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NEP 2020 takes a pragmatic route to language teaching, aims to tap benefits of multilingualism

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

Two major transformational changes mooted by NEP through language teaching are cognitive transformation and social transformation.

Gunika Gupta

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 proposes remarkable transformational changes in the education sector of India after 34 years. It aims at making the education system holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, and catering to the 21st century. It marks a progressive change in the education sector with critical focus on school education. The policy addresses numerous issues such as early childhood care and education, foundational literacy and numeracy, access of education to out-of-school children, curriculum and pedagogy in school, inclusive education, and assessment reforms.

The NEP takes a powerful approach towards multilingualism. The policy clearly states (clause 4.11) that young children comprehend concepts more quickly in their native language. In this backdrop, it proposes that students will receive education in their native language at least till Grade 5 and preferably till Grade 8. This will end the rote-learning process and will create the path for a wider understanding and more analytical involvement of students in the learning process.

The policy outlines that the medium of instruction in classrooms should be the native language entailing investment in a large pool of language teachers, extensive use of technology for language learning, application of the three-language formula, high-quality bilingual textbooks, adequate importance to classical Indian literature, project activity under ‘Ek Bharat Shresht Bharat’ initiative, foreign language teaching, and making the Indian Standardized Language (ISL) across the country. The two major transformational changes mooted by NEP are cognitive transformation and social transformation.

First, it will help in transforming the cognitive ability of children (clause 4.12). Imparting of education in native language will stimulate the thought process of children and encourage them to form their own expressions which can be communicated easily. This will also strengthen creativity in children as they will be able to speak their mind without barrier of language.

Second, it will transform the social ability of the children (clause 4.15). Society plays a major role in the development of children and a family unit comprises the first societal aspect. Language also brings with it a transference of cultural heritage. Being taught native language along with other languages will ensure that cultural memory and values are passed on to students. A diversified society is built where the value of different cultures is acknowledged.

The policy in its clause 4.11 clearly states that high-quality textbooks will be provided in respective native languages including Science and Mathematics subjects. It will help in bridging the gap between the spoken language and the medium of instruction by the teacher. A bilingual approach will be followed by teachers. The teaching-learning materials will also be made keeping in mind this bilingual approach, especially for those ‘whose home language may be different from the medium of instruction.’

The Centre and state governments will invest in recruiting language teachers to encourage the study of Indian languages across the country. Technological advancements will be optimally used to help in language learning. The three-language formula will be implemented promoting the significance of Indian native languages. Students who wish to change their languages can do so in Grades 6 or 7.

The pivotal part of this draft policy is that every student will get the chance to participate in the fun activity on ‘The Languages of India’ from Grade 6 to 8 (clause 4.16). It will be the part of ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ initiative. Students will be able to study Indian Languages, their origin and sources of vocabulary, the study of common phonetic and scientifically arranged alphabets and scripts, common grammatical structure, and will also learn about the rich literature of that language. This will help children develop a sense of unity and understand the significance of diversity and cultural heritage of India.

According to clause 4.17 in the policy, Sanskrit language will receive a prominent place in school as well as higher education. The rich literature of Sanskrit and other classical languages will be incorporated in the syllabus. These will be taught in an interesting and experiential manner and the focus will be on the phonetic system and pronunciation. This literature will be taught for the pleasure of students and also to preserve the cultural heritage of the country. Other languages will include Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Pali, Persian, and Prakrit. It will help to revive the oral and written literature of India.

The learning of world languages will also be offered to children. Languages such as Korean, Japanese, Thai, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian will be taught at the school level. Experiential method will be followed by the teachers here also. This will include methods such as films, theatres, storytelling, poetry, music, and relating the subject with the day to day life experiences.

The National Education Policy takes a pragmatic approach to achieve transformational language goals with respect to school and higher education. This approach can be implemented successfully with detailed planning and commitment.

(Gunika Gupta is an Intern at Academics4Nation. She is currently doing MA English from Delhi University.)

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