Dalit Discourse in Indian Education Dhanaraju Vulli Essay
Dalit Discourse in Indian Education Dhanaraju Vulli
There are two types of school system India in the issue of medium of instruction i.e the regional language system and the English language system. There is a clear cut division between the uppers castes elite children and Dalit children in getting of English medium education in Indian society. The Dalits children are given education in regional language schools while English language school education is meant for the upper castes children. This division has always been reflecting between government and private English medium schools. In the name of mother tongue the state and the upper caste elite always compel the regional medium of instruction in the policy making. This was one of the current problems in Indian Educational system. This paper can be divided into four parts. The first part will highlight the language policy after Indian Independence.
The second part discusses the concept of mother tongue and its importance in the contextualizing of educational discourse in India. In the third part I would highlight the current debate on language policy and its importance in the Indian educational system. This is very important in the understanding of politics of medium of language in the present educational discourse. The last part deals with the response of the Dalits towards the English education and how they attack the upper caste nature towards regional medium education. In an attempt to locate the importance of educational policy in the wider socio-historical and political context, I will address an ideological deconstruction of politics of mother tongue in the present Indian educational system.
Keywords: English education, language, mother tongue, globalization.
The question as to which language should be used as a medium of instruction in country like India is a debatable subject. The question is often posed in binary terms: Should the medium of instruction be a regional language or English? Language is a vehicle for learning as well as expression of ideas. An advanced language (English) helps in mentally provide people to communicate each other across the world. On the other hand, an underdeveloped language has its limitations. It keeps people underdeveloped, more so those in deprived sections. The school system is divided into two types in the context of medium of instruction i.e the regional language system and the English language system. There is a clear cut division between the uppers castes elite children and Dalit children in getting of English medium education in Indian society. The dalits cholderns are given education in regional language schools while English language school education is meant for the upper castes children. This division has always been reflecting between government and private English medium schools. In the name of mother tongue the state and the upper caste elite always compel the regional medium of instruction in the policy making. This was one of the current problems in Indian Educational system.
India. In the third part I will highlight the current debate on language policy and its importance in the Indian educational system. This is very important in the understanding of politics of medium of language in the present educational discourse. The last part discusses the response of the Dalits towards the English education and how they attack the upper caste nature towards role of mother tongue in the Indian education .In an attempt to locate the importance of educational policy in the wider sociohistorical and political context, I will address an ideological deconstruction of politics of mother tongue in the present Indian educational system.
Historical View of the Language Policy in Indian
The historical view of the evolution of the language policy in India let know us how the importance of English and its role in Indian Education. India is multilingual country. It has been reflecting in the formulation of the language policy. The Indian constitution has provided that the primary education must be taught through the mother tongue or regional language.
However, a status survey of language instruction in the country exposed that of the 1652 mother tongues listed by the 1961 Census, there are 51 languages which are spoken by more than The present paper can be divided into four parts. The first part 100,000 people each. Of these 51 languages, 16 have no script of will highlight the language policy after Indian Independence. their own, and only the remaining 35 languages are accepted as The second part discusses the concept of mother tongue and its media of instruction at the school level1. English is a common importance in the contextualizing of educational discourse in language and it is an obligatory language in the higher education The National Council of Educational
Documented the demand and importance of English language in the position paper in connection with the National Curriculum The Indian government has been following three-language Framework (2005) as they stated: “English in India today is a formula in Education as the National Commission on Education symbol of people’s aspirations for quality in education and fuller 1964-1966 recommended. Subsequently three-language formula participation in national and international life… The level of in Education was reflected in the National Education Policies of introduction of English has now become a matter of political 1968 and 1986.
The Commission said that the three-language response to people’s aspirations, rendering almost irrelevant an system is an appropriate formula for the Indian school education academic debate on the merits of a very early introduction”. and it can be good approach to accommodate different language The Commission also mentioned that “English will continue to people but it has been criticized by the different sections in the enjoy a high status so long as it remains the principal medium of society on the implementation. The Dravidain movement in education at the university stage, and the language of Tamilnadau is the preeminent instance as they vehemently administration at the Central Government and in many of the states. Even after the regional languages become media of opposed the imposition of Hindi language on south India.
Higher education in the universities, a working knowledge of There is no proper planning for formulating language policy in English will be a valuable asset for all students and a India. It can be seen as a question of status planning rather than reasonable proficiency in the language will be necessary for achievement planning. Finally, the three- language formula has those who proceed to the university”. been emerged as a policy after elaborate debates and discussions among political and academic peoples with interest of national However, there is controversial about the English as a medium of instruction in Indian educational system. The contradiction of multilingual languages.
