We often hear about the importance of education in mother tongue (native language). There is a strong division among people who support education in mother tongue and those who do not support it. In India, most people prefer to send their kids to English medium schools over other mediums. There is a strong historical and practical reason why our people prefer English medium education over other languages. The other reason which cannot be ignored is the current job opportunity. India’s rapid growth in IT industry and BPO was mainly due to peoples proficiency in English.
Recently Tamil Nadu government announced that Engineering courses (Civil and Mechanical) would be offered in Tamil Medium. Inspite of being a state with strong linguistic ideology, this announcement did not get much response from the people. Even hardcore Tamil ideologists started to raise questions about job opportunity and how this will be implemented exactly. It should also be noted that as a country we are far behind in research and development field. And most of the jobs that are available in IT field today are service oriented.
Another reason for such reaction is because most of us equate intelligence with language. English is desirable over other languages in India when it comes to education. A person’s knowledge cannot be determined by the language he/she speaks or studies in. We fail to see language as a medium of communication. Instead we see a language as knowledge and as a tool to climb social ladder.
As per Tamil Nadu government’s announcement there will be only 1800 students who would study Engineering in Tamil medium. We cannot question these students knowledge just because they study the same subjects in different language. Mother tongue education will surely enhance the understanding of students. But we should also not ignore that these students, who would most probably come from Tamil medium schools, should not lack working knowledge in English. We should also not forget that most of our previous generation and current generation professionals did their schooling in non English medium and they do shine in their respective fields as much as students who did their schooling in English medium. It is also true that not every person who attend English medium school is proficient in English. So, we cannot really comment whether studying Engineering in Tamil medium will affect these students negatively.
The first step to introduce Engineering in Tamil medium would be by translating all the necessary books into Tamil. Not only the students who study in Tamil medium will use these books, but these books would be used by students who join English medium engineering courses but who had their schooling in Tamil medium. Translating technical books into Tamil was one request which was put forth by many people for a long time. This step would atleast help in translating few technical books into Tamil, which is a good start. At the same time the government should take care of students who opt Tamil medium engineering. And also take care that they are not discriminated during employment. There have been incidents where non English medium students were often looked down at universities, even by highly educated professors.
There will be many speculations about the future of these students who in a way are ‘test subjects’, but as said earlier, a persons knowledge cannot be measured by a language. As the famous Tamil proverb says ‘even thousand hands cannot hide the sun’, real talent will always shine out.