With reference to the recent release of MBBS textbooks in Hindi, what are the advantages and challenges in switching the medium of instruction in such courses?

Recently, the Madhya Pradesh government has released textbooks in Hindi for MBBS students, as part of the government’s ambition to provide medical and technical education in vernacular languages.

The initiative was characterized as a “renaissance and reconstruction” of India’s education sector by its proponents and criticized as a futile exercise by opponents.

Advantage of teaching in local language:

  • There are several countries like China, Japan, Russia and Norway where local languages are the medium of instruction in technical and non-technical courses.
  • Imparting education in a student’s mother tongue is effective for learning.
  • It will help students from rural backgrounds, who have completed their school education in Hindi medium.
  • The medical terminology in the new book has been retained while the rest of the sentences have been translated for easier understanding.
  • These books are just ‘bridge books’ and not a replacement for their English counterparts.

Challenges:

  • Given the huge linguistic diversity of India, it is not correct to compare the status of Hindi with the status of German, Japanese or Chinese language.
  • The health care system of India is still in its nascent stage, hence comparing and imitating the steps of self-sufficient countries is unwise.
  • It will complicate the teaching process as many of the experienced staff are not well versed in Hindi, and they will have to teach themselves first.
  • The English language enables one to effortlessly have dialogue with the rest of the world. Given the complex and evolving nature of medical science, having knowledge in English helps to get in touch with international textbooks, research material, etc.
  • National and international medical conferences or an important part of medical education. Teaching in Hindi can have some negative implications.
  • Lack of quality resources and reference materials in Hindi language.

Way forward:

The decision to introduce such changes should be based on the needs, rather than political ideology. There is a need to establish a sound system for translating the teaching and reference materials before implementing it on a wide scale.

The Indian medical sector has far more pressing issues like lack of primary resources, quality faculty and infrastructure. Our focus should be on quality of education instead of medium of instruction.

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