Lady Shri Ram College for Women is one of the premier institutions in India. It boasts of good infrastructure, excellent academics, and notable alumni. It looks like a happy place from the outside, but a closer look and you start seeing some craters.
LSR largely conducts classes in English. Even in the Academic Transcripts are given to students, it is written that the medium of instruction for the course is English. While the teachers are aware that there are Hindi-medium students in their classes, four out of the five students I spoke to said a limited effort is made on their behalf to recognise the students’ needs. Shreya*, a third-year Hindi-medium student confirms, “Class mein bhaut dhyaan laga ke thoda bhaut samajh aata hai. Par agar ma’am question pooch lein toh bol nahi paate kuchh. (I understand a bit of what is happening in the class with great difficulty. But if the teacher asks me a question, I’m unable to answer).”
An undergraduate student has three to five readings per topic in her/his syllabus. For the entire syllabus, up to two huge binders are made by the department, which they have to study for the entire semester. Hindi-medium students get at most a book for their reference, which doesn’t cover all topics. Diya*, a third-year student of Political Science shares her experience, “Library mein badi mushkil se 2-3 books milti hain. Uske ailava humein baith ke English ke texts khud translate karne padte hain. (There are hardly 2-3 books in the library in Hindi. Other than that, we have to sit and translate the texts in Hindi ourselves).”
Missing the classes and taking private tuitions in Hindi is not an option, because attendance holds marks, and a minimum percentage is required to appear in exams. With at least five lectures and one tutorial happening per day, they sit in classes for 30 hours a week. It’s not justified to compel these students to invest more time and energy to take private tuition. A faculty member remarks, “Language is certainly an issue in the college. Texts need to be translated properly, and a journal of these texts should be preserved, so that time is not wasted each year doing the same essential activity. I have myself corrected papers in Hindi, being an English-medium teacher. Proper infrastructure needs to be built to address this issue.”
The average grade point of a course is roughly a seven, while all the Hindi-medium students I spoke to had a grade point of a five or less. Their internal marks suffer too because of lack of literature for them to write papers and assignments. It is also important to highlight that many students used to score well in their schools. Menka* says, “Engineering mein ho gaya tha admission, lekin maine ye 10th mein padha tha aur mujhe accha lagta tha, toh main vo chhor ke yahan aa gayi. (I got admission in an engineering college, but I had studied this subject in 10th grade, so I left engineering and came to this college).” However, her marks too dropped since she started her course.
Lectures do need to happen in English, because many students come to the university from across the country, like from Bengal, Chennai, Mizoram etc. and they might not have a good hand over Hindi. However, if these students are admitted to a college under the assurance that their medium of giving the exam will be Hindi, they need to be provided with an adequate facility for the same.
An academic plan needs to be designed keeping in mind the needs of these students. A possible solution is that in every lecture, the teachers can spare ten minutes, in the end, to quickly summarise in Hindi what she/he taught.
Thankfully, LSR’s Student’s Union 2017-2018 has made an effort to resolve this issue. A translation committee has been set up to help the concerned students. It aims to make updates (like those on WhatsApp class groups which are usually only in English), opportunities and study materials more accessible to the student body by tackling the linguistic barriers. Attempts to counter this problem can be seen and are appreciated. While the committee has solved one problem, here’s hoping that the college will make more efforts in the future for the same. Baby steps like these will help these Hindi-medium students overcome their plight in the current system.
*Names have been changed