English medium education weakens India. The PISA test proved it

It is no secret why the British replaced the indigenous education system and Sanskrit gurukuls with English education. They wanted to create a class of Indians who think like the British and in this way weaken India. Sanskrit culture und Vedic knowledge were the backbone of Indians. This backbone had to be broken. English medium education did it to a great extent. Indians were cut off from their precious tradition, and they had to study in a completely foreign language, as if this was an easy thing to do. Somehow, the children of the tiny elite managed. They were motivated to make it into colonial government jobs and English was the only gateway. Naturally, these westernised students and their offspring, who had no roots anymore in their own culture, influenced the future of independent India in a big way.

So it is no surprise that even after Independence, English medium in higher education and in the ‘better schools’ which were often run by missionaries continued with the argument that English is the necessary link-language between the states. It was in the interest of this elite and the Churches to continue with the status quo, where jobs at the top require fluency in English, as for this tiny minority, English is their mother tongue. They are not fluent in the language of the region where they were born. And they are still successful in convincing the policy makers that English medium is the way to go in education – to the detriment of India.

There is no doubt that Indian children are intelligent – in all likelihood more intelligent than their western counterparts. An NRI based in Seattle and Gurugram, Sankrant Sanu, tested the intelligence of Indian and American children via a non-verbal IQ test. Village children (from Haryana) came out on top. They outperformed their peers in Delhi and in the US. In one village over 30 per cent scored over 90th percentile which means that out of 100 Indian children over 30 were as intelligent as the topmost 10 out of 100 American children. It was an extraordinary result.

Yet in 2009, India got a severe shock, which should have woken her up, but this wake-up call was not heeded. For the first time, India took part in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Secretariat (OECD). Around half a million 15- year old students from 74 countries were tested for two hours in maths, science and reading skills. Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu students were chosen to take part, as these states were doing well in education.

When the results were out, there was celebration in Asia. Asian countries were leading the list and had much higher ranks than Europe or USA – with one shocking exception: India came on rank 73 – second last, beating only Kyrgyzstan. The best Himachal kids were 100 points lower than their average peers in Singapore and 250 points lower than the top performers. It was a huge embarrassment. Indian experts explained that the students faced ‘language difficulty’. It was true. The problem was the language. The tests were held in the mother tongue of the respective countries: German in Germany, Japanese in Japan, but English in India. Yet there was no serious introspection.

Ever since, India did not take part in the 3-yearly PISA test, but in 2021 Kendra Vidyalayas are expected to take part – again students in English medium. There is probably the hope that those students will do better, as their parents, being in government service, are likely to speak good English. Yet is this representative for India? Is it not cheating India?

Being German, I know that fluency in English doesn’t come easy. But when I sometimes advocated that Indians should study in their mother tongue including in higher education, there was always opposition from Indians fluent in English. They don’t seem to get the difference between studying in English medium and studying English as a subject. Nobody advocates not learning English. But having to read textbooks, question papers, and write essays in an alien language is too much for students and the PISA study proved the obvious.

If we need more proof, we only need to look to certain European countries today to realise that students don’t do well if they don’t understand the language. Sweden and Germany had a significant drop in their ranking in the latest PISA test in 2015, and I dare to predict that Germany will drop even further in 2018. The reason is simple: even after a year of intensive German language classes for migrant children, these children don’t speak German well enough to be good in their studies.

These migrant children at least attend German lessons for one year before they can join the regular classes. In India, children from homes where parents don’t speak any English are put into English medium schools with no preparation whatsoever. This is a disaster. I really wonder how this can be allowed. It should be obvious that it is a huge blunder. Yet it is not only allowed but was even encouraged: Under the previous government, millions of students changed from government schools to third-rate, private ‘English’ schools, which popped up everywhere. This craze for ‘English schools’ may have been deliberately fanned by interests who don’t want a strong India, for example the Church. Parents, who do not know English, were made to believe that “English school” is the best for their children.

It is not the best but the worst. Where in the world would children be sent to a school where the teachers speak in a foreign language? Just imagine the plight of the kids. They learn to spell and can read after a while, but they don’t know the meaning of what they read. They will be left in a limbo: they are neither good in English, nor in their mother tongue. And they will dread going to schools. Forget about a happy childhood where it is fun to learn. It is a perfect recipe for teaching in vain, because no learning happens.

Any surprise that even in 5th standard, kids cannot form simple English sentences and just stare at their textbooks when their parents tell them ‘to study’. They may not miss much if they don’t understand their social study or history books, because the content is often not worth learning. But the situation is serious when it gets to maths and science. Kids cannot solve even the simplest of tasks in maths like: “put the numbers in ascending order”. The textbook authors cannot imagine that the instruction is not clear, but if you don’t know English: put, number, order, ascending… all this is a mystery. Naturally the children lose self-confidence.