The National Focus Group on Teaching of English has taken a strong position in connection with ‘English language question’: The Central Advisory Board on Education also discussed on the “English is in India today a symbol of people’s aspiration for issue of English language and recommended that English must quality in education and a fuller participation in national and be compulsory subject in the schools from 6th class onwards and international life. Its colonial origins now forgotten or students must acquire enough knowledge of English so as to be irrelevant, its initial role in independence India, tailored to high able to receive education through this English in the higher education now felt to be insufficiently inclusive socially and education. There is another development took place in the linguistically, the current state of English stems from its development of language policy in India. The first National overwhelming presence on the world stage and the reflection of Education Commission had studied the recommendations given this in the national arena”4. by the Central Advisory Board on Education.
Finally they came up with conclusion that three-language formula must be included There is an astonishing faith among all sections of the society in in the context of multilingual Indian educational system. I argue both rural and urban areas that English has the transformative that once upon a time the English language was important part of power language. English is seen not just as a skill language, but a mechanism of exclusion language due to upper caste as a means of a better life, a pathway out of exclusion and nationalists’ creation as they differentiated native language and suppression from the unequal society. The English language has alien language but now it can be seen as a tool of inclusion. In emerged as a powerful agent for social change in India. the post modern India the English language is important factor to include all the sections of Indian society. The main reason is an Mother Tongue as the Medium of Instruction increasing demand for the language which is an important tool There is a popular perspective that advocates the use of mother for the progress and development of the country.
Encourage linguistic diversity in schools. This perspective argue that mother tongues are not merely speech varieties but are languages that provide social and emotional identity to individuals, express the essence of their cultures, and give them a sense of rootedness. Schooling in the language of the child reflects respect for her and an appreciation of her culture. The exclusion of the mother tongues from school hence is seen as ‘harmful to the child’s self esteem’.
According to Pattanaik5 children are thereby “reduced to minorities in their own homes”. Extending the realm of pedagogy, the argument links the acknowledgement and acceptance by the school of the language and culture of the child to a positive identity of self and thereby to effective educational achievement. As Edward says, “the rejection of a child’s language is unlikely to enhance feelings of self worth which are important for educational success”6. Further, this perspective argues that “the right to education in a language that the child understands is a basic human right and an essential ingredient of equality in education”. Pattanaik forcefully observes that to “control and dictate the language of access” to knowledge is a “positive suppression of human talent. It deprives individual and society of free choices, curbs creativity and innovativeness and restricts participation or potential participation in multiple spheres of human interaction, thus imposing limits on freedom”.
Current Debate on Medium of Instruction
Current language politics in India is an exemplary case of the issues and controversies surrounding linguistic globalization. A primary characteristic of linguistic globalization is the increasing spread and domination of the English language, which we can capture by the term ‘global English’8. As a post-colonial democracy, India provides a context for examining linguistic globalization that is generalizable to other cases. Furthermore, in juxtaposition to the homogenizing tendency of global English, India embraces multilingualism; its federal system is based on its linguistic diversity.
India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, a modern socialist at heart and one of the premier leaders at the 1955 Bandung conference, was utterly convinced of this linkage between the English language and technology and modernity9. Yet he also “discovered India” through its rich and enduring diversity. He valued the adivasi, or tribal, cultures of India as much as, if not more than, for example, the Bengali bhadralok, an early middle-class intelligentsia that emerged under colonial The Chennai Declaration (2012) has emphasized the importance rule. of mother tongue in the multi-lingual country like India as “One 10
of the significant commonalties of the Common School System As well documented by Robert King (1998), Nehru, as well as will be the plurality of mother tongues in dynamic interface with many others feared that the major regional languages of multilingualism of child’s neighborhood. This would duly independent India, such as local languages, could be divisive by include Braille and other sign languages as well. According to fomenting narrow identities, leading to “fissiparous tendencies” this radical and dynamic conception of language education, that could tear India apart. The narrative of English as the mother tongue with a multi-lingual interface is acknowledged as language of modernity and regional languages such as regional the most potent medium of education to enable the child to i. as pre-modern, parochial and even reactionary was well given the nostalgia for think, analyze and act; ii. acquire, internalize and transform established in Nehruvian India.
Today, modern language knowledge critically; iii. Learn other the caliber of Nehru’s leadership , such Nehruvian narratives languages, including English, proficiently; iv.catalyze cultural still resonate. Indeed, many of India’s political and economic and literary renaissance; v. Negotiate with the dominant process leaders today espouse the Nehruvian language ideology. of alienation with advantage, thereby avoiding being pushed-out; and vi. Question and resist oppression and explore the path of Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of Infosys Company has put it; in India today English is a symbol of an economy comes of age12. It is the language of international business, science and This approach believes in quality education. The quality research. In contrast, Nilekani depicts supporters of Kannada in education begins with mother tongue.
