Parents’ fascination with English-medium schools no less than suicide: NCERT chief


New Delhi: NCERT Director D P Saklani has lamented that parents remain fascinated by English-medium schools even though many don’t have trained teachers, saying it is “no less than suicide” as government schools now provide quality education.

In an interaction with editors at the agency’s headquarters here, the chief of the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) said the practice of cramming content in English has led to knowledge loss among children and distanced them from their roots and culture.

“Parents are obsessed with English-medium schools, they prefer to send their children to such schools even if there are no teachers or they are not trained enough. This is not less than suicide and this why the new (national) education policy has stressed upon teaching in mother tongue,” he said.

“Why should teaching be matrabhasha adharit (based on mother tongue)? Because till then we will not understand our own mother, our roots, how will we understand anything? And multilingual approach is not like teaching in any language is being ended, the push is to learn multiple languages,” Saklani added.

The NCERT chief cited an initiative by the Union education minister to get primers (books) developed in two tribal languages of Odisha to teach students with help of pictures, stories and songs based on their local nature and culture to improve their speaking skill, learning outcome and cognitive development.

“We are now developing primers in 121 languages which will be ready this year and will help in connecting school-going children to their roots,” he said.

“We start cramming up in English and that is where there is knowledge loss. Language should be an enabling factor, it should not disable. So far we have been disabled and now through multilingual education we are trying to enable ourselves,” Saklani added.

The new National Education Policy (NEP) notified in 2020, had recommended that wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5 should be home language, mother tongue, local language or region language.

The policy recommended that teaching in mother tongue should preferably be till Grade 8 and beyond. Thereafter, the home or local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last year said the use of the mother tongue in education has initiated a “new form of justice” for students in India, and termed it as a “very significant step” towards social justice.

The move also attracted criticism from various stakeholders and opposition parties. The education ministry has been maintaining that no language is being imposed on anyone.

According to the new National Curriculum Framework (NCF), notified last year, students of classes 9 and 10 will now have to mandatorily study three languages, including two Indian native ones while students in classes 11 and 12 will have to study one Indian and one other language.

The NCERT is at the centre of a controversy with the revised Class 12 political science textbook not mentioning the Babri masjid but referring to it as a “three-domed structure”.

The latest deletions in the textbooks include: BJP’s ‘rath yatra’ from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya; the role of kar sevaks; communal violence in the wake of the demolition of the Babri masjid; President’s rule in BJP-ruled states; and the BJP’s expression of “regret over the happenings at Ayodhya”.

The new political science textbook of Class 11, now says that political parties “give priority to the interests of a minority group” with an eye on “vote bank politics”, which leads to “minority appeasement”.

This marks a complete shift from what was taught until the 2023-24 academic session — that if students “think hard”, they will find there is “little evidence” to suggest that vote bank politics favours the minorities in the country.

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