Higher education in regional languages won’t be easy

Source: Live Mint

Relevance: Use of mother tongue in teaching and associated issues

Synopsis: Need for promoting the use of mother tongue in teaching at higher educational institutions and challenges associated with it.

Must Read: A language ladder for an education roadblock

The following reasons indicate that teaching in vernacular is indeed helpful and should be considered.

  1. Substantial demand: A quick check on YouTube reveals a high viewership count for content explaining math and science concepts in Hindi and other Indian languages. This indicates substantial demand for vernacular-language educational material. Several edtech startups have also tapped this market.
  2. Better performance: Performance in science and math, in particular, has been found to be better among students studying in their native language compared to English, other things being equal.
  3. Higher motivation: Further, educational psychology literature reports additional benefits of instruction in the native language, including higher attendance and motivation among students and improved parental involvement and support in studies.
  4. Can bridge the divide: It can narrow the divide in access to higher education between the marginalized and the privileged.
  • Industry placements of graduates trained in regional languages might remain a question mark. For instance, many public sector units accept Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE, conducted in English) scores for entry-level positions.
  • The availability of faculty for regional-medium courses. Given the English-medium legacy of higher education in India, attracting and retaining quality teachers who are willing and able to teach in regional languages would be a challenge.
  • There are also globalization trends to consider. The NEP encourages the internationalization of education by facilitating the movement of faculty across borders. But regional-medium students may be unable to reap the benefits of knowledge transfers on account of a language barrier.
  • Disadvantage at global level: Finally, delivering technical courses in regional languages may prevent students from competing in global labour and education markets, where fluency in English yields a distinct edge.
Way forward
  • Mother tongue plus English approach: We need to Shift from Mother tongue vs English approach to Mother tongue plus English approach. Research has shown that small children quickly grasp new languages, given their neuroplasticity in early years. Hence, this is an appropriate age to be exposed to a foreign language as a means of communication.
    • Neuroplasticity means the capacity of brain cells to change in response to intrinsic and extrinsic factors
  • Quality control of initiatives: To counter the challenge of availability of study material in regional language, the AICTE has launched an artificial intelligence-powered tool to translate books, academic journals and videos. However, quality control of these translations should be given utmost importance. We need further efforts in linguistics and machine learning to serve the cause.


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