Life after 4pm

During my pilgrimage earlier this month, I happened to visit a village called Thingaloor, in the Thiruvayaru district in Tamilnadu (too small to be recognized by Google maps). It is a village of about 50-60 huts and houses the famous Moon temple. I had to walk for about 4Km from the highway to reach the village temple.

Road to Thingaloor

It was a beautiful Friday evening and the children were playing on the streets. As I was walking towards the temple, a group of kids stopped me and wanted me to take a picture of them. I took their picture and we sat down by the fields and the following was our conversation (translated from Tamil, the local language):

Myself: Do you all go to school?

Kids: Yes. We all study at the village school of Thiruvayaru. We are students of class 3 and 4.

Myself: That’s wonderful. So what did you learn at school today?

Kids: We learned to sing some songs, learned the Tamil alphabet and about seasons.

Myself: Very good. What do you do after school?

Kids: We walk back to our village and play in the fields.

Myself: Does your teacher give you any homework?

Kids: What’s that?

Myself (a little shocked): Don’t you have to do some studying after school to revise your lessons?

Kids: Why should we? We learn at school and play at home. Our teacher insists that we should concentrate on our lessons in our class and play after school.  He has never asked us to study. We don’t have our own books to study either.

Myself: So, are you able to remember what your teacher taught you?

Kids: Yes we do. We see what we learn around us. Our teacher taught us about the climate of our district today. Our parents are farmers and we can see and feel it around us. Why do we need a book for that?

Myself: Have you seen or used a computer?

Kids: We’ve seen them in movies. Computers are used by rich people who go to office and are busy. How can small children like us in villages use them? We don’t need computers.

I then showed them a video on seasons on YouTube in my phone. They did like it but felt that it was no big deal as they were in physical contact with what they learn.

Any thoughts?

The group of kids that got me thinking 🙂

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Bilingual Education – My Take

I was having a chat with my brother (also an anxious father) about my nephew’s education. We happened to discuss the importance of language in education. My brother felt that his son should learn the basics of mathematics and science in his mother tongue (Tamil). He stressed the importance of knowing the mother tongue and the need for fluency in the same. Although I agree and appreciate the importance of the mother tongue, I feel that such an education might place the students at a disadvantage when it comes to the global arena. Education in regional languages, I feel, will limit the ability of the students in terms of resources and their ability to interact at a global level with their peers. Since English is the agreed International language for communication, I feel it is only wise to pursue technical education in English.

The problem today is that English receives so much attention that the mother tongue gets sidelined. Some of my friends, born and brought up in Tamilnadu, can neither read nor write in Tamil! Their vocabulary is also very limited, complemented with pathetic grammar.

Parents often become overzealous when it comes to the foreign language that the mother tongue is neglected.

I realized the importance of such a method when I was involved in a social service program with a Government school to train students for their school-final examinations with Tamil as the medium of instruction. I had never studied technical subjects in my mother tongue and took a couple of days to acclimatize myself with their books by comparing and learning the Tamil equivalent for technical terms in English.

On a separate occasion, I was invited to present a guest lecture at my alma mater. I was the second speaker of the day. I noticed that my audience consisted of students whose mother tongue was Tamil and were halfway into snoozeville by the end of the first seminar (a bullet attack). I opened my talk in Tamil and found that I had the audience with me. I spent the next 30 minutes, presenting my talk in English and Tamil. Although my Professor felt it a little unconventional for a guest speaker to be addressing the students in Tamil, my objective was acheived. At the end of my presentation, I had a large group of students with their notebooks, wanting to clarify their doubts and a few of them still do so through phone/mail.

I feel that it is only correct to strike a balance between English and Tamil. Along with making the mother tongue a compulsory subject, inclusion of basic mathematics and science concepts in the language lessons under the prose section would be of great benefit. By doing so, I believe that the students, apart from being introduced to technical terms in their mother tongue, tend to correlate and understand them in a better manner.

What do you think?