Teaching of languages
A look at the state of education in Banaras and the way school education standardises languages and valorises one language over another.
DUCATION and its sociology is a relatively under-explored theme in the Indian subcontinent. In fact, there is a considerable deficit of studies on histories of educational institutions also.
This book is an attempt at filling up some of these gaps “in order to provide an understanding of how education and society connect in diverse ways”. The author, Nirmali Goswami, makes her objectives clear at the outset, by explaining that this is “a study of the practice and social consequences of standard language-learning” to unravel the axes of language and power-relations. This is her doctoral study, which seems to have been revised very well before being published. Her literature review is brilliant, crisp and concise.
Methodologically this work is very sound; the author’s hard work, tenacity, analytical abilities, deep insights and sharp observations are well testified in this work. Clarity of purpose is articulated not only about the theme but also about the choice of the city of Banaras.
“The city of Banaras is selected for fieldwork because of its historic association with the Hindi Nationalist Movement which was instrumental in defining the standard form of Hindi. The field material is drawn primarily from a private school and its community located in Banaras, [where]... English and standard Hindi are used by high status groups cutting across class, community and ethnicity backgrounds... [besides] Sanskrit,
In Banaras, Hindi is the dominant language in terms of its numeric strength in Census results, as well as in its political recognition. Besides the standard languages of English, Urdu and Sanskrit, there are popular languages like Bhojpuri and Banarsi. Nirmali Goswami’s attempt is to show “how people construct their and others’ identities vis a vis the popular languages (or dialects) practised commonly on everyday basis Bengali and but not recognised at official level”.
She unravels for us “the world of vernacular medium education”, making us comprehend the “power dynamics which operate at local level and how they connect with national discourses of modernity and progress through education”. The book shows how the dialects spoken at home present a challenge in school where pupils encounter standardised Hindi. This homogenising project of the nation state has its own repercussions. The author finds that “Hindi in spite of gaining the official status has not been particularly successful in establishing its claims at national level, and to project itself as a vehicle of social mobility and one that belongs to everyone”. The book also examines how the norm of standardised Hindi is constructed and legitimised against the local influences of Banarsi/bhojpuri. It also examines how “Urdu has a special significance for the school population and yet occupies a marginal space in discourse of the modern school, whereas English is widely perceived to be a language of progress and modernity”.
The historical context of the evolution of the schooling system in Banaras and the conflict between colonial and indigenous forms of knowledge and education have been discussed quite comprehensively. The discussion also touches on the demographic details of the city and its relations with
Legitimising Standard Languages Perspectives from a School in Banaras By Nirmali GoswamiSage Series: Sociology and Social Anthropology of Education in South Asia;Series Editor: Meenakshi Thapan New Delhi, 2017 Pages xviii+225 Price: Rs.895