Is the hue and cry for making Malayalam the first language of study and governance seems to be riding on the peripheral while wilfully sidelining the ground realities?

The fact that many of the writers supporting the strike organised by Aikyamalayalam Prasthanam demanding a comprehensive law to make Malayalam the first language had sent their children and grandchildren to English medium school exposes the double standards on the issue.

B. Ekbal, educationalist and former vice-chancellor of Kerala University, told The Hindu on Thursday that he would not like to name those supporting the strike who had printed their children’s wedding cards in English.

“Making Malayalam a classical language alone would not solve the problems. We should realise that Kerala is facing a serious situation where those trained in English medium from the kindergarten level lack proper communication and writing skills in both English and Malayalam. In our times, Malayalam was the medium of instruction up to SSLC and we used to follow the English medium at the college-level. Those generations were able to handle both English and Malayalam effectively,” he said.

Dr. Ekbal reminded those protesting for making Malayalam the first language of study and governance that Malayalam will not survive in the future unless it incorporates the new streams of knowledge like IT.

“People who say that the young generation is moving away from Malayalam should realize that a group of focused youngsters were behind new technology-based projects like Swatantra Malayalam Computing and WikiMalayalam aimed at protecting the language,” he said.

Explaining that there were several hurdles in introducing a uniform curriculum framework across schools in the State, Dr. Ekbal said “We should not forget that State syllabus is much appreciated nationally.” But parents here have this perception that CBSE syllabus remains better compared to the State stream,” he said.

Academic and chairman of the National Curriculum Framework (2005) review committee Yash Pal said there was no harm in teaching Malayalam in CBSE schools. “But it would be difficult for a student coming from outside the State to learn it initially. We could exempt them in the beginning and then provide them time to learn the language later,” he said.

Thomas Joseph, noted academic and former Member Secretary of the Kerala State Higher Education Council, said students should be allowed to pursue their primary education in a language, which he or she feels more comfortable. “For instance, Malayalees settled in Delhi would prefer their children to have Hindi as their mother tongue. We should not let them struggle with the language but they need to struggle with the concepts,” he said.

Prof. Joseph said it was difficult to have a uniform curriculum considering the diversity existing in the educational sector across the country. “We cannot avoid learning English but the choice of mother tongue should not be imposed. The ongoing agitation for making Malayalam the first language lacks conviction. We should actually strive towards implementing a rational approach in teaching and learning process,” he said.

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