Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another
Notwithstanding the abysmally low pass percentage of 33.27 in this year's High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) examinations, not many would fail to notice the most heartening feature implicit in the results - the resurgence of vernacular-medium schools! Led by Arijit Phukan of Dikrong HS School of Bihpuria, the first five toppers belong to vernacular-medium schools located outside Guwahati. This is a most significant departure from past results and serve to show that our much maligned vernacular schools are back in the reckoning with a bang! That, despite the obvious handicaps brought about primarily by the ostracism of a section of the urban social elite, almost half of those in the first 20 position-list were educated in vernacular schools, should prove to be an eye-opener to our English-medium school crazy middle class. One hopes that this year's results would slow down the growth of spurious educational institutions which have nothing else to recommend them apart from having English as the medium of instructions. We must bear in mind that lately such schools have begun invading the semi-urban and even rural realm, thereby contributing to the deterioration of school education in the State.
As reiterated by the speakers at a recent function organised by the All Assam Students' Union at Rabindra Bhavan in Guwahati, one's mother-tongue is the best medium of learning at the formative stage of one's life. Not only does familiarity with the language aid and enhance the process of cognition, but it also enkindles natural creativity while enabling an individual to keep in touch with his or her roots. The last of these is equally important, for it is impossible for a person existing in a cultural limbo from living up to full creative potential. It is often forgotten that while learning in an alien language medium one has first to learn the language itself and become familiar with its nuances and idiomatic usages, something that comes spontaneously in the case of the mother-tongue. The dual activity necessitated by English being a medium of instructions more often than not acts as an impediment, and hinders even children of extraordinary intelligence from performing well at school. Sadly, with parents oblivious to the inherent handicaps, the snob value associated with sending one's children to English-medium schools is taking its toll.
This is not, of course, to belittle the role of English in the educational process. Not only does knowledge of English open up a broader cognitive world, it also proves invaluable when a student steps out of school into the sphere of higher education. Moreover, often the medium of instructions by itself is not enough to ensure quality education - factors such as good teachers, facilities including well equipped laboratories and well stocked libraries, as also a salubrious educational environment, too are essential. This is where some of the better known educational institutions in the State having English as the medium of instructions score, and some parents might be excused for assuming that such positive factors outweigh the handicaps. However, if the lack of these tools of quality education are absent in many of the vernacular-medium schools, it is equally so in a majority of the English-medium ones. At the same time, if the ideal blend be teaching in the vernacular with special stress on the teaching of English as a second language, quite a few good schools in the State are striving towards such an objective. With the vernacular-medium schools triumphing in the HSLC examinations, and institutions like the Asam Jatiya Vidyalaya in Guwahati or Balya Bhavan in Jorhat providing the urban child with an opportunity to study at a good vernacular-medium school, one can be sure that, in the near future, urban parents would be deprived of pretexts to send their wards willy nilly to English-medium schools.