studying in Gujarat, where ideally Gujarati would be used as the medium of education. The confusion here is even if a student wants to be educated in mother tongue, how will it be possible in a different state where teachers don’t speak that language.
Sources said that initially the plan will be to train existing teachers in their respective languages (mother tongue) to ensure that the first batch of students can be taught in their mother tongue. At a later stage, there will be efforts taken to recruit teachers locally.
However, not everyone is convinced. Close to 15 percent of the teaching posts across technical education institutes are vacant in the country. Added to this will be the requirement to get teachers trained to teach in non-English languages.
“We find it tough to fill existing roles for faculty. How will we find teachers in Marathi?” said the professor in-charge for recruitment at a Mumbai-based engineering school.
She added that for students too, there would need to be flexibility to shift to English-based instruction if he/she is unable to cope with the technical portions in the mother tongue. But according to her, the area to be closely watched is how a language is chosen.
“Say 10 Tamil students in a batch of 300 students want to study in their mother tongue at a Tamil Nadu engineering college. Will their request be accepted since their ratio is so low? Or will special arrangements be made for them? If they are taught separately, how will these students work on group projects with other classmates?” asked this professor.
The task force will submit its report by mid-January 2021. Post this, the education ministry will hold discussions with the institutes to look at how the mother tongue policy will be implemented. Till then, it is a wait-and-watch mode for teachers and students.