Denying Mother Tongue: Silencing the Child 

              Now a day’s news is coming that teachers of English medium schools punish the children for speaking in mother tongue in the classroom. This should be condemned. This is a violation of the child’s linguistic right. This kind of treatment to the child reminds of the colonial mindset of the teachers who love teaching but don’t love children. They understand teaching and don’t understand child and their socio-cultural background. 

            Using the mother tongue of a child as the medium of instruction has been a debate when the English language is spreading everywhere. Indian linguistic situation is altogether different from the rest of the world. India is a multilingual and multicultural country. Education to the children in different Indian socio-economic condition is varied based on rich-poor, tribal nontribal, urban-rural and tribal dichotomy. Fortunately, government schools are looked after the government, or else the capitation fees for education should not have been borne by the parents living below the poverty line. For the majority of Indian parents, government schools are the choice and the schools can also deliver the goods if the resources are used properly. 

          Every child should be taught in their first language at least up to eight years. In developed countries like Europe and Japan use of mother tongue is more important than learning English. India educational system is always grappled with using English from Class I in Government schools which is most unfortunate. Majority poor children are provided education in government schools. The children enrolled in these schools are from a poor family background. So we should not hope that introducing English from class I would really helpful for these children. Rather it will be counterproductive. Research says that a child strong in the mother tongue can be stronger in another tongue. 

          Teachers teaching in government schools are from a poor English background. Methods of teaching a language – irrespective of English or mother tongue/second language acquisition are still a far-reaching knowledge that is imparted to Indian teachers. Language teaching is a neglected subject in the Teacher Education programme. 

           Children can acquire any language provided they are given a context. But millions of Indian rural and tribal children don’t have those facilities. But research says that children learn better from their own cultural context. English is not a language of communication for many rural and tribal families. The success stories of Indian children learning better English is based on huge expenditure their parents making in rich English medium schools. 

            Consider the poor quality of school and the knowledge that is imparted to the children in an alien language to the child and imagine how the child is learning. Children, before coming to school are enriched with rich sociolinguistic resources. Children construct their knowledge in their language of thought and express their knowledge in their language of speech. 

               For any qualitative and meaningful education, mother tongue or say the first language of the child is a prerequisite, rather non-negotiable. Our social system is affected by a virus of linguistic colonialism that is a craze for teaching in the English language, from the very birth of the child. This is absolutely wrong. Parents should have the right to dream for their children, but that dream should have a reason and logic to provide a space for the child where she can really articulate in her own language. 

               Denying the language of the child means damage her knowledge and to block her education. I understand that English is necessary for a wider world, but not at the cost of mother tongue or state language and not at the cost of children’s linguistic human rights. 

Mahendra K Mishra (mkmfolk@gmail.com) 

Bhubaneswar,India 

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