New Delhi: Offering a degree in regional languages is difficult for the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), but they can provide aid to students from non-English backgrounds to navigate the language barrier, the institutes are learnt to have told a government panel.
Under its new National Education Policy, the Narendra Modi government has been pushing for courses in mother tongue. The policy has allowed engineering institutions to offer education in mother tongue or regional languages.
The government has formed two panels to explore the feasibility for the same.
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the apex body for technical education in the country, led the first panel. It has already given a go-ahead to its affiliate institutions to offer engineering in regional languages.
Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare is leading the second panel, which is exploring this possibility in IITs and National Institutes of Technology (NITs). This panel hasn’t yet submitted its report.
The IITs have told members of the Khare-led panel that it is difficult for them to offer full-fledged degree courses in regional languages because of the non-uniformity of students, sources familiar with the development told ThePrint. At least two members who are a part of the panel confirmed this.
The NITs, however, have shown interest in offering degrees in regional languages, the sources said.
ThePrint reached the Ministry of Education for a comment via email but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
‘Non-uniform distribution of students’ an issue
Speaking to ThePrint, a member of the panel noted that “almost all the IITs” said it’s not possible for them to offer degrees in regional languages “because of the kind of non-uniform distribution of students they get”.
“For example, IIT Delhi may have more Telugu-Tamil speaking students than Hindi speaking students, despite the fact that Hindi is the mother tongue for many people in Delhi. So in that case, how do they decide which language to offer,” said the member.
“Therefore, they have told us that instead of a degree as of now, they will offer support to students who are coming from non-English backgrounds. They will handhold those students in their first year and teach them in their mother tongue if they do not understand instructions in English,” he added.
The IITs also highlighted the problem in finding trained faculty members to teach in a particular language.
“It is possible that IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi may have more Tamilian faculty members who know the language well, but one expects IIT Madras to have more Tamilian students. However, that is not the case. IIT Madras has students from all over the country and more often than not, they do not speak the local language. Getting the correct match for faculty and students would be difficult in that case,” a second panel member told ThePrint.
According to sources, the panel discussed that the move to offer courses in regional languages is more feasible in AICTE colleges as most of the state colleges get local students. For instance, AICTE colleges in Andhra Pradesh get a lot of Telugu speaking students. The same is the case in other states.
However, the situation in the IITs, which have a more cosmopolitan nature, is different, the panel is learnt to have discussed.
What IIT directors have said publicly
Some of the IIT Directors have spoken on this issue publicly as well.
In December last year, IIT Delhi Director Ramgopal Rao said on his Facebook page that teaching B.Tech programmes in local languages would mean the “beginning of end for IITs”.
Describing it as his personal opinion and not that of his institute, he said, “Offering entire BTech programmes in local languages would mean language will become a criterion in our faculty selections. This will be the beginning of the end for IITs.”
IIT Kharagpur Director V.K. Tewari, however, lauded the move and said a “regional language policy is needed” in technical education. Adopting regional language in technical education is “a necessary long-term goal”, he said on his Facebook page in November.
NITs more open to idea
The NITs have been more forthcoming to the idea because in some states, these institutes have 50 per cent of the seats reserved for locals, said the sources.
“NIT Bhopal, Allahabad, Himachal Pradesh and Jaipur have so far shown interest in offering degrees in regional language,” the second panel member said.
According to JEE Main reservation criteria in the NITs, 50 per cent seats stand reserved under home state quota for eligible candidates. There are 31 NITs in India, one almost in each state.