The medium of instruction is very important at every level of education and more so during the elementary education as that is the time when a child is exposed to the vast world of knowledge. It is a long held debate in India whether the medium of education should be universally recognized English language or the regional language. There are pros and cons of both the options. While English is important when one grows up and goes into a professional life, regional language has an advantage of being easily understood, thus helping the students grab the right information and understand better. Educationists around the world have debated this issue but to no concrete result.
In India, where there is a multilingual culture, there is not one accepted medium of instruction. Though Hindi is considered the national language but it is not spoken in many parts of India like South India and East India. There are other regional languages. Thus, many state-run schools follow the language of their region to impart education. However, in urban India, English is the preferred medium of education for obvious reasons. Even people from economically weaker backgrounds and those who do not speak English themselves prefer to send their children to English-medium schools.
The prime reason is that English is the preferred medium of higher education and is accepted worldwide. There are no good professional courses available in regional languages. Thus, it is believed those who study in regional languages tend to lag behind those who have studied in the English language. Worldwide, studies have been conducted to show which medium is better. Purists reckon that language is not just a means of communication but also a cultural window which introduces one to the social and intellectual surroundings. And language development leads to educational development, which in turn leads to national development.
Till a long time, the medium of instruction in India was the dominant regional language from primary to the high school level. English was only introduced as a subject after the primary level. English as a medium of education throughout schooling was only found in a few schools but that starting changing slowly. Soon, English was directly related to being forward-looking, modern and developed. This trend worked in the favor of many but gave inferiority complex to a lot others. People who could not speak or understand English started feeling that they were no good. The point is highly debatable. Acquiring knowledge, as such, doesnt need only one particular language.
There was a study conducted in the US in Ramirez et al in 1991 with 2352 students. The study compared three sets of spanish-speaking minority students. The first set had studied only through the English medium, the second group had started education in the Spanish medium but switched to English in one or two years, while the third group started education in the Spanish medium and switched to English after four to six years. The three groups were then tested to find out which group showed the best results in English and in educational achievement in general. Contrary to the popular belief, the third group showed the best results while the other two groups were falling way behind.
This completely quashes the accepted conviction that English is the best medium of instruction. In fact, for children who do not speak English at home find it very hard to grab concepts in an alien language. Then, the pressure doubles on them as they are expected to learn a foreign language with the concepts simultaneously. On the other hand, if they receive the same learning in the language that they are comfortable in, it becomes much easier and convenient to understand the subject.
However, when it comes to higher education, English medium is a must. It is foolish to think that streams like Engineering, Medical, MBA or any technical course can be imparted in a regional language. The first problem is acceptability and the second is terminology. There are not enough terms in the regional languages that can define the usages in these fields. Also, even if one were to get this education in the regional language, he/she cannot use it professionally as the whole world does no understand the same language and they end up becoming misfits.
In India, Tamil Nadu is the one state where some universities offer professional courses in Tamil medium. For instance, Madurai Kamraj University offers many courses in the Tamil medium through distance learning programmes. It offers Postgraduate Diploma in Labour Law & Administrative Law and Postgraduate Diploma in Information & Communication Laws in the Tamil medium. In addition to this, Algappa University offers BA (History) and BBA in the Tamil language. But if one does a college search or a university search to find courses in vernacular medium, there are not many choices which speak volumes about the relevance of such a thing. In todays competitive world, it is advisable to get higher education in the English language and prepare a base for it from school only. Regional language as a medium of instruction should be used only till the primary level.