Wading into the intense debate around use of mother tongue as the medium of instruction in schools as per the National Education Policy (NEP 2020), education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank questioned opposition to the use of local languages.
“There is a section of people saying we need English education in schools so that we don’t lose out internationally. Nobody is opposing English, but I have a question. Japan teaches students in its own language, so do Russia and France. Are they underdeveloped because their population studies in their mother tongue, which is not English? What sort of an argument is this?” Nishank said.
NEP 2020 advocates the use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction in schools till at least fifth grade and preferably till eighth grade.
Speaking at a webinar organised on NEP 2020 by Assocham, the education minister said there will an equal emphasis on all Indian languages. He said the attempt should not be to ‘westernise’ education like what was propagated by Thomas Babington Macaulay, but to focus on the rich cultural heritage of the country.
Macaulay is known for his emphasis on English education in India under the British rule and his disdain for Indian languages, arts and sciences under the colonial rule.
“We don’t need to follow the West. India already has a wide collection of philosophy, science and arts. The emphasis under NEP 2020 is to strengthen our Indian roots,” the education minister stated.
In fact, Nishank said that close to 10 other countries have contacted the Indian government and have sought their advice in implementing NEP in their nations. He did not name the countries.
Reiterating that a young child is able to gauge basic concepts faster in their mother tongue, he added that NEP 2020 will ensure that at least up to the fifth standard the child is taught in the language of that region.
Under the new system, flexibility will be given to students both in choosing the subjects for education as well as in the entry and exit in college degree programmes.
Any student can exit a degree programme from the first year onwards, if he/she wants only a certificate. Once two years are completed, a diploma will be awarded and post the completion of the three- or four-year curriculum, a degree will be awarded.
“We want to offer freedom to students to enter and exit colleges based on their interests. Their academics will not go waste since there will be a credit bank set up,” he added.
Talking about the performance of Indian educational institutes in international rankings, Nishank said India’s colleges are featuring consistently in Times Higher Education Rankings and QS Rankings.
Nishank, however, admitted that India is lagging behind when it comes to research activities. To deal with this lacuna, the minister said the government is setting up a National Research Foundation.
Going forward, he said efforts by the government and stakeholders in the education sector would be to ensure that Indian students chose institutes within the country to pursue higher education.
“We have world-class institutes in India itself. Almost Rs 1.5 lakh crore is spent every year due to Indian students going abroad to study. This can definitely be reversed,” he added.
NEP 2020 will also allow the top 100 international institutes to set up campuses in India. This is to reduce the brain drain from the country.For this, a legislation has to be passed by the Parliament to allow foreign education institutes' campuses in India. So far, these global institutes had to tie-up with a local partner to set up an Indian campus.