It seems that education is increasingly becoming a plaything in the hands of the government that it uses to attract grown-ups when it wants their votes. But the latest in the series of such ploys — the Centre has proposed that a state’s vernacular be made the primary language of interaction in playschools — has a high possibility of backfiring. Teachers have already raised doubts over the feasibility of the proposal, which is apparently aimed at regulating the growing number of playschools. Even if it is assumed that teaching in the vernacular will benefit children at the pre-school level, it is difficult to guess how this will put a check on the proliferation of playschools. It is the government’s inability to provide children with quality education in its own schools across the country that has resulted in parents preferring private institutions for their children. The anganwadis are the government’s equivalent of private playschools. The medium of instruction in most of the anganwadis, situated in the rural areas, is the vernacular. There is nothing to suggest that this training in the mother tongue has put village students at an advantage.
This calls attention to the other factors necessary for giving children a sound educational base that the government seems to be forgetting. Are the teachers of the playschools, which are mostly an urban phenomenon, themselves well-versed in the vernacular? Besides, in a globalized world where not knowing English counts as a handicap, will children not be better prepared if they get acquainted with the language at the pre-primary stage? The task of picking up a foreign language, which is usually not spoken at home, is difficult as it is. The job is made a little easier with children getting familiar with the sound of English in playschools before they begin to learn it. If the government is serious about dealing with the problem, it can spruce up its own institutions by getting trained teachers and improving the infrastructure, so that parents are not left with the money-minting private playschools as their only option.