The National Education Policy, 2020 (NEP 2020), underscores the significance of employing regional languages as mediums of instruction in both primary and higher education, aiming to enhance inclusivity and quality in the education system.
Positive Aspects of Higher Education in Vernacular Language:
Increase in Gross-Enrollment Ratio (GER): The incorporation of vernacular languages can lead to an expansion in the Gross-Enrollment Ratio, enabling a larger number of students to access higher education.
Enhanced Subject Comprehension: Learning in one’s native language promotes better understanding of complex subjects, fostering improved academic performance.
Higher Rates of Participation: Students tend to exhibit higher attendance, motivation, and confidence when educated in their native languages. This leads to better parental involvement and support, contributing to academic success.
- Example: Challenges faced by students with poor English skills in premier engineering institutions, potentially leading to dropouts or subpar performance.
Advantages for the Less-Advantaged: First-generation learners and students from marginalized backgrounds can benefit significantly from education in regional languages.
Promotion of Linguistic Diversity: Incorporating various Indian languages strengthens their usage and preserves linguistic diversity. It can also curb language-based discrimination.
Lack of Quality Regional Language Materials: A major challenge is the scarcity of high-quality study materials, including textbooks and scholarly resources, in regional languages.
- Note: Ensuring accurate translation and quality control to maintain content integrity is crucial.
Faculty Availability: There might be a shortage of proficient instructors who can teach technical subjects in regional languages.
Placement-Related Issues: Many public sector units consider Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) scores, conducted in English, for job entry.
Impact: Studying in a regional language could limit job prospects, especially given existing employability challenges.
Relevance for Pan-India Institutions: For institutions with nationwide admissions like IITs, focusing solely on regional languages may be impractical, hindering students’ global competitiveness.
Concern: Competing in international labor and education markets may require English proficiency for an edge.
- Adopting “Regional Language Plus English” Approach: Balancing regional language proficiency with English competence is vital for holistic education, catering to global demands.
- Bridging the Digital Divide: Initiatives such as the AICTE’s tool translating online content into 11 regional languages can enhance digital access to education.
- Maintaining Inclusivity and Standards: While promoting regional languages, a baseline standard of education should be maintained to ensure parity and quality.
A transition from the binary “mother tongue versus English” debate to the more comprehensive “mother tongue plus English” approach is imperative. Embracing linguistic diversity while equipping students with English proficiency aligns with the demands of the 21st century.