Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mother Tongue or Teacher Tongue...

Marathi becomes mandatory in all schools in state

This is back...

First it was the 'Kannada' compulsion... now the bug has bitten the Maharashtra politicians... The Karnataka education minister forced closure of over 800 schools in Karnataka because they weren't using Kannada as medium of instruction in their schools. They weren't teaching algebra and trigonometry or chemistry and biology in Kannada... and ignoring the need for the keeping the culture and ethos of the language alive.

Now same realization have dawned upon the neighbouring state - Maharashtra... apparently they are scared that Marathi as a language is under threat - unless they force students to learn it in classrooms.

Mother Tongue politics has been an old ploy for whipping emotions and getting masses swayed. Politicians are at it again now...

But why?

India is a land of hundreds of languages and dialects... and all of them have been in existence for more than a few centuries. No doubt the last language to set foot into India is English... yet, none of the earlier ones died. They have their own history and ethos associated with them... and didn't get die because a stronger global language entered India. Then why this phobia now...

India, whether some like it or not, is the slowly becoming a powerful back office of the world - a position which is strongly impacting in a positive way the economic footing of a wide range of Indian people. The ITES industry alone is projected to create more than 3 million jobs in another 2-3 years... lots of such feel-good projections. The numbers can be off by some factor - but none of these politicians and so-called champions of mother-tongue can deny that the outsourcing industry has been a boon of sorts for India... and relieved a lot of burden off the government. The youth today don't look towards the government for giving them jobs... the industry/corporate sector has lived up much better to that expectation.

But the government is now out to kill it...

The colonial rule of the Britisher's gave India the English education - wherein almost any educated youth is a multi-linguist - knowing at least English, Hindi and his/her mother tongue. The wide spread understanding and skills with English - the local pronunciations and variants not withstanding has given us the edge in the BPO sector for sure. Today, masses in the west are scared of getting "Bangalored" - meaning they could loose their job to an English speaking Malayalee or a Kannadiga youngster still in some Indian city.
Something this young lad could snatch just because his ancestors were subjugated and over-powered by the English speaking whites.

One could call it - divine retribution. Today low cost Asian countries are in a way reverse colonialising these jobs. But instead of building power around this, the short-sighted politicians of India are killing it. Instead of bothering about staying ahead of China, which has embarked on teaching English to its kids on a war-footing to wrest this advantage away from India - our guys are out to hand it on a plate to them.

I don't deny that Indian languages and culture is a valuable asset which needs to be protected, valued and enriched - and the local languages are the key to that.

But learning to speak and read your mother tongue need not be done from a schooling system - let the schooling system focus on imparting marketable skills to the masses.

I saw an interview by this NCP politician - Jeetendra Awhad - a self-styled champion of the 'mandate Marathi' campaign on TV a day ago - and Mr Awhad has a concern that in spite of being a Marathi by birth and born to Marathi speaking parents (himself), his daughter in 8th standard can't speak Marathi. So it’s the fault of the school she goes to...because they taught her to speak English, made her good at Physics, chemistry, biology, History, geography etc - but not Marathi.

My dear Awhad - I would first request you to demand compulsory "Parenting schooling" for parents like you. It should be made a constitutionally mandatory - because I would call your parenting a failure.

I was born in a Kashmiri family, where parents and grand parents spoke in Kashmiri to me - and that’s how I learnt the mother tongue despite the fact that the language was NEVER taught in school.

Mr. Awhad and his ilk need to accept that they are forcing the schooling system to do what the parenting system was meant to done.

So Mr. Awhad needs to get out of the bad parenting habit of talking to their kids in English at home - just because its cool to do so; and impart the mother tongue to them.

After all Mother Tongue - is what one gets from mother - at home, not a teacher in school, else it would have been called "Teacher Tongue"...