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Weak Pillars Of Edifices Of Mother Tongues

The Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM), which has been accusing the BJP of not fulfilling the promises it made to the people in the 2012 elections regarding medium of instruction, has broadened its charge to include neglect of education. It has cited the instance of the government failure to fill the vacancies in the posts of principals and teachers in schools. There is some truth in the charge: the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), which is concerned with the academic aspects of school education including formulation of curriculum, preparation of textbooks, teachers’ handbooks, has been rendered ineffective as the government has failed to find officials to run it. The council is being run by a single officer, a proof that the government is not serious about promotion of education and raising its standards.

Nobody can fault the BBSM initiative as champions of mother tongues as medium of instruction in schools to educate Goan public about the “scientific and psychological dangers” if children continue to study in a “foreign language” at the pre-primary and primary levels. They have planned 65 meetings across the state for the purpose. They have also written to the Chief Minister to fulfill the demands related to MoI policy for promotion of Konkani and Marathi languages at the primary and pre-primary levels as also for implementation of the recommendations of the Madhav Kamat Committee which was set up to study the problem of closure of vernacular medium primary schools. Though people rejected the political wing of the BBSM, the Goa Suraksha Manch, during the recently held Assembly elections, its leaders appear to want to carry on the fight on the MoI issue.

The MoI issue has lingered for a long time and it would be in the interest of all that the same is settled to avoid bitter emotions in the Goan society. The disputing parties to the issue could adopt a give and take policy in the interest of betterment of the education. The focus of the disputing groups should be on improving the standards of education: the issue of medium of instruction should be handled with due care so as to keep the Goan ethos of amity and peaceful living intact. As people have rejected the GSM and its policies on the MoI issue, the BBSM should respect the people’s decision and accept that everybody does not think on the subject the way they think.

Rather than adopting a confrontationist approach with the government and those favouring freedom of choice as far as MoI is concerned and trying to vigorously ‘impose’ their views, they should go out and convince parents as to how studying in regional languages would be best for their children. A sudden change of policy on the delicate issue of MoI could be detrimental to promotion of education, especially its psychological impact on young children, who could be divided on language or religious lines. The BBSM should try to adopt a long-term approach and concentrate on creating awareness among the people, while the government must build and enrich curriculum and academic literature and teaching skills and standards in regional languages. The BBSM should be accommodative to suggestions from other groups, who too should work towards a consensus rather than confrontation.

Despite the efforts made by the state authorities to promote education in local languages, the idea has failed to gain widespread acceptability of parents and students. Though thousands of primary schools were opened the government failed to raise the standards of education since Goa was liberated. The flip-flops by the successive governments on the issue have compounded the matter. The government needs to sit down with the disputing parties and reason out with them to come to terms: no room should be given to those who want to politicize the issue. Until a long-term solution acceptable to all is found the best course would be to continue with the present system in which parents have freedom to choose the medium in which their children would study. Parents do not prefer regional languages as the ‘market value’ of learning in regional languages is lower. Besides, academic resources and teaching standards in regional languages are poor. Instead of insisting on a short-term demand – like withdrawal of grants to English-medium schools – the champions of regional languages should take the fight to a wider level by continually prodding and pushing the state government to allocate more and more resources and to establish robust systems which will ultimately make study in regional languages interesting and rewarding. Systems can be built in which the children do not lose the advantage of learning to read, write and speak English while they study in mother tongue.

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