VERNACULARS IN HIGHER EDUCATION.
It is very much to be regretted that the Senate should have now resolved, though by a small majority, upon abolishing the Vernacular Composition test prescribed by Government, after mature consideration, for the new Intermediate Examination. It is some consolation, however, to see that some of the Senate members who may be looked upon as an authority in their respective vernaculars, as also the Heads of the Educational Departments in Madras and Mysore, very strongly protested against the abolition. Even under the old curriculum, where vernacular text-books, grammar, translation, and composition were all compulsory, students in College and even Graduates have often found it very hard to express their ideas intelligibly and freely in their vernaculars – a fact admitted on all sides, not even the Government excepted. Now I will simply leave it to your readers to imagine what the consequence of the abolition of this surviving vernacular composition also will be. It is to be hoped that the Government will soon come to the rescue of the vernaculars, not only by restoring the composition test, but also by making it compulsory to study a second language.
Under the paternal care of the University the classical and vernacular languages have flourished for about half a century. If the existing condition are altered, these will die in course of time. If, therefore, the Senate and the Government do not wish to see them come to an untimely end, the only safe course will be to make them compulsory, as was the case hitherto, or, if that cannot be done, at least to allow them to be studied separately and not conjointly, as in the present curriculum. Group IV may accordingly be thus modified: - (a) Ancient or Modern History, (b) Logic, (c) a second language. Of the four Optional groups for the Intermediate Examination, only the fourth group makes a provision for the vernacular and classical languages. Even granting that all the four groups are equally patronized by students, three-fourths will be excluded from them. But on account of the great difficulty in learning a new classical language and its being tacked to a vernacular, not one student had ventured to apply for the fourth group in any of the local Colleges. This is clear evidence to prove that the vernaculars and classical language are doomed.
Even in the M. A. course under the old Regulations, the students had not to face such a severe ordeal. There, the vernaculars and classical languages were not grouped together but had only to be studied separately. It is true that the vernacular student has to study a second vernacular, but only a superficial knowledge of the latter is required. If vernacular and classical languages are to be studied together, students must be trained in both from the Middle School Classes.
T. Walker Esq., Member Text Book Committed writes this subject to the Madras Mail as follows: -
As one of those who desire the truest welfare of India, may I be allowed to express my sincere regret at the recent Resolution of the Senate of the University of Madras to abolish Vernacular Composition from the schedule of subjects prescribed for the Intermediate Examination? I am quite aware that certain difficulties would be involved in the retention of the subject, from the point of view of the Professors of our Colleges, who very naturally wish to relieve the prescribed curriculum of what some regard as a needless incubus; but the matter should be viewed in its wider bearings.
In the Order of Government passed on the 31st December, 1906, the following words occur: - "It appears to the Government that, if those who have secured a University education are to do the best for their country with the education they have received, it is imperative that they should preserve a sound knowledge of the vernaculars," and, with this object in view, the composition test in question was prescribed for the Intermediate Examination. The same Order deplores the fact that the ordinary University graduate of the present day notoriously neglects his vernacular. I myself have known the case of one, well-versed in English, who, though a Tamil by birth, was obliged to requisition the services of an interpreter in addressing a Tamil audience, owing to his want of facility in his own native tongue. The University of Madras is the University of the Dravidian Country, and the Dravidian languages are not the daughters of Sanskrit, but represent an antecedent South Indian civilization. In this respect we are unique in this part of India. Surely, therefore, every Indian graduate of our University should be able to speak and write freely in his own beautiful vernacular language. What should we think of a graduate of Oxford or Cambridge who, while well acquainted with Greek and Latin, could not writer with some measure of freedom and elegance in his own mother tongue? No dead "classical language," however beautiful, ought to be allowed to usurp the place of our living vernaculars.
If it be argued that a position is given to the vernaculars in Group IV of the Intermediate Examination, an optional group comprising (a) Ancient or Modern History (b) a classical language, and (c) a second classical language or Indian vernacular language, I venture to predict that, in practice, any hopes raised by such a contention will be largely disappointed. For example, we shall find, almost certainly, that students who take Sanskrit as their "second language" for the Matriculation will avoid Group IV in their Intermediate Examination so as to escape the study of a further classical or vernacular language. It would be at least worth while ascertaining from Principal of Colleges how many students have taken up Group IV as their optional branch for the Intermediate during the current year. If I am not mistaken, we shall find that, granted Government sanction for the Resolution of the Senate to omit Vernacular Composition from the Intermediate curriculum, the vast majority of our future graduates will be men who have obtained their degree without having studied in the least their own vernacular. Is this desirable either from an educational, or a patriotic, or a common sense point of view? The Japanese teach modern science mainly through the medium of their vernacular. In Ceylon, "classical languages" have had an undesirable predominance in their educational system, and a halt is now being called.
I trust, therefore, that Government will not sanction the Resolution of the Senate without fuller enquiry into the matter, and that, in any case, some adequate provision may be made to ensure the study by our under-graduates of their own vernacular tongues.