Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Shedding The Colonial Legacy By Promoting Mother Languages


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Education Policy, International Mother Language Day

Mains level: Significance of Mother Languages


Central idea

  • Former Vice President of India, M Venkaiah Naidu, has emphasized the importance of shedding the colonial legacy in India by promoting and creating content in mother languages. He has pointed out that during the colonial era, the British rulers-imposed English as the language of administration, education, and communication, which led to the neglect of Indian languages.

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International Mother Language Day

  • In November 1999, UNESCO declared February 21 as International Mother Language Day in response to the declining state of many languages all over the world.
  • This year’s theme, “Multilingual education a necessity to transform education,” underscores the importance of using multiple languages in framing an impactful system of education.
  • It is appropriate, therefore, that revitalising languages that are disappearing or are threatened with extinction is one of the themes of Mother Language Day this year

The International Mother Language Day has added significance: Indian context

  • India’s Linguistic heritage: India is an ancient repository of hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects with rich linguistic and cultural diversity. Our languages, which are an integral part of our ancient culture, give us a sense of identity.
  • The threat westernisation poses: The International Mother Language Day has added significance in the Indian context because of the threat westernisation poses to the survival of as many as 42 of our dialects and languages which have fewer than 10,000 users.
  • Grim situation of not having access to education in their mother tongue: The situation is equally grim all over the world with 40 per cent of the speakers of 6,700 languages not having access to education in their mother tongue.


Highlighting the significance of Mother tongue

  • To express deepest feelings: It is in our mother tongue that we express, with authenticity, our, feelings, values and ideals, as also our literary endeavours.
  • Homeland of our innermost thoughts: The former UNESCO Director-General, Koichiro Matsura, highlighted the irreplaceable significance of one’s mother tongue when he observed that the languages, we learn from our mothers are the homeland of our innermost thoughts.
  • Science must be taught in mother tongue: The Nobel Prize-winning Physicist C V Raman said, “We must teach science in our mother tongue. Otherwise, science will become a highbrow activity. It will not be an activity in which all people can participate.”
  • Better performance: A number of studies have shown that children who learn in their mother tongue in their formative years perform better than those taught in an alien language.
  • View of Gandhiji: Writing in Young India in 1921, Mahatma Gandhi spoke with concern, of the strain of the foreign medium which turned “our children into crammers and imitators.” Gandhiji foresaw how “the foreign medium has made our children practically foreigners in their own land.

Colonial legacy

  • It been 75 years, still carrying the colonial legacy: Even as we celebrate Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, to mark 75 years of Independence, we have not been able to shed this colonial legacy of dependence on English.
  • Mother tongue as a second language: Educators and parents continue to accord unquestioned primacy to English and, as a result, the child is compelled to study his or her mother tongue as a second/third language at school.
  • Building barriers in the path of our progress: Our emphasis on English has, ironically, made the educational system exclusive and restrictive. As a result, while limiting the acquisition of knowledge in technical and professional courses, to a select few, we made it inaccessible to a vast majority of our students.


Shedding the colonial legacy

  • The National Education Policy (NEP): The NEP 2020 is a farsighted document which advocates education in one’s mother tongue right from the primary-school level.
  • BTech programmes in 11 native languages: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address in 2021, marking the first anniversary of the National Education Policy (NEP), hailed the AICTE’s landmark decision to permit BTech programmes in 11 native languages.
  • Promotion of mother tongue education in colleges and universities: The UGC has, in a welcome move, written to governors and chief ministers of various states to give a fillip to measures for the promotion of mother tongue education in colleges and universities.
  • For instance: In a survey conducted by AICTE in February last year of over 83,000 students, nearly 44 per cent voted in favour of studying engineering in their mother tongue, highlighting its necessity.
  • Initiative to give prominence to native language: The Centre’s initiative to give prominence to native languages in employment and job creation is a welcome step.
  • Examinations in native languages: It is also heartening that the Staff Selection Commission has decided to conduct examinations in 13 Indian languages in addition to Hindi and English.
  • Supreme court verdicts accessible in all Indian languages: Similarly, the Supreme Court’s decision to make verdicts accessible in all Indian languages is of great significance.



  • NEP’s emphasis on mother tongue as the medium of instruction will instil confidence in students belonging to poor, rural and tribal backgrounds. These steps need to be scaled up at all levels. Moreover, we must hasten the process of content creation in mother languages, especially with respect to technical and professional courses. Leveraging technology will drive development in this respect.

Mains Question

Q. India has rich linguistic diversity. In this backdrop discuss the importance of mother language specifically in education policy.

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