Medium of instruction: a boon or bane
Dr. Pratap Naik, S.J.
Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr
Alto Porvorim, Goa - 403 521
Mother tongue is a misleading term. As a linguist, I question this term because what will be the mother tongue of a child who has lost its mother or parents at the babyhood. Even if one accepts the validity of the term mother tongue, it cannot be the norm for medium of instruction at the primary school. In an ideal situation if the dominant language spoken at home or in the neighbourhood is used as the medium of instruction, the child will easily understand the subjects taught and its academic growth will attain the desirable level. Besides the medium of instruction, the quality of textbooks, teaching methods and the competence of teachers are also equally important for the child's academic growth. In most of the countries of the world the medium of instruction is their dominant language. In India we do not have a single language which is accepted by all as the language of education. English is the only language which unites the Indians at the level of education. In Goa till 1991 in a number of schools the medium of instruction in primary schools was English or Marathi. Konknni as a medium of instruction was limited to 2 schools in South Goa. The spoken Konknni unites the locals but written Konknni divides. Konknni written in Devanagari script has done more harm to locals and Konknni culture compared to Marathi. Konknni written in Devanagari is nobody's baby. It is artificially kept alive by the government grants to please a handful of protagonists. The textbooks written in Konknni are filled with innumerable grave errors of all types. It is nobody's concern to rectify them. Those managements who opted for Konknni medium have done so not because of their conviction but to avail grants from the education department. Teachers are not sufficiently equipped to teach in Konknni medium. The rich and those who can afford, send their children to unaided English medium primary schools and later on shift to aided schools. In this visionless and chaotic atmosphere the children who attend the Konknni medium schools have become the voiceless and helpless victims. It is a great injustice done to them. All of us are responsible for this crime. Hence it is our duty to rectify the past blunder and to obtain justice to our children by providing them free English medium education at the primary level. I say this with full conviction after working for Konknni as a researcher and teacher in Goa for 25 years. Our love for Konknni should not make us blind for the future of our children.
In Goa, Konknni is needed only to maintain the cultural identity of the people. Let Konknni be the language of our heart, namely household language, language in the domains of social, cultural, religious and other related fields. In Goa, let English be the language of our mind and intellect, namely education at all levels, administration and intellectual growth and to earn our daily bread. All over India English is gaining momentum as the medium of instruction at the primary level. In the neighbouring districts of Sindhudurg, Belgaum, Dharwad, and Uttar Kannada, even in the villages English medium schools exist and their demand is increasing day by day. Primary education in English in Goa will be a boon for all irrespective of their home language, religion, region and caste. Let our parents, managements and the education department do not fall as a prey to the hypocritical double standard talk of pseudo educationists, mother tongue protagonists and politicians. The future of Goa and our people lies in English medium education, which is a boon to our children.