I am in total agreement with the views of Swaminathan Aiyar on the issue of medium of teaching at primary stage of education.
I don’t know why Pratham’s recent revelation that only 48.3% of Indian children in Class 1 could read the English alphabet, even in big capital letters, caused so much worry and furry for the educationists and administration. Modi’s Gujarat government, that doesn’t want to be left behind, proposes to teach English in Class 1. Other states will also like to follow. It hardly matters if the students in primary schools fail to recognize English alphabets.
Aiyar suggests rightly that the teaching in Class I should begin in the mother tongue of students, with English coming only later. Global research shows that children should learn reading and writing in their mother tongue first. Only after they can read fluently at a minimum of 45-60 words per minute can they absorb what they are reading. Such fluency is most easily achieved in the mother tongue. Once that is established, learning a second language becomes much easier.
The reason for the lack of proficiency of the students of English is because of the way English is taught and the very poor standard of the teachers who teaches English. If a teacher can’t pronunciate English words properly and speak fluently correct English, how can his students do that? Most of the one-teacher schools in rural India hardly know or has been trained in teaching English that can be good enough to teach.
One easy solution would have been to use audio and video aids in some sort of low-cost English language laboratory that can help in mastering the language. And the government will have to undertake the training of the teachers on footing. I don’t know why Pratham has not rated the proficiency of the mother tongue. Unfortunately, the students today are equally poor in mother tongue.
Let me confess I myself have not been able to build a good vocabulary of the two languages that I use. One is to work hard to have command of the language to have even fairly good communication in any language.
Even if a student starts English in class VI, with 7 years of learning English up to class XII, the student can easily attain good enough proficiency in English communication before joining professional courses for higher education if the teaching of English is right.
I wish the government and politician stop using teachers for political gains. It is necessary as the mass of the population and particularly the deprived class at the bottom of the pyramid still sends their children to the government schools only. Interestingly the private sector is entering education pretty fast, and do also provide much better education.
The enrollment is reaching the target, but the quality of teaching must improve and the percentage of dropouts must come down.
Let the India’s advantage of superiority in English not suffer.