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UGC Encourages Universities to Embrace Local Languages in Higher Education

Allowing candidates to write exams in local languages for courses taught in English can increase access to GER, says UGC chairman M Jagadesh Kumar

Education Post10 July 2023 08:42

UGC Encourages Universities to Embrace Local Languages in Higher Education

Representation Image: University Grants Commission

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued a directive to universities, urging them to allow students to write exams in local languages, even if the courses are offered in English medium. Now this move has sparked discussions that, how higher educational institutions (HEIs) can effectively implement this policy and address the practical and pedagogical challenges it presents.

Recognizing HEIs as key facilitators of the teaching-learning process in mother tongue or local languages, the UGC emphasizes the important role that, this initiative can play in preparing textbooks in indigenous languages. The commission is calling on universities to strengthen their efforts in promoting inclusive education.

M Jagadesh Kumar, Chairman of the UGC, said that a letter was sent to all vice-chancellors of universities and state higher education secretaries on April 19, 2023, outlining the key points to encourage education in mother tongues or local languages. To assist universities in making study materials available in local languages, the UGC is working on providing better guidance and feasible translation tools at the central and state level. In the beginning, the UGC initiated the translation of textbooks into 12 Indian languages, aiming towards breaking language barriers in the learning process.

Kumar further highlights the requirements universities must fulfill to support this initiative. They are expected to provide quantitative data on their translational needs, their approach to translating course materials, the availability of subject experts for writing textbooks in local languages, and the number of faculty and scholars available for translation work.

Addressing concerns about potential disparities for students from different linguistic backgrounds, Kumar clarifies that the primary objective of this initiative aligns with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which emphasizes the promotion of Indian languages in higher education. By encouraging the usage of local languages as a medium of instruction, the UGC aims to improve access, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), and the vibrancy of all Indian languages. The current dominance of English medium instruction in most HEIs hampers the learning process for students who are not proficient in English, impeding their ability to express ideas and respond effectively.

Kumar emphasizes the importance of encouraging students to learn English as a communication tool while utilizing their mother tongue to understand and acquire new knowledge. While acknowledging the challenges of indigenizing the curriculum, the UGC is collaborating with vice-chancellors from universities nationwide to identify gaps in the availability of textbooks in Indian languages.

Universities will then seek out subject experts who can translate existing English texts into Indian languages or create original textbooks. Students can utilize these books in English medium courses whenever they need assistance following the English textbooks. By enabling students to write exams in local languages, even if the medium of instruction is English, the UGC aims to enhance their confidence in providing answers without the fear of relying solely on English. Universities have the autonomy to decide which programs to adopt in local languages and which to teach in English. Over time, with joint efforts from the UGC and universities, the psychological barrier associated with local languages as a medium of instruction is expected to diminish.

As the UGC pushes for the adoption of local languages in higher education, the focus on inclusive and accessible learning aims to benefit students from diverse linguistic backgrounds, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and vibrant educational landscape in India.

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