|Mahatma Gandhi Album|
Curse of Foreign Medium of Instruction
by Dr. Jyotsna Kamat
Mahatma Gandhi had his own approach on various aspects of Indian life including education. He firmly believed that vernaculars or native languages of India should be the medium of instruction in schools. Several people disagreed. For them English language was the only window to knowledge and to the outside world. There was a comment in "Times of India" (then owned by a British Company), that right from Rajaram Mohan Roy down to Gandhi, every one of the Indians, who have achieved anything worth mentioning in any direction, was or is the fruit of directly or indirectly, of western education.
This evoked a reply from Gandhi. No one could dispute the importance or influence of western education and culture, he felt. "What is resented is the sacrifice of Indian or Eastern culture at the altar of the Western. Even if it could be proved that Western culture was superior to Eastern, it would be injurious to India as a whole, for her most promising sons and daughters to be brought up in western culture and thus become denationalized and torn from the people" (masses).
Gandhi felt that the achievement of his contemporaries was due to the retention of their native culture, in spite of western influence. Gandhi acknowledged his debt to western culture, but insisted that whatever he was able to achieve was due to this retention of native traits. Otherwise "I should have been thoroughly useless, to the masses as an anglicized, denationalized person, caring less or despising Indian ways, habits thoughts and aspirations. If the children were not rooted in their culture and had not imbibed the thoughts and habits of their homeland, it was a great loss", he wrote.
"Would Chaitanya, Nanak, Kabir, Tulsidas and host of other reformers have done better if they had been attached from their childhood, to the most efficiently managed English schools? Would Dayanada (Saraswati) have done better if he were an M.A. of an Indian University? No raja or maharaja brought up from their infancy, under western culture could be named under the same breath as Shivaji"-- Gandhi remarked.
Many of the royals or rajas and maharajas of different native states of Gandhi's time, were made foreigners in their own land. They spent a lot of time in Europe instead of being in India and caring for miseries of their subjects. They arranged hunting parties (shikar) for the British and spent time in sports and artistic pursuits. (see: Princely States)
Gandhi's objection was not for imbibing western knowledge. It was for English language as medium of instruction. Much of the energy of youngsters was spent in learning a foreign language, neglecting their own mother tongue and literature, he felt.
For Gandhi – language was an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers. Imposition of a foreign media was a great evil. He felt, English medium of instruction and communication sapped the energy of the nation. It estranged students from masses and made education unnecessarily expensive.
Alas! things have worsened in Independent India. Craze for English language as as medium of instruction went on increasing. Now due to globalization, English (now Americanized) language is the only 'Indian language' eagerly sought after by the parents and students, as a medium of instruction and communication in all the States of India. But this trend at the same time has not helped the young to understand their country or culture better. It has led to aping or monkeying the West in all its apparent ways.
Gandhi's apprehensions came true in India after seventy five years.
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