Some rambling thoughts on the case for teaching tamil language in schools!!!
The Supreme Court order upholding the plea by the Tamil Nadu Government that Tamil language be made a compulsory subject for all upto the Tenth standard is indeed a welcome measure. Having said that, it is necessary to raise and discuss a few issues.
One is that the syllabi in schools will have to be reoriented so that the students are taught the language, in all its dimensions, than restrict it to teaching literature in the language. While learning a language will be of immense use to expose the student to the socisty, its cultural specifics and the history of the region that these students live, it can be achieved only where the teacher is equipped to handle the class in such manner.
In other words, an exposure to the literary works in Tamil, whether it is Purananuru, Agananuru or Thirukural, Silapadhigaram, Manimegalai or Subramania Bharathi, Bharathidasan, ThiruVi Ka and such other works of the kind will make immense sense only if the teacher, over the years is prepared to go that extra mile and explain the society, in all its dimensions, to the school students.
A case in point would be where the student, when she/he reaches Class 10 is exposed to the stages of transformation of the Tamil society from the pre-Sangam age to the Sangam age and then to the post Sangam age: This historical approach to teaching the literary works will then help the students to not only learn the language but also the fact that the Tamil society, like it is the case with all other societies in India and across the world, had transformed from monarchy to democracy.
In doing so, the student will then be able to perceive personalities in history with the benefit of hindsight and thus learn to appreciate literature as a reflection of the continuously changing society. And once this is achieved, it is then possible to provoke the student to read more and more such works than the ones prescribed in their syllabus. The problem is that this is not happening anywhere in the schools and the end result is that the school children are made to simply memorise verses and couplets as well as their prosaic renderings in the guides.
This approach is simply bad. And by reducing the subject into a drab exercise of learning by rote, the school children are alienated from the learning process. And hence they begin to hate the subject and then look for an easier option: French, incidentally, is the most favoured option in almost all the schools in Chennai. And that is because the language teacher, in that case, does not teach the classics in French literature and instead restricts to just spoken French. This is as much a tragedy because mere spoken knowledge of a language without having the exposure to the culture, the tradition and the society is not knowledge and is hence useless.
This point takes us to the more important issue. And that is the different systems of schooling in Tamil Nadu and the fact that these different systems – the matriculations schools and the aided private schools – cater to those strata in society that can afford to pay for the education as against the poor who have no other option than to send their children to the government schools. The preference for any other language than Tamil is a factor in these schools.
And it is a fact that children are sent to these private schools only because the parents believe, for very good reasons, that sending their children to such schools alone will equip them to get a ``better’’ job. In other words, there is the pronounced preference for English language and following from this the penchant to opt out of Tamil. And such parents are influenced to think that way by political leaders of all hues and other influential persons who prefer to send their children to convents where the students are punished if they communicate in Tamil!