(PhD Scholar, JNU, New Delhi. Can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recently the cabinet of Assam has come up with an extraordinary idea to increase the success rate of Assamese students in national competitive examinations and other academic fields, making English a compulsory medium for Mathematics and Science teaching and learning from class three to twelve standards. According to the cabinet, this move will boost the power of Assamese medium students to cope with English medium students. The sole motive of this move is to simply get success in life, by learning English. The cabinet strongly believes, that by learning science and mathematics in Assamese or any other vernacular medium, students cannot get success in life. For those who have become successful doctors, engineers or scientists, learning in the Assamese medium is just an exceptional fluke.
Respecting the belief of the cabinet, that English is the main hurdle for Assamese students on a national platform, we strongly oppose this move. The success of students never depends on the medium. It depends on his or her depth of knowledge in the required subject. Instead of making English compulsory, the Government of Assam needs to improve the infrastructure of Assamese medium schools. Weak syllabus, insufficiency of trained teachers, paucity of laboratory and library, dilapidated condition of schools, poverty etc., are the main reasons for the failure of some Assamese medium students in their field. The government must upgrade the condition of schools first to improve the quality of students. Mother tongue is an asset for students, not a hindrance. Those who are strong in their mother tongue and have a strong academic base can easily excel in their lives by learning English and other languages after the completion of schooling in the vernacular medium.
Making English a compulsory medium for science and maths the government of Assam can make only students and teachers unsettle in vernacular medium schools. Being unsettle in the mixed education of Assamese, English and Hindi someday the guardian will automatically shift their children to private English medium schools to get rid of the medium dilemma. And it will lead to the destruction of the vernacular medium schools in Assam. The government also will be happy to welcome the privatisation of school education, closing Assamese medium schools in future giving a simple argument of no students in Assamese medium schools.
As result, Assam will not only lose Assamese medium schools but Assamese people will lose their Assamese language. Nobody will be interested to make their children learn Assamese at home or in society.
People will run to English medium schools to make their children academically and economically successful in future.
Like the Government of Assam, many Assamese students, parents and guardians genuinely think that the vernacular medium is the key obstacle to their success in academic life. So, they are keen to learn in English medium to get desired success in life. But in practice, it is not the root cause of failure or success in life. If it is so, all English-educated students would have become good and best scientists, doctors, engineers, civil servant officers or business tycoons in India and all vernacular medium students would have become a failure in their life. But the reality of life is different. Ignoring all other sociological factors, it can be easily assumed that those students have a real urge for knowledge and talent, and those who have perseverance get success in their academic life.
To learn English after completion of school education in the vernacular medium is not at all a difficult task. Only with a few months of practice, anyone can learn English easily. Especially those who have a strong academic base and a strong desire, they learn English very easily with an effort of only a few months. Good students never get into trouble for language. For them, the mother tongue is an asset, and a foreign language is an opportunity. Assamese medium students can learn English easily, by practising conversation with friends, watching English movies and shows, listening to English songs and commentary and most importantly reading English text and participating in events conducted in English.
The government must rethink and revoke the cabinet decision to teach science and mathematics in English medium from class three to class twelve standards to keep and protect the future of Assamese medium school, most importantly to preserve, protect and spread of mother tongue, the Assamese language. Without the Assamese language, the future of Assamese society will be in danger. Instead of implementing foreign languages in schools, the Government of Assam must focus on the global growth of the Assamese language. Assamese medium students will automatically do well in their respective fields if the strong infrastructure is provided by the system. Many Assamese medium students are shining in the world and many will follow the same path of success, they just need proper social and governmental setup. A big no to compulsory English medium, but a big yes for the infrastructural development of Assamese medium schools!