Mr Himanta Biswa Sarma, the honourable education minister of Assam, during his speech on Independence Day, addressed the audience and spoke about the reforms he is trying to bring into the education system in the state of Assam for the upliftment of Assamese language.
During the speech, he emphasized the fact that vernacular languages of Assam are not given much importance while teaching in schools. To combat this situation, on similar lines of National Education Policy (2020), he announced that every school, be it private or governmental, in Assam has to teach in mother tongue or any vernacular languages till class V.
He also reiterated the fact of including Assamese as one of the compulsory subjects till class X but has exempted BTAD and Barak Valley, as well as two hill districts administered by the sixth schedule council from this criterion.
A large number of people are applauding this step taken by the government, as this will surely help in the upliftment of the state language. At the same time, some people feel that the sudden transition of teaching language after class V, especially in private schools (English medium), will harm the ability of students to grasp the concepts quickly.
A large number of private schools in Assam prefer English as a language to teach right from class I. As such, most of the teachers in those institutes are habituated to teaching in English as well. This sudden announcement by the minister might result in chaos among the teaching fraternity since they now need to learn regional languages in general and revamp their teaching techniques to suit the situation in particular. All these things demand a sizeable amount of time.
Children are most curious about different things in the early age of their lives, and improperly trained teachers in local languages, if allowed to teach, will have a grievous effect on the student-teacher relation as well as the interaction between them.
The minister has also emphasized the inclusion of the Assamese as a subject compulsorily till class X, as mentioned earlier. But the fact that Assam is a land of many diverse Indian languages should also be noted. While we have a vast Assamese speaking population, we still have a considerable amount of population speaking Hindi, Bhojpuri, Nepali, Bengali, Adivasi, etc. as their mother tongue. The impact, if any, of using Assamese or any other vernacular languages of Assam, in teaching them, should be assessed appropriately.
It is indeed essential to know how to communicate/speak in Assamese being a citizen of Assam. One should feel ashamed of saying that he/she doesn’t know how to speak the language of the state where they have been living since generations. Yet, compulsory inclusion of the same as one of the subjects might harm the performance of those students who are not confident enough while writing in Assamese, as compared to other languages.
The opinion of the public regarding this differs from person to person. Tushar Luitel, a student, says that “Learning to study and communicate in regional language and suddenly after halfway of school life trying to change and adapt to another language may be an obstacle in the learning process. God forbid, if a student becomes somewhat weak in communication in English, his/her personality may degrade in global competition. I just hope that nothing backfires.”
Buddha Jyoti Bezbaruah, who did a master’s degree in Assamese and currently pursuing Mass Communication and Journalism at Tezpur University is of the following opinion:” I feel that this is indeed a great decision. Learning one’s local language is as important as learning English. The students will not miss studying local masterpieces due to lack of Assamese comprehension. In order to carry forward the rich heritage of a language, these types of decisions are indeed essential.”
Since the announcement has been made, it is the duty of the government as well as the school authorities to ensure that the proper approach is taken for implementing the same. They may emphasize on following points:
We all must have studied a chapter named The Last Lesson by Alphonse Daudet. The author narrates events about the year 1870 when France was captured by Bismarck led Prussian forces. Furthermore, the Lorraine and Alsace districts went under Prussian rule. There was the discontinuation of teaching French in these two districts and the language was on the verge of being extinct. This was due to the negligence shown by the people in learning the same and saying that there is always enough time for them to learn it.
Not being aware of one’s regional language and showing reluctance in learning it from heart paves a path for the outsiders to impose their language upon us. Learning the same compulsorily, however, will markedly decrease the chances of others belittling our very own language as well as the culture.
As Alphonse Daudet rightly said, “When people are enslaved, as long as they hold fast to their language it is as if they had the key to their prison.”.
(Images are solely representative in nature)