In a diverse and culturally rich country like India, language is more than just a means of communication; it is the essence of our identity. With the advent of the New Education Policy (NEP) and recent initiatives like the NIPUN Bharat Mission that stresses the importance of using the mother tongue in the teaching-learning process and creating educational materials, we have an opportunity to revolutionise education.

The foundational years of education lay the cornerstone for a child’s future intellectual growth. It is imperative that children acquire and enhance their Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) skills, and language should not hinder the development of these crucial skills. Neuroscientific research reveals that more than 85 per cent of a person’s brain development takes place before the age of six. It is during this crucial phase that children develop cognitive skills, linguistic abilities, and a deep understanding of their surroundings. The NEP’s emphasis on incorporating regional languages as a medium of instruction serves multiple important purposes.

Emphasis on English

Firstly, embracing regional languages fosters inclusivity and makes Right to Education under Article 21A a ‘substantive right’. For far too long, English has been disproportionately emphasised in the Indian education system, often alienating those from non-English speaking backgrounds. By offering education in regional languages, the NEP breaks down language barriers, making education accessible to a wider audience and ensuring that no child feels left behind.

Secondly, learning in one’s mother tongue has a profound impact on a child’s cognitive development. Studies have consistently shown that children learn best when they are taught in a language, they are most comfortable with. By using regional languages during foundational learning, children can grasp FLN concepts more effectively, resulting in improved retention and comprehension.

Embracing regional languages in education helps preserve India’s linguistic heritage. With over 22 officially recognised languages and hundreds of dialects, each with its own unique cultural and historical significance, language is a crucial aspect of our identity.

Furthermore, learning regional languages early on enhances a child’s overall language proficiency. Research suggests that multilingual individuals tend to have stronger communication skills, greater adaptability, and improved cognitive abilities, equipping our children to thrive in an increasingly interconnected and diverse world.

In conclusion, we must implement LEAP — Language Enrichment for Advancing Progress. By nurturing multilingualism and providing adequate training and resources to teachers, LEAP will help develop linguistic ability, improve cognitive development, enhance FLN skills, and create a more culturally rich and intellectually stimulating educational environment.

The writer is Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha)