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Govt wants playschools to mind language,go vernacular

Centre says English can be taught but cannot be medium of instruction.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi |
September 15, 2013 2:17:40 am

In a proposal that has all the makings of a controversy,the Centre wants all teaching in playschools to be in the mother tongue or the local vernacular language.

The plan is a part of the proposed early childhood care and education policy (ECCE) which says English can be taught but would not be the medium of instruction. Some educationists said this neither takes into account the diversity of the country nor the increasingly cosmopolitan character of its cities.

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Drafted by the women and child development ministry,the policy contains a broad framework for running a playschool/creche,including space requirement,trained staff,sanitation facilities,teacher-children ratio etc.

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It also includes a paragraph about mother tongue/local vernacular/home language being the primary language of interaction in all ECCE programmes. Although it does not preclude the introduction of English given a young child’s ability to learn languages,the policy stresses on the mother tongue approach more than once.

While this is in line with the guiding principles of the NCERT’s National Curriculum Framework,it is the first time a national policy lays down in black and white that the medium of instruction for children aged below six years should be the mother tongue.

Some educationists approved of the idea.

“This was long overdue. It makes sense to have this in the policy because once you start in the language that the child is comfortable in,it is very easy to move to the next level,Starting in the mother tongue gives a tremendous boost to the child’s development,” said Indu Kaura,former principal of the child care centre at Lady Irwin College.

But others questioned it,pointing at an increasingly cosmopolitan setup where mother tongues differ and even the languages of the parents differ,making English at times the primary language of conversation at home. They also ask how the child can make a seamless transition from playschool to a regular one if it is not used to instructions in English. Playschool chains said there were practical difficulties in this “academic” line.

“This would impede on the learning of the child. In a setup where children come from such diverse backgrounds,who will determine what language to speak to them in?” asked Hazel Shiromani,managing director of Maple Bear,where English is the medium of instruction.

“The idea is to speak to them in a uniform language. How will that happen if the instruction has to be in the home language of the child. Moreover what about teachers? It is possible a teacher is a good educator but not comfortable in the local language. This is going to be very challenging.”

A senior functionary of another playschool with branches in Noida and Delhi said many children from upper-middle class households come with some degree of comfort in English. Starting them on vernacular education may not only turn out to be counterproductive but also hamper smooth transition to a secondary school,the functionary said.

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