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Finally I Found Answer To A Question That Haunted My Mind For Long!

By on Jan 26, 2012 | 16 comments

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I’ve often wondered and written about it on this blog; why do Indians lag in fundamental research. Now fundamental research is all about the research activity in the areas that directly affect common man. Haven’t we all noticed that there are almost no innovations from India since last several decades? It’s even more surprising when you compare it to India’s glorious past. The country that gave the world everything from Zero to Atoms to Atronomy to Medicine to plastic surgery to metallurgy should have been #1 in innovation. But the reality is different.

I think I’ve found my answer in the following video and it just coincides with the thoughts that were hiding somewhere in my brain. I’ve often advocated basic learning in one’s mother tongue. The top innovators are the ones who’ve studied in their own mother tongue! That’s the reason Germany does extremely well in Engineering without needing English and Japanese & South Korea excel in Electronics. Forget everything else – the monster China is exactly doing well – because they are educating their kids in Chinese!

Language is THE Problem!



16 Comments

  1. Vikrant

    January 27, 2012

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    Interesting lecture.

    But English medium schools are here to stay. Suppose a Marathi family working under central government were to go to live in Punjab. If all schools teach in Punjabi , what will the children of the Marathi family learn ? Further what if the job of the family head is such that they have to live in a new state every 3 years ? One could argue that there should be some Hindi medium schools in every state so that there is some Centrality. And that Hindi is very closely related to most of the languages.
    But in 1950s and 1960s the Tamilians were strongly opposed to Hindi. They even threatened to break out of India if Hindi were given such importance. Hence English stayed in India. So people like C Rajagopalachari – no blind follower of Macaulay but a great patriot – said that each language in the world is a form of Saraswati. So people with transferrable jobs have no option but to put their children in English medium schools. (Had Hindi/Sanskrit been non-controversial they would have used these schools)And it is not as if there are no regional language schools in India. Also translations of technical books in mother languages should be available in India for the benefit of some people.
    Countries such as China , Germany and Japan didn’t face these problems as they had one language in their nation. Of course English shouldn’t be associated with superiority. Some idiots think they know English hence they are more civilised.
    All languages are equal.

    And major research in technology is based on mathematical skills. In any case a computer science student will have to learn the language of programming.

    Lack of innovation in our country is not because of language .Problem is with attitude. Indians are more interested in what the neighbor is doing. If a boy wants to do research after Engineering his parents will say “Sharma ji ka beta MBA kar raha hai , usme paisa jyada hai”. In many cases the student themselves want the money coming from MBA. Biggest reason why there is no innovation is because MBA colleges are being filled by Engineers.

  2. The Big K

    January 27, 2012

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    @Vikrant,

    Good points. English medium schools are here to stay. The British education system is here to stay at least for a decade. But there has to be a way to fight. First, I agree that transferable jobs may create problems. Our best hope is to focus on the majority. Majority of Maharashtrians live in Maharashtra. Majority of Tamilians live in Tamilnadu and so on. I’m talking about offering education in mother tongues to the majority.

    For the transferable jobs – a Marathi family living in Punjab may educate their kid in Punjabi than English. But giving up on what I’d call a ‘basic must’, which is educating in mother tongue should not be abandoned for the sake of minority that chooses to relocate to another region.

    If you compare India with Europe; we’ve very similar ‘division’. Our states are like their countries. Denmark, Germany, Romania, Poland and so on are like the mini-states; with their own culture, language and science.

    My point is, if a Marathi family settles in Germany, the kids get educated in German; not in English. Yet he/she does fine (like they do now).

    We aren’t talking about innovation in technology only. We need more well informed farmers & teachers than space scientists. I’m more interested in fundamental research – that affects the common man.

    ———————————–

    Attitude of Indians isn’t the problem. Actually what I experience is that majority of Indians do not have any attitude at all! The British school system forces peer pressure and inter-personal competition. Their system is based on competition; not cooperation.

    The bitter reality is that the quality of engineers produced in India is very sub-standard. I experience it almost on daily basis. Engineers becoming managers is nothing but a shift from one clerical job to another.

  3. amy

    January 27, 2012

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    Don’t you think that “more or less every state in India has its own language” is the problem for us? Hindi is NOT the official Rashtra Bhasha. The Southern states don’t know Hindi. Which language do you think the education system should use?

  4. Pallavi

    January 27, 2012

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    I absolutely agree with amy. The problem is all with the own languages. I’m staying in Andhra Pradesh. Except Hyderabadi people and Muslims no one knows and speaks Hindi here. Even with Hindi the problem can not be solved. And 99% of schools here are of English Medium and only 1% are of telugu(local language here) medium that too with very less strength. And in this competitive World, How can a parent send his children to that local medium while all the others are going to corporate English medium schools and Even how the child feels? This is how the situation going here.

