Friday, March 24, 2023
HomeIndiaEducationNEP allows schools to teach in mother tongue, but parents wonder which...

NEP allows schools to teach in mother tongue, but parents wonder which language it will be

Even before schools figure out a way to implement the new policy, parents have started questioning it while experts are divided on whether it is a beneficial move or not.

Text Size:

New Delhi: One of the biggest talking points to emerge out of the new National Education Policy released Wednesday is having the ‘mother tongue’ as the medium of instruction up to class 5.

The NEP states: “Wherever possible, students till Class 5 in schools should be taught in mother tongue/regional language/local language.” The idea is drawn from various studies that show young children best understand things in their mother tongue or home language.

Officials in the Ministry of Human Resource Development insist that “no language will be imposed”. “The idea behind mother-tongue teaching is not to stop, hamper English-medium teaching. There is a line in the policy document that says teachers can be bi-lingual with their medium of instruction,” a senior ministry official said.

The NEP, in its current shape, is only an instructional document and the government will have to come up with a way to implement it in the coming days.

However, even before schools figure out a way to implement this new policy, parents have started questioning it, while experts have given mixed responses.

Also read: NEP finally gives regional language its due. I suffered English-medium school snobbery

Issues galore

Krishnika Bhattacharjee, a parent whose daughter studies in Class 2 in a Mumbai school said: “My mother tongue is Bengali and my daughter goes to a school where her classmates come from various cultural backgrounds — there are children whose parents speak Tamil, there is a Kashmiri girl … So how will the school decide what tongue to teach in?

“Living in Mumbai, everyone speaks Marathi as a local language, but we don’t speak it at home. So how will my child be taught?”

Kavita Phandse, also from Mumbai, whose child studies in Class 5, added: “What is the point of an English medium school if children are taught in their mother tongue? I mean it’s good to explain the concepts to them in a language they best understand, but if teaching happens in the local language, when will my child learn English? You cannot grow and prosper in today’s world without learning English.”

Those who studied in regional languages till Class 5 in the past say this new policy will be a bigger problem for underprivileged families or those who don’t speak English at home.

Jessie Joseph from Ernakulam, Kerala, said: “I studied in a Malayalam medium school till Class 4. I learnt my first English alphabets in Class 5 and will not shy away from saying that I did have issues picking up English later in my life. My parents are both Malayalam speakers, so I did not have that environment at home.”

Also read: Coming soon: BCom, BTech, MBBS in Telugu, Bengali & all Indian languages

A successful model

Those who applaud the idea of teaching in the mother tongue at a young age have cited the example of Sardar Patel Vidyalaya (SPV) in New Delhi as a model of success — the school is Hindi-medium till Class 5 and then switches to English in the higher classes.

“My children studied in SPV and they were taught in Hindi till Class 5; they learnt maths, science, everything in Hindi. But that did not mean they were not learning the English translations of those words. They were taught that as well,” said Yugandhara Pawar Jha.

“Their transition from Hindi-medium to English-medium was not a difficult one. In fact, I would say that teaching in the mother tongue during the early days is not a bad idea. A child is able to understand things better that way,” Jha said.

An alumnus of SPV who did not wish to be named added that in families where English is spoken at home, there wouldn’t be a problem. “We spoke English at home, so I did not have much of a problem in transitioning after Class 5. In fact, most of my classmates did not … they all came from families that could provide them an environment where they learnt English,” the alumnus said.

Also read: Even China dropped English phobia for economic future. NEP policy needs to learn this

Experts divided

Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav, who has helped the NCERT prepare political science textbooks, has hailed the idea as the “best way to teach”.

“Instruction in mother tongue is something that has always existed in every policy document, and it should be hailed. Every researcher will agree that teaching students in their mother tongue is the best way to teach,” Yadav said.

Many schools in India, mostly in metropolitan cities and tier-two cities, use English as a medium of instruction, but Yadav said instead of that, it should be taught as a language.

“In India, where you have such a diverse population and people who understand so many languages, why should we stick to just one language for teaching?” he asked.

Ashok Pandey, director of the Ahlcon Group of Schools, also praised the idea.

“When we talk about instruction in English, we are talking about a very small number of schools, mostly private schools. There are many schools in states that are comfortable in teaching students in their mother tongue or regional language,” Pandey said.

Of course, it will be challenging to implement it in a place like Delhi, where students come from diverse cultural backgrounds, but I am sure there will be an option to tackle that issue as well,” he added.

