Since school begins in a week, it is already too late to be worrying about this but I specialize in worrying about things when the opportune worry-window has long passed, so here it is:
Rumi will be going to Gram Mangal. The pre-school is very simple and minimalistic and completely congruent with our parenting philosophies of unstructured free play, a flexible learning pace and cultural rootedness. Most importantly, it is right next door to us.
I am convinced of the merits of the school. What scares me a little about our decision is whether the fact that she will be in a pre-school that uses Marathi as its medium of instruction will adversely impact her communication and fluency in English. I am (slightly) ashamedly always super-impressed with cracking English. Also (a little more ashamedly), I immediately associate one of my favorite compliments ‘articulate’ with English. So I would love for Rumi to be articulate, but would I be OK with her choosing Marathi as her first language for beautiful articulation and self-expression? I’m not sure, but I’m not sure why I’m unsure, and I really am feeling bad and a bit of a classist about this. Does this mean that if I had to pick a language hierarchy for Rumi to be proficient in, English would be at the top of that list? (Don’t really want to answer that, especially on a public forum as this!) Oh My God, deep inside, am I one of those people who judge others based on superficial things such as language??
The husband thankfully runs so much deeper than me on so many levels and he is able to swat my buzzing doubts away as casually as dealing with mosquitoes with that zingy electrical racquet.
“I’m worried about whether we are starting Rumi off at a disadvantage. My school really made my English what it is today. She is already living in a Marathi-speaking environment. Where will she learn to speak and use English?”
“She will learn from us and with us. Would you rather have a school where the medium of instruction is English but her creativity is stifled under the garb of ‘discipline’? Where the syllabus and style of teaching and structure has not undergone any change in the last twenty years? Where she will get into the cycle of memorizing dates and giving exams one after the other for the next decade of her life?”
No, no and no. That is not what I want at all. I really do believe that our education system needs to undergo a massive overhaul and I am very happy to have found good alternative options in Pune.
“And will I meet like-minded parents? That I can actually talk to on the phone and hang out with?” (Since we are being superficial, let us go all the way in. My intense need for making friends and chatting people up manifests itself here). And in my defense, I have been at the receiving end of inverted snobbery, not in the school but in my society: cold looks because I asked something in English instead of Marathi.
“Is that more important than Rumi’s development and well-being?” asks the husband without the slightest trace of disbelief and impatience: he has taken the marriage vows of ‘for better and for worse’ to heart.
“Obviously not” I laugh, trying to cover up for the fact that I gave my social needs a thought while picking out a school for my child.
“Do you think you can express your thoughts beautifully and with equal ease in more than one language or do you have a clear preference for one language?” I realize I have never asked my multilingual husband this before. I know that my inner voice is clearly and unequivocally English and I assume that the one-language domination is true of most people.
Not for my husband though who can write and speak beautifully in both English and German, both languages that he learned and practiced fairly late in his life, both of which came much later than his native Marathi.
And there it is. There is an answer for every single worry that I voice and the bottom line is this: the onus of raising Rumi lies with us. If I want her to speak good English, there is a lot that I can do. We need not look at school as way of training our child into becoming all that we want to be (our parents did that: they outsourced the job to be done to the school). In our case, we are looking at the school to supplement and support our style of parenting, making Gram Mangal a good fit for pre-school, before we can send her to DLRC that takes kids from 7 years up. And what is the worst case scenario? That she has to be pulled out and change schools?
Filled with renewed assurance that we are making a decision that feels right for us, I turn my attention to the more important things to worry about: whether the pink Peppa Pig schoolbag will be delivered on time and how to nurse my broken heart when this little pumpkin takes off for four long hours every day.