Mother tongue education is not just a constitutional right – it is the base of quality education

Monday 06 July, 2020   |   Art & Literature

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Prem Phyak

Prem Phyak

Kathmandu, Nepal

Mother tongue education is not just a constitutional right – it is the base of quality education

The National Curriculum Framework of 2063 BS has identified language (mother tongue, Nepali and English), mathematics, creative art, science, social studies and some local subject as the area of learning at the basic level of schooling. The Curriculum Development Center (CDC) has now argued that Sanskrit can be taught at the basic level of schooling as a local subject.

What is local subject?

Can Sanskrit be introduced as local subject in schools, as argued by the CDC?  Does the concept of local subject include Sanskrit? According to the National Education Commission-2049 BS, local curriculum would be important to make school education suitable to local needs, relevant in local context, and to emphasize various facades of ethnic lifestyle. The CDC's own Local Curriculum Development and Implementation Guidelines-2076 BS state that local subjects should contribute to conservation, promotion and expansion of local occupation, business, knowledge, skills, arts, culture, beauty, ideals and technologies.

The local curriculum must focus on subjects, and not language. Local curriculum must focus on learning of local knowledge and skills, and mother tongues of children should be the medium of teaching.

The objective of local curriculum is to enable children to speak and write in their mother tongues, acquire traditional skills, and to promote local cultural festival and tradition. It also emphasizes preservation and promotion of knowledge about local geography, natural heritage, herbs and medicines. The CDC has considered local places, heritage, culture, rivers and temples as main themes of local subject.

In essence, local curriculum must focus on subjects, and not language. Local curriculum must focus on learning of local knowledge and skills, and mother tongues of children should be the medium of teaching. Local stakeholders' participation and need should be in the center of development of local curriculum.

Sanskrit cannot be introduced as a local subject because it is a language -- the medium of learning. It is not a subject in itself. The National Curriculum Framework of 2076 BS has identified mother tongues, local knowledge, skills, art and technology as subjects of local curriculum. However, Sanskrit language has been inserted as local subject in the curriculum for the basic level of schools (1-3 grades) that is supposed to be in sync with the National Curriculum Framework.

Way forward

Sanskrit is a linguistically and philosophically rich language. But the mother tongues of indigenous communities carry indigenous knowledge, skills, art and culture. Various researches have shown that children can learn easily if they are taught in the language they speak at home. Education in mother tongue is crucial for effective learning. If children are taught in the language they cannot understand and speak, it will have adverse effects on their educational, academic, linguistic and cognitive development. Therefore, education in mother tongues at the primary level is very important.

Various researches have shown that children can learn easily if they are taught in the language they speak at home. Education in mother tongue is crucial for effective learning.

Therefore, according to the National Curriculum Framework 2076 BS, importance should be given to mother tongue in school curriculum and text books. 

Sanskrit is neither a mother tongue of a certain community, nor is it the subject of any local curriculum. Sanskrit language is relevant only for performing Hindu rites and rituals these days. It is a dying language, and it should be protected and promoted. But why the development of Sanskrit is so frustrating despite the State's investment in exclusive schools and universities for this language? What contributions have these schools and universities made to the development of Sanskrit language, knowledge and wisdom? We need to find answers to these questions before introducing Sanskrit subject in the primary level. If not, it will be only a burden on children.

Many children in Nepal have been unable to learn because they are not being taught in their mother tongues. While advocating for Sanskrit, we should not ignore the importance of education in mother tongues. Education in mother tongues is not just a constitutionally guaranteed rights, it is the base of quality and equitable education.

Theoretically, it would be wrong to consider mother tongue as a local subject. Because of this, schools are forced to choose between mother tongue and local subject. Therefore, many schools choose local subject over mother tongue. Many schools have also chosen English or computer knowledge as local subject instead of mother tongue. But education authorities do not seem interested in regulating it. In this state of negligence to mother tongues, it is only natural to question the relevance of introducing Sanskrit in schools.

 

This is the concluding part of an unauthorized translation of the article originally published in Kantipur daily. To read the full original article in Nepali: https://ekantipur.com/koseli/2020/05/30/159080940235378506.html?fbclid=IwAR2nEPElyyWp83D83CCB-MExvZgseyeY_RvsB7ypRshaRhvVrLcTeoDLpRY

 


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