A synthesis between teacher and student
A spate of views have, in recent times, been written on a strange mélange which has arisen, on the focus of English at the cost of Hindi or a student’s mother tongue. Policymakers of the educational system are at their wit’s end trying to formulate a system where neither English or Hindi suffer. They are aware that globalisation is affecting almost every industry and communication on technology and business, with overseas clients, is best conducted in English. Paradoxically, China and Japan have adhered to a policy where English language as part of the syllabus continues in schools, yet Chinese or Japanese, in the respective curriculums, has ensured proficiency in these languages too. How will this conundrum, involving Hindi, unravel into a workable policy in India? Examples need to be studied and ideas rationalized from those examples to help evolve policies.
In India, a perception has arisen that students tend to think of English as a more important subject than the second language. Although English as a language is integral to communication, when linking India with the rest of the world, Indian policymakers are justified in concerning themselves about the future of Hindi. We, therefore, must remember two teachers who had, in the ‘70’s, fostered an exemplary style of teaching Hindi, in a famous English medium school and one must return to St. Paul’s, in Darjeeling, to reflect on the quality of these teachers, whose work can perhaps be considered as a template to strengthen India’s educational system in the volatile world of today. If these precepts are followed, a second language can be transformed into an interesting subject and create an articulate student in Hindi.
Kamlesh Kumar Kanti and his wife, Gayatri, joined St. Paul’s School, in the early ‘70’s; both teachers were highly qualified, and each was an M.A., and M.Ed., They took over the Hindi Department of the school. Both Kamlesh and Gayatri taught the same class in tandem; there were many students from different sections and the teachers had their specific chapters to deliver. They were disappointed to perceive the standard of Hindi, further exacerbated by the fact that students would reply in English when the teachers would speak in Hindi. The Kanti’s immediately introduced a rule that only Hindi could be spoken during the 40 minute period. Each student was supplied with a thick note book that was used for neatly writing certain notes and these were studied for forthcoming tests and examinations. The teacher’s explained that personally writing the notes facilitated learning and, if necessary, memorizing particular sentences. In a radical policy the Kanti’s reinforced the syllabus with a book written by the famous Hindi author- Munshi Prem Chand. The book, Gaban, was read in rotation by both teachers and the narrative is an engaging story of a charming but morally weak young man, Ramnath, who tries to fulfill his wife’s craving for jewelry, thus involving himself into complex situations leading to his disgrace. After a chapter students were asked to read in turns thus improving their articulation in Hindi. Groups were formed and competitions were held, by a quiz, and recitation of selected passages of Gaban and dohas, or couplets, by Tulsi Das and Kali Das were also recited by each student, who were individually judged; essay competitions were conducted, in addition to routine class work; winners were awarded special marks that lead to a final assessment of their annual performance. Special work-books were introduced with puzzles in Hindi; a cross-word in Hindi can be an enlightening exercise and the entire study of Hindi changed from a mundane to an interesting subject.
A play was performed, Shakti Sanjeevani, a one act humourous drama, which was enjoyed by both the audience and cast. Not a single student at the time failed in this subject when they appeared for the Cambridge Board Examinations. This was the most significant accolade the Kanti’s were bestowed with. Both Kamlesh and Gayatri Kanti succeeded by infusing a rare level of enthusiasm into Hindi. Sadly, both these exceptional personalities have passed away, but their names will live for evermore.
They represented a genre which may not be seen again but their dedication affirmed the most important factor of all, that the second language during their tenure in St. Paul’s, was written and spoken, by students, with commendable proficiency.
By Deepak Rikhye