TODAY, the ever-growing demand and preference for English-medium schools across the majority of Indian states is a matter of serious concern. The all-pervasive stress on speaking only in English by such public schools is a dampener in the process of democratising quality education and achieving an egalitarian society. After all, not everyone in India has access to English-medium schools. Deep down in the heartland of India, vernacular is the medium of education.
There’s little doubt that making English a common medium of instruction at higher levels of education is better, as it brings parity across different strata of society while preparing everyone for a more global participation and role.
But that need not translate into sidelining other Indian languages and poking fun at Hindi speaking, government-school educated people. Calling them ‘Desi’ and preferring public school products over them for jobs is nothing but a reminder of our past coloniser’s dominion and arrogance.
Unfortunately, during the last 75 years of independent India, this phenomenon of self-proclaimed supremacy of a few individuals over the others has percolated deep down to its core. From Education to job opportunities, the class divide based on origin, language, education and financial status has not only deepened with time but has also weakened the country’s long drawn struggle against prejudice and discrimination.
Although, it is not too difficult to localise this elitist mindset that has now spread across the country. The capital city of Delhi can safely be crowned as the epicentre of this epidemic, with its own share of pseudo-intellectuals and farcical elite who throng the power lanes of Lutyens Delhi with bravado.
These supremacists’ only endeavour is to pull the vernacular people down day-in and day-out. In fact, there is a part of media also that does not miss any chance to deride Indian culture, language and traditions in its rhetoric. This section is unapologetic about it and is equally to blame for the worsening class divide between the urban elites and suburban simpletons.
This brash and arrogant section of media is always out there, trying to downgrade Hindi journalists and instil a sense of inferiority in them by criticising their food habits, clothing, language and faith. On the work front, this lazy lot is always seen kowtowing to their favourite politicians instead of chasing stories that demand hard work and diligence.
Additionally, the predominance of English in day-to-day life can be felt through innumerable hoardings and signboards that close in on the senses from all corners, while widening the gap between English and other regional languages even more.
Though the chasm between English and the Vernacular refuses to level up, the governments’ clarion call to promote other Indian languages in education is a positive step.
Here, it is pertinent to mention that an ‘Either’ or ‘Or’ approach may not work in a heterogeneous and multifaceted country like India where maintaining a healthy balance between different languages and cultures is crucial to maintaining peace and harmony.
Recently, the National Education Policy (NEP) of India proposed to incorporate more regional languages in higher education in a number of states. Many entrance examinations are also proposed to be held in regional languages as well.
More such efforts of inclusion and assimilation are needed at all levels, not only in India but all societies that are as diverse and dynamic. As Brigham Young says, “See that your children are properly educated in the rudiments of their mother tongue, and then let them proceed to higher branches of learning.”