Mirage of Mother Tongue Education
It is a fad today, to pontificate on the wonders of learning in one's own mother tongue. "It is a wonderful thing", they say. "All the developed countries do it", they say. "English is making slaves out of us", they say.
Yet - they say all of this in English, on a platform called Twitter made mostly by men speaking English, based on computer languages that are predominantly written in English using algorithms that are mostly published in English. Never mind that those who say this, have made a living in India / out of India using their "English" knowledge, and have gone on to monetize on that advantage. Now, they want youngsters in India to forego English and learn everything in their own mother tongue.
What these warriors of mother tongue refuse to accept is India is vastly different from the other countries they mentioned. Let us first burst that myth. Here are the top 10 economies in the world, with their GDPs and population sizes.
|Trillion $||Million Ppl|
Together, the top 10 economies contribute to 66% of the global GDP. Four of the top 10 economies (yes, I am including India) use English as at least one of their major languages. For those who say most of India doesn't speak English, I say - more people in India speak English (125M) than that do in United Kingdom. I include Canada in this list because English is one of the two official languages in Canada. That makes it 4 of 10. Further - in terms of GDP: English speaking countries contribute to as much as 49% of the top global GDP. Let that sink in: half the top 10 global GDP (32% of Global GDP) is from these four English speaking countries. If one wants to drop India from the list, the number is still inordinately high: 45% of top 10 countries (30% total Global GDP). GDP numbers say that knowing English is likely to let you participate in, and make a contribution to the top 30% (at least) of the global GDP. With any other language, the chances are much much lower (except of course, Mandarin). Moreover, don't forget the fact that even today, the most cited journals in STEM are all published in English.
The second point to note is the per capita GDP. To simplify this, I have made a subset comparison: France (2.8T USD GDP) to a similarly populated Indian state, Karnataka (130B USD). For similarly populated regions where majority don't speak English, Karnataka has an economy that is 5% the size of France. The size of the economy tells us the number of people that it can absorb. Since we are talking about mother tongue education in higher ed (Graduation), we assume that these jobs will replace the English speaking jobs. Here is the bad news: Karnataka produces far more graduates every year (12L / annum) than does France (1.09L). How and where are you going to employ all these graduates outside the puny economy of 130B USD?
Third point to note is how each of these countries have a minimum number of languages as their official language. The median here is 1 language. When people compare India to Japan, Germany, Finland, Norway, France, and what not - people don't tell you that all these countries speak one language internally. In case of China - probably the largest PPP based economic power, the total number of official languages is three. Now count the total number of linguistic states in India - and see whether it makes sense! Good luck finding and implementing that link language in India.
Fourth point is about the technicality of education in vernacular languages. Where are my books? Where are my technical resources? Where is my research into precise use of Indian languages in STEM (yes, STEM still allows people to escape poverty)? Where is my corpus of literature? Where are my computers / compilers that can run entirely in Indian languages? Where are my research journals? WE HAVE NOTHING.
Fifth point is the human story behind this "vernacular teaching" mess. I have helplessly looked on while an otherwise reasonable bright kid couldn't articulate his views in English, being fired. He had his entire education in Tamizh. He was working in Bangalore, in a field that *needed* English. This kid's father probably sold their land to put him through college. He can't articulate his PoV because of the fourth point enumerated above. His degree program taught in Tamizh while the terms were directly borrowed from English - forcing the student to memorize English terms in Tamizh without any way for him to understand how and why these terms came into being. This is but one sad story. And by no means, is this an exception. I would rather have kids like him learn English, keep a job and secure their life - than to fall prey for the whimsical compulsions of an already economically successful ideologue.
The Sixth point about this entire misadventure is how it will restrict mobility to parents within India. India is becoming a melting pot, and forcing a vernacular / local language medium of instruction will either force parents to choose a city that is not conducive to their career, or force children to learn in more than one language that is NOT the kid's mother tongue at all. All suggestions to find a linguistic minority school to stick to the Kid's own mother tongue, sound ridiculous given laws like #RTE. The proponents of "vernacular language as medium of instruction" are myopic about the difficulties that parents would face in an increasingly cosmopolitan India.
The Seventh and last point is the nature of economies: India is a socialist economy where large manufacturing facilities are seldom allowed to thrive. All the other countries outlined above are manufacturing powerhouses that are capitalist in nature (if you are arguing China is socialist, well ..). In a services dependent economy like India, restricting one's prospects to their own state by forcing one's vernacular language, is a crime.
None of these problems have been addressed by any of the proponents so far in a manner that is cogent, logical and practical. Unfortunately, people are making the same mistake that Nehru did when he internally vivisected India on linguistic lines - only this time, these are the people who claim to know better than Nehru himself.
People who have had the privilege of English education and associated prosperity, are now advocating something pernicious and ruinous to the future of this country. The road to hell is indeed paved with best intentions.