[lg policy] India: Government wants playschools to mind language, go vernacular

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Mon Sep 16 18:03:56 UTC 2013

 wants playschools to mind language, go vernacular
Abantika Ghosh <http://www.indianexpress.com/columnist/abantikaghosh/> :
New Delhi, Sun Sep 15 2013, 11:13 hrs [image: Small] [image: Large] [image:
Print] <http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1169385/>

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 Plan is part of proposed early childhood care and education policy

 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

*File separate petition on safety of children aged below 6 years: High Court

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

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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