Yet India is huge and the majority of people managed to keep their culture and India’s strength alive and their innate intelligence and competence intact. Their children went to schools where mother tongue was the medium of instruction. They understood what they read and could freely express themselves.

It would be interesting to find out, how many ISRO scientists, or generally students in the science and maths stream had studied till 12th class in their mother tongue. It may well be the majority. It would also be interesting to find out how students from Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, who attend vernacular schools, fare in the PISA test. They surely would not be at the bottom of the ranking list.

Indians have brains and the world knows it. But in English medium their great potential is suppressed and not tapped. Except for the tiny minority who speak English at home, the great majority of Indian students are at a huge disadvantage compared to students in other countries. It is a huge disadvantage also for India.

Isn’t it about time to phase out this colonial hangover of English medium schools? The argument that English is needed as link language is no argument in favour of English MEDIUM. Why can’t Indian students learn English like students all over the world do – as a subject? Sanskrit, too, needs to be revived in a big way to open up the treasure that is hidden in the Vedic texts. The value of Sanskrit is recognised all over the world. It is the most perfect language, and especially suitable in fields like IT. It has strength, dignity, beauty. It develops the brain and improves the character. Indians have a great advantage here, as their regional languages are connected with Sanskrit and it is much easier for them to learn it. It is truly incomprehensible why Sanskrit was sidelined – of all places in India.

Even Sanskrit medium education would be much easier than English medium and far more beneficial for an all-round development of the students. It would be worthwhile to find out whether in the long run, Sanskrit can be introduced as the medium in education. It is not yet too late to give Sanskrit another chance.

Imagine if India had IITs and IIMs in Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi… The technical terms could be sourced from Sanskrit and would be the same all over India. Students would have an advantage in many fields, for example in artificial intelligence, which is an important issue today. They would be free from the burden of English textbooks, and could freely express themselves. There is a lot of talk about “the right to freedom of expression”.  Yet the greatest curb on freedom of expression is ignored. It happens in English medium education all over India. Students cannot say what they want to say, because they lack the vocabulary. Those, who have a natural talent for languages, can become translators, and translation apps, too, can be used to facilitate communication.

Committees have been instituted, who look into improving the education, yet they deal mostly with the content. But what is the use of good content when the students don’t understand it? The most important issue is the language issue. This needs to be sorted out first. Suggestions exist, for example in “The English Medium Myth”, which are worth considering. The result of the PISA test, too, must be analysed honestly and consequences be drawn.

Before Muslim invaders destroyed the centers of learning, India was known as a knowledge hub. She was the Vishwaguru. To reach this status again, common sense demands that students need to understand what they are taught. It means they need to study in their mother tongue. Further, Sanskrit should be taught right from the start as it optimally develops the child’s potential.

Let there also be some international schools and courses at universities in English medium for expats or those who want to go abroad, like in European countries.

If even tiny Denmark and Israel manage to teach higher education in their mother tongue, surely the big Indian states will be capable to do this and translate the existing syllabus or even better, source new material including for higher studies. Only then justice is done to the great potential of Indian youth. Only then India will truly shine.

By Maria Wirth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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33 comments

  1. Ma’am , agree with u whole heartedly. Importance of English is and should be as a medium of communication, as the imperialism has made that a common language the world over and therefore as u have said English needs to continue as a subject.

  2. Neelakanta.iyer · · Reply

    Excellent

    Thank you

  3. It is a one sided view. You have decide what to prove
    and then marshal facts to prove it. Some of the facts advanced are half baked, others incongruent and still others hotch poch. If the Chinese are doing it or the Russians has nothing to do with conditions obtaining in India. Knowledge has no colour and research is universal. There are indeed certain aspects of life – art forms, cusine, even healing systems, social systems which have evolved from people’s surroundings and hence their fullest expression and understanding could best be in local language. India has too many of them. There are efforts on the contrarary to find a single language, Hindi (which unfortunately has not found pan India acceptance) from other languages. The country needs one ego a joint ego and that maybe found in the use of Hindi. However in the study of modern science, technology, international relations, current modern art forms why should Indians be deprived of exposure to the best from all parts of the country.

    The argument that British colonisers thrust English to subjugate the country and and make it remain subservient to the colonisers is partly correct. The rapacious of the British was not limited to language but many other ways of suppressing local business, trade , industry and indigenous knowledge but on the balance English language has given Indians Indians a semi global sensibilities, access to the best in many fields and knowledge areas and has become the language of discourse and necessary for individual’s development.

    If we were to free India to have 30 languages and 2500 dialects it would become chaotic. The real problem of the country is that 32 crore people matter and the rest 100 crores do not. To pull the 100 crores out of their misery, subhuman living conditions and a modicum of respect as human beings the use of language as a means of their upliftment and development is misplaced. But it does not mean suppression of a child’s native language?