However, some experts said the move would hamper a child’s future prospects.

“Teaching in the mother tongue is not a great idea. With globalisation expanding its roots everywhere, our students in the future won’t be representing a community or state but could be working anywhere in the world representing India. Teaching in the mother tongue will severely affect the preparedness of children to communicate in English, and tomorrow, they will never be ready to compete in the real world,” said Swoyan Satyendu, director of the ODM Public School in Odisha.

“A mother tongue subject can be made compulsory for students to promote our community and keep its roots strong, but teaching all the subjects in that language is a big no from my side.”

Also read: NEP 2020 is a good document but its real job will be to weed civil servants out of academia



Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. In Maharashtra , most of the English medium school from nursery to higher school , mode of teaching or mode of contacting to parents is HINDI language where 80% are marathi people.
    Why this compulsion????
    Mode of teaching should be English or MARATHI . And ofcourse the students who are from other mother tounge should have separate hindi language class .
    Why marathi kids have to learn hindi????

    Mode of teaching Must be English only.

  2. In Pune/PCMC area, 2-4 year old Marathi child admitted in nursery school specially so called English medium schools.
    He/she doesn’t understand English.He understands instructions given in Marathi.

    Expectation from Nursery teachers is to make him understand English gradually being admitted to English medium. But so called English medium school teachers are giving instructions in Hindi to accommodate Hindi speaking students. Considering a metro city this is fine. But being a child born in Marathi family, he/she does not understand anything in earlier schooling (Neither Hindi nor English) which would affect his future learnings.
    If teachers are so concerned about all students then why don’t they give instructions in MARATHI and hindi both till students understand English and then the medium of instruction should be English only and no hindi or marathi. (Considering English medium school )

    This is not just for nursery but even middle school teachers of English medium schools are teching in Hindi then what’s the use of English medium teaching. One more problem is most of the teachers are Marathi still they don’t understand what problem it would create in long future if we keep teaching in hindi.
    Why are we ashamed of Marathi.
    In Maharashtra if parents wants to admit kids in English medium school then they have to speak Hindi with their child the moment he/she born.
    Why this Hindi forced to marathi kids????

    Does it happening in other states like Karnataka ,Tamilnadu,Gujrat,etc???

  3. I run a private primary school. In my school I’ve put assamese as regional subject, hindi as national subject and English as international subject. Isn’t it sufficient? My question is will the mla and mps send their children to such schools? No they will send them abroad…….. big no for NEP

  4. Education in mother tongue is farce in India – There are 22 languages in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution of India, and 122 major languages, and 1599 other languages, and the education is imparted in 22 regional/state languages, and there are 1743 or more, mother tongues in India, and for example, in Maharashtra the education is imparted in Marathi language, which is regional/state language, and is mother tongue of many people, and there are Koshti society people and their mother tongue is Koshti language, but the education is not imparted in Koshti language in Maharashtra, like this there are many languages in India, and the government says that the education should be imparted in mother tongue, which is not possible in India, therefore, it is farce in India. – Sir Vishal Anand, Nagpur.

  5. Every parents have right to choose the better future for their children.
    At present (before NEP 2020) we had many options. Let parents choose their own children’s future.
    India should compete with other countries rather competiting among Indian states. It will results no use.
    English is an international language. Every Indian can be in progress only if they are well mix and understand the kick and corner of English language.
    Man has born with no language.
    It’s a man only to teach and guide a language or to apply with from the beginning or in middle stage to that man (child) . Let’s learned parents decide of own children’s future by the existing Education Policy instead of NEP 2020

