By Nafees Ahmad:
I studied Political Science at Deshbandhu College, Delhi University. I was given an option to choose between Hindi and English as a medium of instruction. I opted for English to avoid any problems later in my academic career. Our English batch shared everything—barring the faculty and reading material—with the Hindi section. We had the same syllabi and examination schedule. All of us collaborated on extra-curricular activities as well. The college had a provision of separate classes for Hindi and English-medium students. This was to cater to the needs of those students who had studied in Hindi-medium schools. This bifurcation provided equal opportunity to both the batches and allowed them to acquire education in the language they were comfortable in.
Having said that, there are some constituent colleges of Delhi University who don’t have separate classes for Hindi and English medium students. As a result, this leads to linguistic discrimination and an unfair advantage to English-medium students. This is also detrimental to a student’s confidence and could have serious consequences in the long run. Hindi-medium students find it hard to grapple with English lectures and readings. They are forced to resort to guide books available in the market at throwaway prices. This essentially leads to poor learning.
What is the solution? In my view, it is to have separate classes for students studying in English and Hindi.
Separate classes allow Hindi-medium students to realise their true potential, to hone their inner abilities and take an active part in all departmental extra-curricular activities. Their needs are different and cannot be fulfiled with the same tutorials as English-medium students.
If separate classes cannot be taken for some reason, alternative arrangements, such as extra classes for Hindi medium students should be instituted.
Even for post-graduation, it is the only solution. Delhi University should not merge students writing their papers in English and Hindi. The reason is quite obvious. Hindi-medium students require extra attention from the faculty as the readings are predominantly in English. I have seen at the Department of Political Science, North Campus, University of Delhi, the alarming consequences of merging students in one class.
It results in hundreds of students in one class, rendering interaction between teachers and students almost impossible. The teachers use a microphone in order to deliver lectures. Many times, during my masters, I often observed that the microphone was not working properly. Teachers also found it difficult to convert English terms to Hindi and explain academic concepts in Hindi.
There is another problem with bilingual classes: When teachers explain in English, Hindi-medium students find themselves alienated and are seen glued to their phones. Bilingual classes also make it uneasy for the foreign students as they are unable to follow Hindi conversations.
And the larger issue is that Hindi medium students go through systematic discrimination for being poor in English. They go through problems not just while studying, but also during research. A friend recently told me that one of her professors turned down her request to be her research supervisor because she was a Hindi-medium student. Her department only had professors well versed in English. She had no other option but to attempt her dissertation in English, and the professor in question turned her down saying, “Aap ghisi piti English mey likhoge, mujhe hi aapka research karna padega.” (You’ll write in such terrible English that I’ll only have to do your research.)
Another friend of mine is doing research on comparative religion from Jamia. She usually writes her research paper in Hindi, then translates it to English, then sends it to me for correction and finally shows it to her professor. She often tells me that she could have avoided this mess, had she studied in an English-medium school.
Ironically, all this happens in a country which has a constitutionally recognised Hindi as a language. The Indian Constitution, in Part XVII, Article 343(1) stipulates that Hindi in Devanagri script is the official language of India.
There is a scarcity of reading material in Hindi. Consequently, Hindi-medium students find it quite difficult to learn from readings in English. They have to frequently look up the dictionary. Many eventually get disillusioned with academics . This literally shatters their hopes and aspirations.
What is the way out? Well, the solution lies in creating a will to put things in order; to pump in adequate resources in higher education; to put an end to the prevailing discrimination by providing Hindi readings and a dedicated faculty to the Hindi-medium students; to take into account the needs and opinions of the students; introduction of choice-based research papers and first-hand field surveys instead of full-fledged exams. The solution lies in segregation of Hindi and English-medium students while studying. The integration will place during different extracurricular activities.