    • The Big K

      January 27, 2012

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      Pallavi: People fool themselves in the name of ‘competitive world’. If one needs to survive in competitive world, the basic education *has* to be in mother tongue. Give me a reason why a small country like Denmark chooses to teach in Danish? Why is China on its way to becoming super power when they don’t educate their generation in English? Why do most European countries don’t accept English, and yet make a progress?

      It’s the mental slavery that has been enforced on Indians that unless we speak English, we can’t survive in competition.

      PS: I studied in Marathi & I don’t think I’m behind the ‘competition’. Heck, I’ve the guts to reject the damn competition.

      • Pallavi

        January 27, 2012

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        Yes, you are right. It’s all about people’s opinion. But Bigk, Keep Schooling in mother tongue aside, these days no parent even want to send their children to the normal English Medium schools, they want Sri Chaitanya, Bhasyam, Vikas, Vignan so on. I don’t know how the *Corporate* word is ruling. As you mentioned in your previous posts, parents want their children to speak fluently in English and have to get good ranks and seats in the top reputed colleges. And they also comparing their children with their relatives children who stays in the foreign countries. So they are not convincing with the local schools and local mediums. Is there any local medium school offering good ranks or atleast says the words “We can compete with the Corporate schools”? If they can, Parents will sure join their children in those local medium schools. But no where no school is doing so. I know even the students from the local medium background are getting good ranks, but we always looks for the word Majority.

        And yeah, Indians feels that if they can’t speak good English, they can’t compete. Usually people always fear about their weak points. And our Indians are poor at English as it is not our language. So either by fear or by competition parents are not compromising and convincing.

        Even my parents always says that the local medium students like them get good knowledge compared to English medium students. They know the point. But why did they joined me in English medium? Because they wanted their child to compete with the good students and with good Knowledge. And they know how the teaching varies.

        PS : No doubt, you are at the top. But it’s not with one or two. We usually speak about the Majority.

        • The Big K

          January 29, 2012

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          “Because they wanted their child to compete with the good students and with good Knowledge. And they know how the teaching varies.”
          —-

          That’s the reason I’m saying Indians suffer mental slavery. Why is it taken for granted that ‘good students’ are the ones who speak English? I agree that there may not be *good* schools that teach in local languages. But that’s the issue that needs to be addressed by the ‘educated’ ones.

          Ever wondered why India, even with its IITs, IIMs, Medical Schools lack in innovating?

          “Because we don’t have enough infrastructure & money” is a totally crappy reason.

          • Pallavi

            January 29, 2012

            “Why is it taken for granted that ‘good students’ are the ones who speak English?”

            No, I’m not saying all the good students are the ones who speak English. What I mean is English medium students looks better, reads better, behaves better than the local medium students here. I’m just saying by looking around my place. Compared to Local medium schools, English medium schools teaches good discipline, good language, good knowledge, good competition but I won’t say good attitude because local medium schools gives good attitude to the students, that I came to know.


            “I agree that there may not be *good* schools that teach in local languages. But that’s the issue that needs to be addressed by the ‘educated’ ones.”

            What to do then? Every parent wants their child to grow in a good school with good competition. There are no good schools and no good competition in local medium. And they know that again their child has to move to English medium to gain Graduation, Post Graduation and so on. May be they don’t want their child to suffer. Hence, Exceptionally they’ll join their child in English medium.


            “Ever wondered why India, even with its IITs, IIMs, Medical Schools lack in innovating?”

            There are many reasons. One of the reasons is – there is no much encouragement for students to do/to think other than academics in most of the colleges. They want percentages, marks, jobs. I’ve seen lot of colleges who always used to tell their students to get good job and they also tell them how to get good job. But I’ve never seen any college around here suggesting their students to start something, to think innovative things and telling about entrepreneurship. And I’ve never seen fluxes or cut-outs or advertisements of any college saying that their students became Entrepreneurs or so even though their students have started some own ventures. They always says 100% placement. And most of the students of IITs, IIMs getting placed in high companies with huge packages. Only a very few might start some innovative things. May be 60-70% of the innovative start-up, venture started people in India are of IITs, IIMs I guess.
            Am I wrong?

            Yeah infrastructure & money can not stop much students to do something which they want to do.

  5. Vikrant

    January 27, 2012

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    @Amy The southern states especially the Tamilians would never accept Hindi as a medium for education. Some of the major political parties there owe their existence to anti-Hindi sentiment. Now I don’t think they are being rational in hating a language. But yes , if Hindi is taught to them instead of Tamil they will have the same problem if they were taught in English. That is because Tamil language doesn’t belong to the same family of languages as Hindi and Marathi and so on. Of course , it is a classical language dating back by 2000 years and Tamilians have a perfect right to preserve it just as others have.

