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NEP 2020- Education in Mother Tongue

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When a language is lost, a valuable cultural perspective is lost

By: M Ahmad   

The first thing naturally acquired by humans is their mother tongue. The mother tongue is associated with the language that a child’s parents use to communicate with them or the common language of the place a person is born and brought up. The mother tongue, a gift bestowed upon us from birth, is the vessel of our earliest memories, emotions, and cultural expressions. Its importance transcends mere communication, embedding itself into the very fabric of our identity.  

Mother languages play a crucial role in shaping an individual’s cultural identity and personal development. They are the first language that children learn, and they are closely tied to family, community, and cultural traditions. When children are educated in their mother language, they are more likely to be engaged in the learning process, have better academic outcomes, and develop a strong sense of cultural identity. 

Education is in the concurrent list of the Constitution and majority of the schools are under the domain of the States/UTs. As envisaged in para 4.11 of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, is to be the home language/mother tongue/local language/regional language. Thereafter, the home/local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible. 

The National Education Policy of India 2020 is a significant policy document laying the national-level strategy for the new millennium. It is ambitious and claims universal access to quality education as its key aim, keeping with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 of the United Nations Agenda 2030. One of the highlights of the NEP is its emphasis on mother tongue education at the primary levels in both state- and privately owned schools.

Scientific research has shown that learning a child’s mother language can positively impact overall cognitive development and academic success of child. Studies have shown that children who learn in their mother language have better cognitive development and increased critical thinking skills, compared to those who learn in a foreign language. 

Research indicates that children who are taught to read and write in their mother language are more likely to develop strong literacy skills and have higher academic achievement, compared to those who are taught in a second language. When children are taught in their mother language, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated in the learning process. This is because they can understand the material better, which leads to increased self-esteem and academic confidence.

Learning in a mother language can help to preserve a child’s cultural heritage and identity. When children can connect with their culture through language, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and develop a positive self-image. In multilingual societies, learning in a child’s mother language can help bridge the gap between different cultural and linguistic communities, promoting inclusiveness and understanding. By providing children with opportunities to learn and express themselves in their mother language, we can help promote cognitive development, academic success, cultural preservation, and social cohesion. 

Mother language instruction is essential for language and literacy development, as well as for the preservation of cultural heritage and identity. The importance of mother languages extends beyond the individual and the community, as linguistic and cultural diversity is an important aspect of the world’s cultural heritage. Every language represents a unique perspective on the world and reflects the experiences of a particular community. 

When a language is lost, a valuable cultural perspective is lost as well. This is why it is important to preserve and promote linguistic and cultural diversity, to ensure that future generations can connect with their cultural roots. One way to support mother language education is by promoting multilingual education, which emphasizes the importance of learning multiple languages. This type of education not only helps to preserve linguistic and cultural diversity but also promotes language learning and cross-cultural understanding. In addition, governments and organizations can also provide resources and support to help communities preserve and promote their mother languages. This can include funding for language revitalization programs, language education, and cultural events. 

By supporting mother language education and multilingualism, we can help to preserve valuable cultural heritage and ensure that future generations have access to their cultural roots. Promoting education in mother languages is an important step towards fostering original thought, preserving cultural heritage, and promoting academic success. Our mother tongue is much more than just a language; it is an embodiment of our history, culture, and collective memory. It serves as a bridge connecting us to our ancestors, the values they upheld, and the tales they told. This deep-seated connection impacts various facets of our lives, especially in education and national development.

The mother tongue or the native language is an essential aspect in one’s upbringing as it shapes the way they perceive the world and the way one expresses themselves to others. Babies tend to imitate what they see or hear. Infants are fast learners as they acquire their mother tongue by imitating their parents. It is easier for children to learn languages in their growing years than in comparison to adults learning a new language. Having a strong grip on one’s mother tongue also helps in creating a strong foundation for learning additional languages. 

Children are capable of learning languages other than their native tongue while they are young by transferring the different structure of a language to other languages. If a child learns the grammar of their mother tongue well, then they will be able to guess the meaning of the words in different languages easily. One’s mother tongue is a very potent tool that helps in advancing the learning skill in people. Children’s develop the skill of communication by conversing with their parents in their native tongue. And this skill of communication becomes paramount in school or institutional level setting for participating in class. Learning in school plays an important role in accentuating the use of mother tongue.

It is sad to see that mother tongue is losing its importance in comparison to some popularly used languages like English. Since in education as well as international business, English is used, that is why people are more encouraged to learn it because of the existing competition. However, the mother tongue remains an inseparable part of one’s existence as it is said to be one’s true vehicle of wit. To preserve the cultural fabric, people must always strive to preserve their mother tongue at any cost.”

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his hear- Nelson Mandela

(M Ahmad is a regular writer for this newspaper and can be reached at [email protected])

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