The popularity of foreign language in Indian curriculum is at its peak. Students and parents alike seek a global connection to their education. However, if one has to move abroad for a year or two for a course in a foreign lanugage, most find it unaffordable or unmanageable.
On the international platform, various global programmes targeted at language and cultural exchange are popular and many nations, educational institutes and students take advantage of them. However, lack of proper domestic facilities leaves many yearning for more. Some argue that learning of foreign languages should be an integral part of the Indian curriculum at all levels in public and private education sectors.
Though the government has taken several steps at various times, a lot needs to be done and achieved.
In this context, ex-Professor and Head of European Languages Department (ELLCS) of University of Rajasthan, Asha Pande, feels that “It is the youth and children who if guided in the right direction can become the agents of change. An active approach towards bridging the language and cultural gap between Indian and foreign students would go a long way to accomplish this.”
Prof. Asha Pande is a pioneer in foreign language education in Rajasthan. For her dedicated voluntary services spanning almost three decades, she was honoured with the highest award of France, Chevalier in the National Order of Legion of Honour by the President of France in 2009. Masters and PhD in French Literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi, she earned many accolades in the academic field.
She believes that the academic scene in India is fast evolving, and most Indian students have moved over the phase where they gave importance to learning only to score marks, without actually trying to understand and enhancing their knowledge. Today’s generation of students wants to create a strong base of learning that helps them compete with the best nationally and internationally.
With the introduction of state-of-the-art technologies, students are better placed for developing analytical and communication skills rather than being dependent on the conventional methods of memorization of facts.
Schools and educational institutes have understood the changing requirements and the trends, and are making concerted efforts in improving the style of teaching and more interactive modes of education.
Prof. Pande clarifies that “Better style of teaching and more interactive modes of education mean a more global perspective. Other nations have already implemented technologies and strategies to improve their education system. Though India has also started making usage of interactive and modern technologies, it’s restricted to some elite private schools and institutes. The government and rural sector schools lack these technologies severely, and the real impact would be visible only when these schools are penetrated.”
Another interactive strategy beneficial for students would be learning outside the walls of the classrooms. Reports have suggested that these do not amount to waste of time, rather these improve the productivity and learning capacity of the students.
“Teaching students the rules of languages, including the foreign languages, sitting in the classroom may become boring and may hamper the learning of the students. Though interactive exercises may be employed within the classrooms as well, taking students for trips where they can first-hand interact using their newly learnt language will boost their confidence,” asserts Prof. Pande.
She shares her experience at Sorbonne Paris and later at Dijon University France where she went as a student on UGC fellowship from JNU. “The culture and education in France is different. They have a lot to share with the world, and Indian students learning French language must interact directly with the French students in India or in France if their school makes the arrangements. I did it, and it was a strong factor in convincing me towards popularizing French language in India.” It was her own experience of broadening of horizons during her teenage years that inspired her later to start the first International Student exchange programme with France in 1990, as a Professor of French. All the obstacles, even the absence of international calling facility, did not deter her from her resolve. More than two hundred Indian and French students have benefitted already. They never looked back, all holding high positions in various fields today.
All European languages have their own charm, and students should have an opportunity to choose their own according to their interest.
Languages are an important component of the international curriculum. In most countries, students are taught three languages, one or two of which are foreign. Though English is taught as a compulsory language in most schools, it’s not actually considered a foreign language. Inclusion of another foreign language such as French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian or Japanese in the curriculum completes the foreign language teaching in schools.
“World literature should also be made a part of the international curriculum. Students must understand the styles and stories of foreign authors in their own language. Translations may give only partial idea; reading in original language has its own charm that is unparalleled,” opines Prof. Pande.
Foreign languages also teach students business communication skills and information technologies, besides helping them develop interpersonal and communication skills in this modern era of working as a global workforce, where frequent interactions and travels take place with other countries or foreigners.
Knowledge of foreign language would also help those students who want to study abroad for higher studies. Even if students can’t afford to go abroad and learn a foreign language through interactive means in India itself, it would broaden their outlook in general.
Prof. Pande summarizes it all, “There is no doubt that learning a foreign language would develop a person’s overall personality. It should be a part of our regular curriculum in all schools at all levels as students, parents and the government would benefit immensely. The sooner you start, the better it would be. Foreign language learning must be introduced to students as young as 10 to 14.”