  4. Some one really smart said it – “If there should be a conference among the most imaginative minds they will agree that almost all institution of learning are only nurseries of prejudice, corruption, barbarism and pedantry.”

    Not only India is suffering from it, but the whole world. So instead of complaining about what we cannot change we can concentrate on what we can change and that is the individual effort of elevating the soul.
    Namaste,

    http://www.vjsingh.info/books.html

  5. N. Ganapathy · · Reply

    It is a revealing article. The introduction of Teaching English served two purposes.

    1. Break the the cultural back bone of India by rendering Sanskrit obsolete, thereby make the vast ancient literature on, Vedic Science, Mathematics, Architecture, Astronomy, Chemistry etc., inaccessible to would be scholars.
    2. Prepare clerks and bureaucrats, who can speak and write in English to serve the Raj.
    3. To facilitate the spread of evangelism.

  6. True Maria ji…… Isolating Indians from their wisdom by means denying their language of choice to learn and prevent them from obtaining the education in traditional way by hook or by crook was the strategy of English people. In fact, the English were succeeded to spread English 80% in urban area of elite people but 100% failed in rural area in their time. Indian politicians (of course the Great Congress), after freedom took the responsibilities from their predecessor to complete this incomplete job of spreading English across India. We were told to hate our own history and praise the English and their so called legends. Thanks to Congress for their continuous slavery support to British after freedom.

    Sadly we lost lot of our traditional values and education systems. No idea how many of them can be regained. When entire World looks at India with an amaze look that how this country survives in spite of so many invasion of external religions and attack by own politicians internally, we shamelessly follow Western culture. It is because of solidity of Sanatana Dharma in its core values and with its contemporary approach towards humans in general and precise use of language called Samskritam, the all-time best language to learn.

    Starting to learning this language and using it in day-to-day life, is the only solution to restore the values of this great country, I personally believe and recommend.

    Once again, thanks to Maria ji for her relentless work for propagating Sanatan Dharma and its core values. We owe you a lot Maria ji…..

  7. Reblogged this on Floodout Your View and commented:
    She supports my thought process……. Thanks Maria ji.

  8. India has more English speakers than Great Britain and most of them are polyglots and yet India is unable to provide equal education regardless the medium of instruction through transcription,transliteration and translation. Most world languages have modified their alphabets and use most modern alphabet in writings. Vedic Sanskrit alphabet have been modified to Devanagari and to simplest Gujanagari(Gujarati) script and yet Hindi is taught in a very printing ink wasting complex,non cursive script to millions of children in India. Why not adopt a simple script at national level?
    Indian states can retain their languages,scripts and culture by teaching highly propagated Hindi/Sanskrit in regional scripts to impart technical education through a script converter or in India s simplest Gujanagari script along with a Roman script to revive Brahmi script.
    Maharashtra has lost Modi script in 1950 in order to teach three languages in one script. Bihar also has lost Bhojapuri(Kaithi) script in 1894.
    Westerners were able to simplify Brahmi script to their proper use but Sanskrit pundits ended up creating complex script by adding lines and matras on letters.These pundits also have divided India further by creating various complex scripts for regional languages/dialects under different rulers.
    ancientscripts.com – Ancient Scripts: Brahmi
    https://www.omniglot.com/writing/brahmi.htm
    Nagari Lipi Parishad prefers Nagari script for all Indian languages despite it’s simplification to cursive Gujanagari for faster writings.

  9. India is not listed in Results by Country
    http://www.oecd.org/pisa/

    1. it’s listed under Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Shanghai is also listed separately, not as China

      1. Did you check 2009?

      2. I can’t find you may post a link.

  10. RC Tripathi · · Reply

    Superb. Excellent exposition of the subject.

  11. Еlas prosperam porԛue os clientes as аmam.

  12. Viewers may read this article.
    Sanskrit is dead, killed by Brahmins with great effor
    thttp://www.milligazette.com/news/11983-sanskrit-is-dead-killed-by-brahmins-with-great-effort

  13. German language can be taught better to migrant people in this IPA to TS transliteration scheme.
    IPA to TS Vowel Transliteration Scheme:
    ə,ʌ,ɑ̈,ɪ,ɪ̈,ʊ,uː,ɛ,æ,æʊ,ɑ̈ʊ,ɑ̈ɪ,ɔ,o,ɝ,ɚ,ɒ/ɑ̈ or ɔ
    à,á,ä,i,ï,u,ü,e,ă,ău,äu,äi,ŏ,o,àr,àr,ɒ/ä or ŏ diacritic
    a,a,aa,i,ii,u,uu,e,ae,aeu,aau,aai,aw,o,ar,ar,ɒ/aa or aw….spell able

    https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/saundspel/conversations/messages/73447

  14. Exactly what was on my mind.
    I launched a non-profit startup to localize online educational content, watch the intro : https://youtu.be/9-GNy9cZMao

    “Ideas must be taught in the language of people” – Swami Vivekananda.

