Medium of Instruction at school — English vs Vernacular language
Couple of weeks back, I had conducted a poll on LinkedIn where I asked people whether they would send their child to an English Medium School or a Vernacular Medium School (Assumption: English is not the vernacular/mother tongue language) (Another: Quality of both the schools is great)
In the poll, 83% people said that they would admit their kid(s) in an English medium school and 17% chose a vernacular medium school. The sample was small but I do think we can extrapolate — because in my personal experience in the education industry, I feel this is a common public opinion that one should send their children to an English Medium School. For instance, I was invited for a talk on National Education Policy 2020 by an organization working on the grassroots about a year back. And one of the most debated questions was this very same question, and I found that most people in those communities believed that English is a gateway to a better quality of life. And they got their kids admitted in a private school only because it “claimed” it’s a school with English as the medium of instruction.
So, why wouldn’t one put their little child in an English Medium School? After all, English is the global language; and command over the English language paves way for so many opportunities in the long run.
True! Command over the English language has great benefits. But do we really need kids to go to a pre-primary or primary school where the medium of instruction is English? I mean English can still be taught & used for conversation but the medium of instruction in school needs to be the local language at least for early years. Briefly outlining why:
First, I think we need to understand that a foreign language (not just English; Tamil language would be foreign for a Hindi speaking child), disintegrates student from its social milieu & often, a pre-primary or primary student would be able to relate with a foreign content only on a superficial level. Second, there’s ample research that links education with cognitive development & mother tongue plays a central role in this cognitive development. Third, equity pedagogy is one of the essential components of a multicultural education (an education where people from different backgrounds or abilities can come together); & local language holds the key for this pedagogy. Fourth, it’s because of our obsession with foreign languages like English that our kids do not relate with our culture. And finally, at such a young age, children make sense of the world around them and it’s important that their language of expression and language of learning is the same.
All international (Child Rights Convention, Education for All) & national (NEP 2020) policies, because of many such reasons, advocate strongly for mother tongue/local/regional language as the medium of instruction in primary schooling.
Remember, no subject including math is language agnostic !