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Placements, studying abroad — why UP’s engineering students not enthused by Hindi push

AKTU officials say all incoming B. Tech first years will be instructed in Hindi and will have option to choose Hindi textbooks. Profs say push is ideological not practical

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Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh’s APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University (AKTU) welcomed a new batch of B. Tech students Sunday who, after their induction, will all be taught in Hindi for the first year — for the convenience of students who have opted for Hindi medium. While they can choose to write exams in either Hindi or English, many prospective students, even those under UP board, are unhappy.

They say that the move will not help them in the long run, citing issues that may come up in placement interviews, limitations to foreign studies and even moving within India. This is even after the university says it will provide special classes for those who are weak in English.

Professors, too, have said that the move is motivated by ideological reasons rather than practical ones.

The university, which has 798 colleges affiliated to it, will also introduce engineering books in Hindi in four of its constituent colleges — The Institute of Engineering and Technology, Lucknow, Faculty of Architecture and Planning, AKTU, Centre for Advanced Studies (the in-campus centre for engineering studies), and the UP Institute of Design, Noida.

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What do students want?

19-year-old Anshika Mishra, a Pilibhit native who dropped a year to prepare for the JEE exam and is enrolled in online classes at a Lucknow-based coaching centre, says that she too will not opt for engineering studies in Hindi.

This is despite her being a UP board student, the demographic for which Hindi medium was claimed to be beneficial.

“English is the language used abroad as well as in south India. The mode of teaching in most coaching centres is also English. It is better to prepare to speak in English from now on,” she says.

Anshika’s friend Manu — also a UP board student — however feels that it would have been beneficial if she had engineering books in Hindi.

Some coaching centres, especially ones in hubs like Kota, train students exclusively in Hindi. They also get an option to write the JEE Main in the language.

But not many opt for it and even those who do, prefer to switch to English later, say students.

Varishth Kumar, an 18-year-old IIT aspirant from Sitapur told ThePrint that “99 per cent of the students” opt for English as their medium of study in engineering.

“Most students will opt for English as their medium of study simply because there are certain engineering terms which cannot be translated in Hindi. Further, students are going to face problems during placements if they don’t develop a grip on the English language,” he said.

He added that even the students from his coaching centre who will be writing the exam in Hindi won’t opt for Hindi books once they get to University. “English gives them the best chance of growth,” he explained.

University students who are preparing for placements also said that it is one of the main reasons behind their preference for English medium.

“Most companies that come for placements look for someone with basic knowledge of English and consider proficiency in English as an edge. Further, a lot of companies, especially IT ones, place students in southern India. Which is why books in Hindi are good for those from UP board in their initial year but not the entire course,” said Suraj Kumar, a fourth year B. Tech (information technology) student from IMS Engineering College, Ghaziabad.

Coaching centre owners say that while books in Hindi would be helpful for the UP board students, students need to be taught both languages simultaneously.

Speaking to ThePrint, a manager of a major coaching centre with 118 branches across UP said that while the step (instruction in Hindi) can help UP board students initially, it might be detrimental in the long run.

“Students need to be prepared for the professional world, where they will deal with businessmen and leaders who would communicate in English,” she said.

She explains that Hindi instruction in the beginning allows students from the UP board to understand the concepts and engage in class more freely. “We also teach online engineering classes in Hindi for students in smaller cities who want to learn engineering concepts in Hindi. It is helpful as most technical terms are in English. This also prepares them to join English classes in University,” she explained.

She added that while online classes are in Hindi, the mode of teaching in most of the centres continues to be bilingual.

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Ideology versus practicality: professors

While the university is full steam ahead, professors say that the move is more ideological than practical.

“Will the children of politicians and those behind the move study engineering in Hindi,” remarked an assistant professor at one of the constituent colleges of AKTU where the courses are set to be introduced.

“We understand that many students are from UP board and keep the language of teaching as bilingual so that all students can understand. But, the reality is that Hindi is not used in states other than those in the Hindi heartland,” he said.

He emphasised the importance of English in universities. “I studied in a UP board school and we were never in an environment where English is used for teaching. The college is the only place where we started conversing in English – that too, only a little,” he said.

Dr Neelam Srivastava, HOD, electronics and communication engineering at the Institute of Engineering and Technology, Lucknow said that the teachers are already using Hindi to teach.

“But I think that [teaching in] English should not be compromised even as we stick to our roots. If the student moves from the Hindi heartland, she will have to use English because that is the language used there. It is also the requirement internationally,” she said.

Some professors feel that while books in Hindi can help the students in the initial years, they say that continuing all four years using Hindi is only good for those students who want to stay in UP.

“If a student wishes to stay only in UP after completing the course, they can opt for studies in Hindi but for someone who aims to go global, it won’t work,” said an engineering professor at a UP university.

Dr Shabana Urooj, a former professor at Gautam Buddha University, Noida, now assistant professor at Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, Saudi Arabia told ThePrint that books in Hindi are not of use to the students who want to go abroad for higher studies.

She too agreed that Hindi can be useful for those who want to continue their career in UP. “In countries like Italy and Saudi Arabia, the natives use their own language even if their slides may be in English,” she observed. .

At the same time, she noted that most research papers of foreign researchers and even many Indian ones are in English, thus knowledge of the language cannot be comprised

Instead of teaching all first year students in Hindi, she suggested different schools to keep the language of instruction separate and fully beneficial to those that opt for the particular language.

“They can be split into national schools [where instruction takes place in the native language] and international schools [where instruction takes place in English],” she explained.

The plan so far

AKTU vice-chancellor P. K. Mishra said that the approach so far has been to treat English as the primary language of teaching and “our own language” (Hindi) as secondary.

“Now the approach should be that our language [Hindi] should be primary,  but you should be able to communicate in English when needed,” he said.

Asked about the implementation in the current session, he said that the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) books available in Hindi will be procured for the earlier mentioned four universities first and then they will be bought for the rest of the affiliated colleges, at a later stage, depending on “demand and supply”. The use of the translated versions are not mandatory, they are for the benefit of students who find Hindi is a more comfortable medium.

AKTU is also in touch with professors who have translated a few engineering books into Hindi and will rely on the 20 books translated to Hindi by Madhya Pradesh’s Rajiv Gandhi Proudyogiki Vishwavidyalaya, the VC confirmed.

He added that the University is planning to give an incentive of Rs 2 lakh to teachers who are ready to translate an engineering book to Hindi. “It has been approved by the administration, it will be brought up in the next meeting of the financial committee, which will take place in a month or two. Once approved by them, it will be implemented,” Mishra said.

Not Hindi but Hinglish

While the UP government has pushed for the translation of engineering books with much enthusiasm, officials realise that complete translation of engineering books from English to Hindi is next to impossible.

“There are certain terms that will continue to be used in English. The teachers will use Hindi to explain them to the students. The books will have a mix of English and Hindi,” an AKTU official privy to the move told ThePrint.

Mishra added that teachers will identify the students who are very poor in English and teach them in Hindi.

Realising that writing answer scripts in Hindi in engineering courses may not find many takers among the students, the university has proposed to give an option to students to write certain terms – especially the technical ones in English.

“The student can write technical terms in either English and Hindi. It can also be a mix,” Mishra told ThePrint.

(Edited by Theres Sudeep)

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