“Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man”- Swamy Vivekananda. Education is not mere literacy. Literacy needs a medium of expression and that is language. As is natural, mother tongue is imbibing and no extra effort to inculcate is not required. Literacy today is no more to be mentioned as mandatory or statistics drawn to settle scores in comparison to the developed countries or the world at large. India is a developing nation only as far as modern economy is concerned. This has always been a land of knowledge, thought and wisdom.
It is unfortunate that in our country the question of the medium of instruction is a problem to be debated even after fifty years of independence with such back-ground of wisdom and creativity. For in all civilized countries, the medium of instruction is the mother tongue.
The problem, as it exists in our country, is one of the unfortunate legacies of foreign rule. Our British rulers made English the medium of instruction. When a few gifted men learnt to speak and write English with force, the achievement was hailed. On the other hand, our vernaculars were not properly developed. It was through English that we established contact with the thought and culture of the West as also of other states.
Since Hindi has been made the Rashtrabhasa (State language), a section of our North Indian countrymen, which include some influential public men, are insisting that Hindi should be made the medium of instruction all over India. The idea is, it will be possible thereby to create a linguistic unity as a step towards a wide national unity and integration. But this has placed the students of Hindi speaking in an advantageous position for obvious reasons, through the Central Board of Secondary Education introduced English- Hindi medium in all states.
The advocates of English or Hindi make one mistake: they forget the main object of the medium of instruction. They fail to distinguish between a state language and a medium of instruction. The object is to also direct means for imparting education through mother tongue. It needs no argument to prove that the mother tongue helps the assimilation of knowledge in the impressionistic age, with the utmost ease. It is, therefore, the natural medium. Knowledge received through the mother tongue is always more concrete, abiding and intimate. That is why knowledge imparted through a foreign medium can never be satisfactory. Furthermore, it involves a great wastage of labour.
We attribute to this the appalling percentage of failure at the various examinations due to foreign medium of instruction. A foreign language chains and clogs the free play of the human mind. A common argument against vernacularisation is the want of suitable textbooks in the vernaculars. However, in state languages, books have begun to be published in different subjects and a healthy competition among the authors has led to improvements years after year.
Arrangement should be made to permit a student to appear at examination of the universities of the universities in the languages of his choice. Finally, if our students going up to the European Universities can pick up French of German or Russian as the case may be, we may reasonably accept foreign students at our universities to learn an Indian vernacular with equal ease. The problem really arises in the highest stage where students come to read under distinguished specialists, belonging to a particular university. Here the true student will soon pick up the language of the teacher of his choice. All things considered, these difficulties are as nothing compared to the advantages resulting from acquiring knowledge through one’s vernacular language.