  6. The loss of a native language is a phenomenon known as first language attrition. To bring awareness about this deprecative aberration, February 21 has been declared as “International Mother Tongue Day”. This attests there is already an international concern and is not a one-off event happening in one region of the world.
    First language attrition is not something new, it is happening all around the world, largely as a result of cross migration. However, in countries like India first language attrition is happening in schools where English is becoming the dominating medium as the nation metamorphose as global hub of science and technology. Parents are also actively helping this attrition by encouraging their children to learn English over local languages to prepare them for higher education. There is nothing wrong with this either as the higher education is all in English anyway. To reverse this trend of local language attrition, govts are now proposing policies that obligate schools to teach all subjects in local languages for first 5-8 years. Many parents are concerned that this policy of dampening English influence, would impede their children’s ability when they enter professional colleges which in turn jeopardize nation’s stance in global arena. Some educational experts endorse that a child can learn better in its mother tongue. Let’s look at some interesting facts that could help us decipher this dilemma.
    Researches have shown that until the age of about 12, a person’s language skills are relatively vulnerable. They have found that even 9-year old’s can completely forget their first language when they are moved from their region of birth. Which means that even if children are taught in local language, if they are not using that language especially in professional college environments, they tend to lose it resulting in language attrition. Apparently, teaching a child a local language will not help avoid language attrition, it will only help slow down attrition. Dismally, even the parents and the educated community at large are not willing communicate in their native language, making attrition of local languages inevitable. Language attrition in countries like India where English has dominance in our education system is hard to counter unless the primary reason for attrition is addressed. Nonetheless, there are advantages in learning multiple languages at childhood. Here are a few interesting facts.
    Children who learn another language before age five use the same part of the brain to acquire that second language that they use to learn their mother tongue. Which means their bilingual brain can easily switch between languages without the need for painstaking translation that happens in the brain.
    The fundamental difference between a monolingual and bilingual brain is that in addition to enhanced problem-solving skills, bilingual children are better at planning, focusing, and multi-tasking. They also score higher on standardized tests. By teaching your children one or two additional languages at a young age, you are setting them up for success. By acquiring a second language early in life not only helps slow down the local language attrition, it also primes the brain to learn multiple other languages later on.
    If languages are so powerful, should all subjects be taught in local languages? One of the biggest talking points on the new National Education Policy is having the ‘mother tongue’ as the medium of instruction up to class 5. Would children think better in their native language? Or is this just a fad to address the language attrition? This is where we need lucidity to understand the divergence between arts and science. Researches have shown that art is closer to heart that exude emotion while science is closer to exploratory brain. If you are a poet or a writer, your emotions flow cogently in your mother tongue. We have seen many examples of great writers choosing their favorite language to write their poems or novels where they can pen their heart out. However, the same is not true with science. Unlike arts, science is not emotionally bound. You do not think mathematics in Hindi or Newtons laws of gravity in Marathi for instance. To thrive in the world of science, one needs curiosity to explore. Any language will do to understand the scientific concepts. Which language would you chose to learn science? Up until ‘70s there were at least 4 common languages of science: French, German, English and Italian. Nowadays most scientists of any nation write in English. Most international journals and scientific papers and technical books are in English. China is already introducing English in a big way in all their schools. In 10 yrs they will beat India in English literacy. For any developing country English plays a vital role in its global competency. Indian software industry is thriving on this language pedestal. English represents a pathway to success in the field of science and technology.
    If you learn science in a native language in your childhood, you will have tough time doing translation to English for the rest of your career, as all scientific terminologies are in English be it Medicine, Engineering or any basic sciences for that matter. A big chunk of your life would be spent on deciphering English terminologies and you would have wasted hours of your precious time doing the redundant translation which will penalize you eventually. Even if the experts are right that a child can learn better in its mother tongue, all that advantage will wane out when you consider the challenges of transition to English. This entire conundrum could be ironed out simply by teaching science in English. Art on the other hand has deep kinship with local languages.
    Coherently, the reason for local language attrition is not English dominance, rather it is the lack of emphasis on vocabulary. We have seen many students who have put in many years of hard work to master a language, struggle to write elegant articles, as our education system has ignored emphasizing student’s own vocabulary while giving more importance to grammar. Students are diligently taught to explore how other literary experts write rather than writing themselves. When our students can’t express their ideas and emotions in writing, the lack of confidence would invariably contribute to language attrition. On the contrary, when the students begin to enjoy the power of expression by virtue of rich vocabulary, the language attrition will naturally heal.
    Now, what choices do we have to prevent first language attrition and at the same time prepare our children for a globalized world? If you look at the choices we have, they appear to be mutually exclusive. If you focus on nations global stance, English takes the lion share and local language take a hit. If you focus on local language attrition, English takes a hit and so is the nation’s global competence. However, in reality these two antidotes can co-exist! We can enhance our local language lexicon and at the same time give English the attention it deserves in the world of science and technology.
    No matter what decision our policy makers eventually make, animosity against English should not be one of the factors for consideration. If we keep our language bias aside, it is possible to gracefully address language attrition and at the same time preserving India’s global stance. If we make the right choices, we can truly carve out a great future for our children!

Comments are closed.

Most Popular