Perhaps that’s why the idea of primary education in the mother tongue is a little scary for some of us – there are lots of people, maybe even lots of teachers, who can’t speak any language properly, neither English nor the mother tongue.
Oh, yes, of course, that is true. Well, if you look at it that way, you’ve got education happening in the English language in many places where the teachers can’t handle it. There are teachers in many English language schools who are more comfortable in their mother tongues.
I think that’s just a question of trying to produce better teachers in this country, in all subjects, not just languages, but in science and in maths and all the rest of it. And I think one global problem is that the teaching profession, which is probably the most important profession in the world, is not held in proper respect.
If you look at everyone in this country, at all the bright young things, how many of them want to be schoolteachers?
And let’s face it, you and I are journalists, and our profession is nothing like as important or valuable – any fool, virtually, can become a journalist. But you have to be really very dedicated to be a teacher, and that’s where the future lies, with the way the children are being taught.
I look back on my schooldays, and I realise how badly I was taught, in many ways, and what a bad education I had, which was so very narrow and constrictive. And I see the damage that was done to my intellectual development by that, and not just intellectual development, for personal development too. We need to have far more respect for teachers, and far more encouragement for bright people to go into the teaching profession.
And money’s not the only thing – salary is very important, of course, but status is a crucial thing too, and we really need to respect our teachers more.
Image: Schoolchildren write English alphabets on slates at a government primary school in the outskirts of Hyderabad on June 13, 2011.