  15. Parents, who do not know English, were made to believe that “English school” is the best for their children.

    I have seen many (hundreds) Indian parents who believe that English school is best for their children, but I have never ever met a single parent who was “made to believe” so by nefarious forces. The parents themselves are the ones who believe so. I don’t know if I can blame them. They see that people fluent in English do exceptionally well at their jobs, make plenty of money, and achieve high social-status. That is exactly what they want for their own children and so they want them taught in English medium.

    There is a temple in J&K that attracts the second highest number of devotees in all of India- Vaishno Devi. The reason why the temple is so popular is not because something really exceptional happened there, but because Hindus have been made to believe that whatever wishes one asks for at this temple, are certainly fulfilled. So you would think that Hindus who go there ask for the fulfillment of some truly hard wishes, e.g. some spare time out of their busy schedule to study Hindu scriptures, or learn Arts, etc. But no, they ask instead for high paying jobs whether at home or abroad, their businesses to prosper, their adult children to get married into decent families (read: financially well off families), etc etc.

    And that is unlikely to change. You mentioned that Indian children are very intelligent. Well, their parents are quite smart too. They figured out 3 decades ago, when I was growing up, and many even before I was born, that the Goddess of Vaishno Devi helps those who help themselves, and more importantly, that the best way to help oneself was to work towards fluency in English.

    I see no chance of driving people away from English in subjects like Maths and Sciences, or in fields like Medicine, Engineering, etc, because 1) THAT is where the good paying jobs are, 2) A huge English based infrastructure already exists there, and 3) An English language work culture already exists there.

    It is however possible to convince people 1) to study multiple languages, and 2) to employ local languages where high paying jobs are NOT involved, e.g, social services, local government, Arts, religion, culture, local news, etc. The dubbing idea presented by zanynik in a previous comment also is great.

    Once convinced, people can be encouraged to demand all services in local languages, especially from large private businesses. Who knows, the businesses with high paying jobs may see a trend and may start accommodating regional/local languages at their workplace. Once that happens, only then will people become open to sending children to schools that teach in Indian languages.

  16. Anitha Suseelan.s. · · Reply

    Why Indians r going for English medium? From my experience I will share I am from Kerala I begins my studies in English medium but my grandpa compelled my dad to change the medium so he changed it after my class four and the school to a govt school.after class ten my education is through the medium of English.what happens me is very interesting thing after my marriage I went to North India I applied for teaching job. Everywhere my application rejected as my medium is malayalam written in the school leaving certificate so when thetime come s for their wards they will think themselves what happened to them
    Do not simply blame the people

  17. Netra Daoo · · Reply

    Absolutely true each n every word what you have written. People can’t differentiate between learning in English and learning English as only one subject. You just can’t convince people to educate in mother tongue now so much is the obession with English.

    On the other hand there is mamoth task of translating all content into 36 languages in idia4 to enable mother tongue education..who will do this?

    1. If the will is there, it surely is possible.

  18. Manoj Agrawal · · Reply

    Wow u r right and hats off to Ur writing

  19. sayingasitis · · Reply

    Beautiful Maria! We’re fortunate to have you on our soil, who despite being a foreigner by birth, chose to live & dedicate her life to invoke our pride in our own great legacy and uplift the confidence of millions who don’t even know how great our land was…& can be! :))

  20. Jayesh A Patel · · Reply

    Those who speak English (Indians) will always be 5 years behind the English….Gandhi

  21. I agree that education in English medium has stunted our intellectual growth and eating away our Indian culture and values.

  22. […] via English medium education weakens India. The PISA test proved it […]

  23. Then why did this writer write in ENGLISH. Why did all the supporters of this article not call for re-instating the pure Indian language “SANSKRIT” back to our school syllabus again. All these supporters of Maria the nutcase, should go back to our traditional bullock cart age and close down every educational institute teaching english as a medium of communication. I am holding back further comments as it is not worth discussing sensibly with most of these artificial pseudo traditionalists and anti-English campaigners purely out of spite.

    1. If don’t write and talk the values of our tradition and richness of Sanskrit in English, how idiots like you will understand? Has anything gone into your hollow skull now?

      We respect English as language (like any other language), it doesn’t mean that we need education in English. Are convinced enough or need so more response from any other visitor here?

  24. the following is a comment by Dr. Radhika Nagrath. i post it for her, as it didn’t show up after her posting it:

    “You have touched the chord of my heart Maria. Very well explored and written is this article. I agree with you fully that most of our children despite having good knowledge fail on account of language burden. I wish Swami Ramdev also reads this article. He is also advocating the same cause through a proposal of introduction Vedic Board in schools just like CBSE and others.”

  25. U are absolutely right… Proud of your writing skills!!

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