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Indian students, English and global village

Indian students, English and global village
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Indian students, English and global village

Highlights

Imparting education usually is a cursory affair at orthodox business households and girls study till they get a groom and are married off at an early age, and the sons, commonly enough, study with the ultimate purpose of lending support to the family business

Imparting education usually is a cursory affair at orthodox business households and girls study till they get a groom and are married off at an early age, and the sons, commonly enough, study with the ultimate purpose of lending support to the family business. I would have followed in this tradition, if not for an intervention in the form of our family doctor whose wife became my mother's friend.

So, when the doctor's children took admission at the local Good Shepherd convent my mother too felt motivated to enroll me there. Thus started a wonderful journey for me within the vast pristine precincts of my alma mater, St. Philomena's Girls High School. There was a healthy mixture of boys and girls studying, but boys were deported to an all-boys' school after primary education, as the order of the Good Shepherd convent did not allow for co-education amongst teens, at least around four decades ago.

The medium of instruction was English, but a second language was needed to be studied from the third standard. This was a choice between the regional language, and official language Hindi. The leftover language was the third language that was studied from the seventh standard. As such it was a nice blend of essential languages, with grammatical proficiency, flow of writing and reading attained in all three languages, although these were naturally the best in the first language.

Over the course of my life I have travelled widely where my knowledge of English and Hindi have bailed me out. Especially while travelling overseas solo I would have been at a disadvantage and faced some embarrassment if not for my fluency in English.

The NEP 2020 has made a case for the regional language (misconstrued as the mother tongue) to be the medium of instruction. How far is it beneficial from the standpoint of students? For example, I have a regional language that is not my mother tongue. In fact, my mother tongue, Tulu, is not the regional language of any state. So how will learning in the regional language be more helpful to a person like me, than learning in English?

Similarly families, for reasons of job or business, settle in states where each one's mother tongue is not spoken. Will not such children find it difficult to learn subjects in the regional language? True, regional language has its case if the student wants to go deep into the study of the language and make his name in the field of literature, or the student has decided to restrict his ambitions within his regional territory, or has planned to depend on people having knowledge of the business language.

I know of students of certain B-schools, who, having studied earlier in the regional language, find themselves floundering at the postgraduate level unable to read or converse fluently in the business language of the day - English! One such student had earnestly requested our team to make him proficient in English in a span of a few days while the principal suggested that we start with nursery rhymes!

There are certain subjects like psychology, organisational behaviour, human resource management, and so on where excellent textbooks are available only in English, with translations rare. Let us not forget that language skills are honed best during the early years of an individual. English is a widely spoken international language after Mandarin and Spanish amidst others. Is this not why spoken English classes are flourishing all over? Unless the learner is sharp and earnest it is really a struggle to gain mastery over a new language at the adult stage of life, at times having a career to cope with too.

The world has become a global village due to technology and networking, and businesses - tech driven or otherwise - thrive on the very foundation of good communication through an international popular language. Let not the authorities miss the wood for the trees and deprive our students of holding their own ground on international platforms for simply the lack of global communication skills.

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