Mother tongue is very the English-versus-Kannada controversy as “chauvinistic” and important that gives high levels of ability in learning many ideologically and politically motivated. As part of Nilekani’s languages in India. Indian constitution also acknowledged the accusation of the ideological nature of pro-Kannada forces is the importance of mother tongue language as the National Curricular claim that they are denying access to English to those who have Framework, 2005 and the Right of Children to free and historically been the have-nots in Indian society, in particular the Compulsory Education Act, 2009 provided the mother tongue as lower-castes and the lowest-of-the low, the Dalits or tool for development critical thinking. However, for most Untouchables. children, particularly for the tribal and minority language
children, there is no provision for education in the mother This language ideology of English as a skill, a ‘key’ or tongue. Education of such children imposes an unfamiliar school ‘passport’ critical for “upward mobility” fits in with a larger language on them, which often leads to large scale dropouts. narrative on globalization. This globalization narrative depicts Mother tongue based multilingual education for at least 6 to 8 globalization as inevitable, a force on its own with no one or no entity directing or controlling it. Globalization, in this narrative, regional language schools cannot therefore think of achieving is an autonomous, “invisible hand” process. The linguistic anything in the globalised economy”. dimension of this process is one where English is seen as neutral Accordingly, “the divide between the English medium schools and inevitably spreading globally.
The regional language schools is a caste-class divide”, which In this context, one of the most prominent public intellectuals in can be overcome by the marginalized “hijacking” the tool of India today, Ramachandra Guha differs with Nandan Nilekani exclusion, English17. As the leaders of a Dalit Association in and claim that support for Kannada is not chauvinistic, except Hyderabad Central University, put it: “The middle class and the when the private sector is obligated, or forced, to use it. It is rich can afford to send their children to private schools. For the legitimate and indeed preferable for the government to endorse poor and Dalit, the only option is government schools. Then why and approve of changing the official name of Bangalore to the these people were denied an opportunity to learn English”18. For more Kannadiga “Bengaluru,” according to Guha; it is not these Dalit leaders, those opposing English in state schools are legitimate for regional language enthusiasts to economically “regressive and biased”
English, and the pro-English linguistic disenfranchise migrants from other parts of India, as for example globalization narrative, are seen as empowering the powerless pro-Marathi fanatics in Bombay have attempted A similar, and a necessary tool for upward mobility. “soft” liberalism reasoning seems to have been the basis for the Karnatak High Court decision in the summer of 2008 against the In the central schools the medium of instruction is where the state government mandating Kannada as the medium of upper castes and other central government employee children get instruction in private schools13. The court’s decision repeatedly the education. Even though the children of a few reserved referred to the freedom of parents to make choices for their category employees’ children benefit from these schools, the children, i.e., the freedom of the individual and, by extension, divide between the English medium schools and the regional the market based on individual choices.
Language schools is a caste or class divide based on social and economic category. The divide itself was created by upper caste More recently, Kannada activists have been seeking classical intellectuals for their own vested interest. Since the days of language status for Kannada-a further central governmental Indian national movement the upper caste intelligentsia argued categorization. This is the political space opened up for investing that the colonial rule particularly Lord Thomas Macaulay had Kannada speakers with the “moral content of a community.” In introduced English education that convert local people into other words, to act politically, i.e., to make political claims, clerks to serve in colonial government. The real character of the regional language activists need to build community, and invest English education was emphasized by Lord Machulay often that community with moral content.
There is indeed Kannada quoted ‘flourish India in blood and the colour but European in chauvinists who preach an exclusive Kannadiga identity14, task and manner’, the educational enterprise of the Government giving a “divisive and dangerous”15 or “particularist at all levels of education remained within the confines of protectionist” content to their politics. But we need not condemn colonial needs and did not break the limits of colonial interest. all pro-local language politics as such. Language politics in India With this concept, colonial education elevated western is contested because of the moral content with which many local knowledge and culture that represented the colonizer. For language activists have been able to imbue the community, i.e., instance, Grants, the East India Company officer stated that ‘for with a political transformation that is empowering and moral. the continuation of British rule it was necessary to create a class of Indians’ that people brought about only from the western knowledge. This perhaps, was a natural consequence of the ideas Dalit Discourse on Medium of Instruction
17. Aggarwal Kailash S., ‘English, Laloo: a Bihari Story’, The Independent, (Bombay), 23rd September, (1993)
Chaturvedi M.G and Mahel B.V., Position of Languages in
School Curriculum in India, NCERT, New Delhi, (1976)
18. Interview with Mr. Gummadi Prabhakar and Dara Suman
leaders of Ambedkar Students’ Association, Hyderabad
Agarwal S.P. (ed )., Commissions and Committees in India,
Central University, Hyderabad, Dated: 12th May, (2013)
Vol. 5, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, (1993)
Government of India., Report of the National Knowledge 19. Terry Eagleton, Ideology,( Longman, New York), 13,(1996)
Commission, New Delhi, (2007)
NCERT National Council of Educational Research and 20. Dalit Freedom Network http://www.nd Dalit network. org/go?/dfn/about/C33/, Accessed on 22 May, (2013)
Training, National Focus Group Position Paper on
Teaching of English, NCERT, New Delhi, 1, (2006)
International Science Congress Association