As part of the new National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for the foundational stages of education, which was launched by the education minister recently, mother tongue has been recommended as the primary medium of instruction in schools. This would be applicable to children up to eight years of age, for both public and private schools.
According to NCF, research evidence has shown that children learn concepts most rapidly and deeply in their home language, and it is very important to use this as a primary medium of instruction in the foundational stages. English could be one of the second languages taught at that level.
Such a thrust on mother tongue as the medium of instruction in the early grades has continued as a feature of education policies and curriculum frameworks for many years, while recommendations on English have differed over time.
Previous education policies, at least till 1980s, did not contain any specific instructions for prioritising mother tongues. The 1992 Programme of Action first stated that the medium of communication should be the mother tongue or regional language.
On the other hand, the NCF (National Curriculum Framework) has emphasised the importance of mother tongue from the beginning. The first NCF of 1975 clearly said that primary education should be in the mother tongue, as the “most natural medium of communication”. NCF 2000 pronounced the same principle emphatically, and so did NCF 2005, and now NCF 2022 has made this a priority.
Looking at the current situation of ICSE and CBSE schools at the national level, English is the main medium of instruction from primary onwards. Neither of these boards have indicated any possible revision in the current arrangements. Most state boards have regional languages as the main mode of education. However, some states have been taking policy decisions to gradually move to English as the medium of instruction.
In light of the new NCF recommendation, this debate would definitely restart.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.