NEP and improving education quality in tribal areas

The focus on mother tongue in the National Education Policy 2020 has been widely discussed and welcomed too.

Published: 11th August 2020 07:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th August 2020 07:36 AM   |  A+A-

Tribal kids at a govt residential school in Jawadhu Hills | file photo

The focus on mother tongue in the National Education Policy 2020 has been widely discussed and welcomed too. Home language/mother tongue or the local language will remain the medium of instruction for students up to Grade 5 wherever possible, preferably beyond it till Grade 8 and even going forward, and the policy says that it may continue to be taught as a language after that too.

While the three-language formula and the place of English as a medium of instruction continue to be debated, the NEP does lend primacy to education in tribal-dominated areas of the country. Every year, millions of very young students from the indigenous populations are introduced to academics but through a system and curriculum that is almost alien as they do not factor in, or at least make light of their need for, their native language.

According to the mother tongue data provided by the Language Census 2011, there are at least 121 languages in India of which 22 are included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution while 99 are not. The NEP rightly notes that young children grasp nontrivial concepts more quickly in their home language.
It is not as if mother tongue-based education is being discussed for the first time. In 2013, the Women and Child Development Ministry had formulated the National Early Childhood Care and Education Policy under which a curriculum framework was adopted so that the mother tongue or local language will be the part of interaction for children.

Several states with a substantial tribal population have had multilingual education programmes based on mother tongue for the primary classes. But there still exists a gulf because availability of tribal language teachers, training and curriculum development have not been dealt with. According to a World Bank assessment, at least 55% of Indian children are not proficient in reading. That India must remain firm in its focus on improving the quality of education in its tribal heartlands needs no emphasis. The NEP 2020 brings more focus to early childhood education but both the Centre and states must chart out the course through strong intent backed by public investment.


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