Tuesday, January 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Mother tongue emerges winner
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 6
The mother tongue — Punjabi — emerged winner at today’s meeting of experts, and administrators called by the Punjab Government to thrash out whether the teaching of the mother tongue and English should start simultaneously from Class I or the latter should be introduced at a higher level.

As Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, at whose instance it was called failed to make it to the meeting Education Minister, Khushal Bahl presided over it. Only invitees were allowed to participate and the media had no access to it.

It may be mentioned here that while Capt Amarinder Singh supports the teaching of English from Class I Mr Bahl is for starting it from Class III. The proceedings of the meeting would now be sent to the Chief Minister to decide the issue accordingly.

An official told The Tribune that the dominating view at the meeting was that the teaching of English from Class I was not in the interest of students. They should start their studies in the mother tongue and this process should be followed up to Class V after which the teaching of English should start.

Dr S.S. Joshi, an eminent educationist and linguist, said even the UK authorities had a poor experience in this connection. A few decades ago, the UK Government introduced the teaching of French from the first standard in schools along with the mother tongue. It resulted into a number of problems and also started affecting students mentally. Ultimately, the UK Government had to withdraw the teaching of French after about 10 years.

Dr Harish Dhillon, Headmaster, Yadavindra Public School, Mohali, said it was only a myth that students could become intelligent by starting the learning of English from the first Class I. Breaking the myth by citing a solid example, Dr Dhillon said when he was the Principal of the Sanawar school, the Union HRD Ministry sent to his school a number of students from ordinary schools. They were Class VII when they came to Sanawar and had only read English in Class VI.

Teachers at Sanawar started teaching in a public school style and stressed on improving their fundamentals and also pronunciation etc. Within a few months, these students started beating the Sanawar students in class tests and topping in various academic activities. Ultimately they became a source of inspiration for the original Sanwarians. Conveying his viewpoint in a very subtle and effective manner, Dr Dhillon emphasised that even students who start learning English from Class VI can be as good as those who start from Class I and study in best English schools.

Dr S.S. Johl, a former Vice-Chancellor, said he had his education in Urdu medium up to Class VIII and learnt English later. “I have served even in international bodies such as the World Bank but I faced no problem as far as communicating and writing in English is concerned though I did not read it from Class I”. He also supported the introduction of English at a later stage.

Dr Kehar Singh, Chairman of the Punjab School Education Board, said he had opposed when Mr Tota Singh introduced English from Class I. But now the board had published English books worth Rs 1.25 crore for students and what would be their (books) fate in case the government decides to start its teaching from Class III or VI which was the practice earlier.

Dr T.R. Sharma strongly opposed the introduction of English in primary schools. He referred various encyclopaedias and other source material to prove his point that a child should be initiated to education in the language which he or she shares with her mother from the day of birth. The experiment of teaching a foreign language with the mother tongue from Class I had failed the world over and there was no use of experimenting the same in Punjab.

Mr N.S. Rattan, Principal Secretary, Higher Education, also opposed the introduction of English at the initial stage.

Among those who supported the teaching of English from Class I were the Principals of Budha Dal Public School, Mohali, and Guru Nanak Public School, Chandigarh.


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