Maharashtra: Educationists divided over suggestion to teach students in mother tongue | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Maharashtra: Educationists divided over suggestion to teach students in mother tongue

Educationists remain divided over the suggestion made by Maharashtra’s education minister Vinod Tawde, who while speaking at an education conference in London, said children should be taught history, civics and geography in their mother tongue.

mumbai Updated: Feb 03, 2015 22:33 IST
Puja Pednekar

Educationists remain divided over the suggestion made by Maharashtra’s education minister Vinod Tawde, who while speaking at an education conference in London, said children should be taught history, civics and geography in their mother tongue.

The right thing, they said, would be to teach students in the language that they speak at their homes and this may not necessarily be their mother tongue.

The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, that covers children between six and 14 years, states that medium of instruction as far as practicable should be in the child’s mother tongue.

This is supported by a Unesco (2008) report, which says children’s first language is the optimal language for teaching throughout primary school. It highlights the advantages of mother tongue education, including better academic performance to parents’ participation in the child’s learning.

“Children are able to understand better in their mother tongue because they have grown up speaking that language and are comfortable with it, as opposed to learning in a foreign language,” said Reeta Sonavat, head, department of human development, SNDT Women’s University, Marine Lines and Juhu.

Sonavat said children will certainly perform better if history and geography were taught in their mother tongue. “Descriptive subjects especially should be taught in the mother tongue, as they are verbose and require visualisation, which can be done more clearly if we understand an issue better,” said Sonavat.

However, experts warned mother tongue should not be considered as the child’s first language, if the child does not use the language at home. “First language can give children an edge in academics, but only if it is also spoken in their homes,” said Giselle D’Souza, associate professor, St Teresa’s Institute of Education, Santacruz. “In many cases, parents do not talk to their children in the mother tongue. So, they should be taught in whichever language the parents speak at home.”

On the other hand, city schools said instruction in mother tongue or first language is not practical as they have students from diverse backgrounds in a classroom. “We have students from varied communities studying together and if we decide to impart education in a specific language, we will have to teach every class in more than five-six languages,” said Prema Kotian, principal, Purshottam High School, Bandra. “Apart from problems in co-ordinating, it will also be difficult to find teachers qualified in so many regional languages.”