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[RSTV Archive] B. Tech in Regional Languages

In a country as culturally and regionally diverse as India, it has often been noticed that a considerable number of bright students are either sceptical or don’t opt for the Engineering degree in college for the fear and apprehension of not understanding the English language effortlessly.

Who are Engineers, btw?

  • Engineers are people who solve problems and focus on making things work more efficiently and effectively.
  • They apply the theories and principles of science and mathematics to research and develop economical solutions to technical problems.
  • Their work is the link between perceived social needs and commercial applications.

Engineering in Regional Languages

  • In total14 Engineering Colleges in the country will now begin to offer various courses in regional languages.
  • These colleges have secured permission from the All-India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) to collectively admit over 1,000 students in UG programmes that will be taught in regional languages.

Why debate this issue?

  • It’s been a subject matter of debate ever since the proposal was made for technical education in regional languages.
  • We shall talk about the potential challenges that students of these courses could face in their education ahead and careers.

Regional languages for the courses

  • At least half of them, four from Uttar Pradesh, two from Rajasthan and one each from Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand will teach in Hindi.
  • The remaining colleges from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu will offer the programme in Telugu, Marathi, Bengali and Tamil, respectively.

Criteria for the colleges

  • The AICTE has put very stringent conditions on those aiming to launch the courses.
  • The colleges need to be accredited by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) and should be among top ranked in their respective states.
  • They can start with either the batch size of 30 or 60. The priority would be granted to autonomous institutions fulfilling all the criteria.
  • They would have an option to either appoint another set of teachers who can teach in regional languages or train the existing ones, which would be much easier.

Benefits offered by the move

  • Language promotion: This move will promote regional language as the mode of delivering education.
  • Breaking the regional divide: High school dropout has been mainly caused by consistent failure to clear English language paper in India. The move would help aspirants, particularly from rural and tribal areas, to realize their dreams.
  • Better learning: Learning in their mother tongue helps the students to grasp the fundamentals more readily. It improves the cognitive abilities of students and also boosts their self-confidence.
  • Ensuring equal opportunity: This step will ensure that no students face discrimination in higher education institutes due to the language barrier.
  • Skill development: Vernacular language when combined with skill development helps develop professionals who can transform the country from the grassroots.
  • Technology solutions: At job level the engineers often have to deal with the workers in regional languages so it will be an added advantage.

Major challenges

Imparting technical education in one’s mother tongue can be a challenging task at the initial stage because of multiple reasons.

  • Strict criteria: The criterion laid by the AICTE are somewhat difficult for institutions to acquire in short span of time.
  • Curriculum translation: Making study material available in regional languages is toughest challenge. There had been no attempt in the past to translate engineering subjects (quiet often authored by foreign authors).
  • Faculty issues: The teachers must have a strong command over their mother tongue and must have the ability to easily communicate in the same language that they are teaching. This cannot be achieved overnight at such a short notice.
  • Limited domain: The option, however, would be available for undergraduate courses and is limited for traditional branches like mechanical, engineering, civil, electrical and others. It is impossible to practice software coding in regional languages.
  • Employability challenges: There is a big question that arises regarding their employability in the era of globalization. It has been observed that many companies prefer hiring individuals with English speaking skills irrespective of their academic performance.

Various moves by AICTE

  • AICTE has been constantly putting in all the necessary efforts to make this move successful and hassle-free for students and institutions.
  • They are offering course materials in all the above-mentioned regional languages and are translating courses taught under the Swayam platform.
  • They are also appointing a new set of teachers who have a stronghold in regional languages and can teach in the same without difficulty.
  • It has also been decided that the examinations will be conducted in the language preferred by the student.
  • The institutions have also been advised to make the necessary provisions for compulsory graded courses in English to make sure that the students are good with the language before they enter the corporate world.

Feasibility check: Good or Bad Decision?

(1) English offers more ease

  • Countries like Germany, Japan, China are homogenous societies (speaking one language mostly) and secondly, India cannot be equated with them. India is entire Europe.
  • Even in these homogeneous societies, many institutions have started moving to English now, seeing the disadvantages they are facing.
  • They are learning from us. Not sure if there is an equivalent of India in the world. India is Europe, roughly in terms of languages or land area.

(2) English no more a barrier

  • India has produced C V Ramans, J C Boses, Meghanad Sahas earlier. It has also produced institution builders such as Bhabhas, Ramannas and Bhatnagars.
  • Why aren’t we producing people of this calibre right now?  Evolution wise, people are only becoming better.
  • We have brought in so much of bureaucracy into our systems and almost all leadership and Innovation gets scuttled at every stage.

(3) Limits of the knowledge pool

  • IIT education involves integration of a lot of research and open study materials.
  • Students have to read various other books and reference materials which come in English.
  • Offering complete BTech and masters courses in local languages will deprive the students of a vast amount of resource material available in English.

(4) Reforms in vernac school education are long overdue

  • Many state run primary , secondary and higher schools are on the edge of their perish.
  • This is equally true in terms of the quality of education imparted in such schools.
  • It is ironical and distant to dream for UG courses in local languages where the state of school educations is poor.

Way forward

  • The move offers everyone an equal opportunity.
  • Every child who does schooling in local languages must have an opportunity to take JEE Main and JEE Advanced in their local language.
  • JEE Advanced must be conducted in all local languages, where there is a demand.
  • We need to free up our educational institutions from bureaucratic controls and create competition among them by also providing them autonomy.
  • Autonomy and Competition need to go hand in hand.

Need of the hour: Curriculum transformation

  • One of our problems is that, we have never connected our institutions and never engaged them to solve problems of the society/country.
  • The less practical syllabus has to do away for more real life applications of engineering.
  • So it’s the overall system in the country to blame for our plight and not our educational institutions or instruction in English.

Conclusion  

  • Overall, it’s a welcome step that is going to enhance the learning outcome which is very important as per the vision of new education policy.
  • Dr A P J Abdul Kalam truly believed that science education should be imparted to students in vernacular language to nurture creativity and help them understand the subject easily.
  • However, multidisciplinary institutions and autonomy, as articulated in NEP, are the need of the hour.
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