    @ The Big K
    The problem is not just with those with transferrable jobs. All engineering colleges in the country have around 30% population from out of state. What should be medium of education in higher education institutions ? All these are very hard problems.
    The Israelis also had a diverse population , various groups had different languages. Since they had returned to their country after many centuries after living in various parts of Europe. They therefore revived their ancient language Hebrew. I would have loved it if we Indians had taken the pains to revive Sanskrit. But then it wasn’t acceptable to one state.

    But yes, I agree with you that learning a foreign language adds a lot of burden on people. And majority of the citizens such as farmers , teachers get a raw deal.
    But aren’t there regional medium schools already in our country. I think we have a right mix of regional language schools and English medium schools.
    The trouble is in the fact that those who study in these schools are made to feel inferior by the snobbish English speaking elite. This is our main tragedy. Actresses from South India are criticized for having vernacular English accent. Why this foolish emphasis on ‘accent’. No other country tries to emulate the English accent.

  6. The Big K

    January 27, 2012

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    I’m not advocating for ‘one language’ for all Indians. My point is – In Maharashtra complete education (right from basic schooling to engineering, commerce & medicine) should be offered in Marathi. In Tamil in Tamil Nadu and so on.

    I didn’t say this is an easy solution – but a solution that needs to be worked on. During my career as a software engineer, I’ve seen software being localized for Japanese! Even the phone menu is completely customized in Japanese & Chinese!

    I’m all game for more emphasis on languages than the useless science, geography & history we’re taught in school.

    My point is about creating options for people. We can retain English words for the sake of easy understanding. But I’d strongly oppose English being used as a medium to teach. I totally wonder how do they teach India’s history in English.

    I wrote about the issue in a blog post: http://superblog.crazyengineers.com/2011/08/13/why-do-indian-software-engineer-parents-talk-to-their-kids-in-english/

  7. Kapil

    February 15, 2012

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    I feel sorry for the people who believed the nonsense jingoistic propaganda presented in that video. “angrezi” bad “hindu” good. Rinse and Repeat. 50+ years later are we still on this bandwagon? Haven’t we moved past such bigotry? Can you still watch with a straight face all our old hindi movies where they depict all english speakers as the devils and only the “good” guys are our local hindi speaking heroes?

    And BTW, India has never had a “glorious” past. That is the propaganda they teach us when we are in school. There is no doubt Indians have had several important contributions to engineering and the sciences. If that is the definition of glorious, then there are dozens of countries who have had “glorious” past. As for being number 1. Wake up, there is no way India can be number 1 with other countries using us for cheap labor and just a place to dump their products because of our large buying population. We need to try and do what China did. Close the doors, struggle for a few decades, improve our own situation with regards to population, poverty, education, etc, and then and only then think about trading with others. Otherwise we will just run deficits and they end up controlling our financial policy. Manmohan Singh completely screwed us in 1991 and it looks like he hasn’t finished yet because he is continuing in a different position in government today.

      • Kapil

        February 15, 2012

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        Well, not on everything. I agree with fact that the country’s financial policy was screwed up by Manmohan Singh. And its borne out buy the facts.

        The other stuff that he claims as people plotting against India are simple business deals. Why do you think Wall Street rewards American corporations who reduce their operational cost centres by hiring low cost laborers in China to manufacture their stuff? Its basically Americans screwing other Americans. Everything is not so black and white and it is not the case that because India was harmed that it was intentional or the result of any specific anti-India policy. Sometimes Capitalism has these unwanted side effects. geopolitics is very complex and tangled and the result of many many factors. In mathematical terms I see it as a multi-convolution.

        On some of the more deeper social issues I have my own personal theory on that. I think our peaceful, loving, no-tension, chalta-hai and other stereotypical attributes rise from our past culture. Indians have never been aggressors. We have never felt the need to fight/kill other people and take their land. We have tried to defend our own land but we did not have any ambition of dominating other cultures. The Europeans on the other hand are very war-like. Their history (even from the Vikings time) is filled with conquest and domination. Its just in their nature to be competitive and aggressive. But that is just my personal opinion.

        • The Big K

          February 15, 2012

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          I think we’ll agree to disagree on the points –

          1. India had a glorious past.

          2. Indians knew agression & competition isn’t the way forward towards a developed society. ‘Collaboration’ not ‘competition’ is the need of the hour. But it’s definitely not associated with ‘Chalta Hai’ attitude.

          What you call a ‘simple business deal’ isn’t actually what it looks. I used to believe that for long too. I basically quit my software engineering job because I got pissed off working as a ‘cheap English speaking software instruction executer’.

          India is being used as a ‘dump yard’ and Indians as slaves. The bad thing is that our Government, most of the people are happy with it.

  8. Priya

    March 31, 2012

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    Though these people studied in their mother tongue, they made constant hard work to learn english. Otherwise their innovation might have got unnoticed by the people in the world.

    • The Big K

      March 31, 2012

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      Are you serious? Which language did you think Einstein wrote his work in?  Of the past 25 winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, only 9 wrote their masterpieces in English; the remaining 16 laureates wrote in other native languages. 

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