By the time Muhammad Shahidullah was old enough to begin his secondary education, he already knew five languages. Besides his mother tongue of Bangla, he not only learnt Urdu, Persian and Arabic—perceived to be the languages of Muslims—but he also became proficient in Sanskrit, the primary liturgical language of Hinduism.
Whenever we talk about the state of education in Bangladesh, the age-old debate about English versus Bangla medium re-emerges with regard to quality of teaching, affordability, imparting knowledge about Bengali culture, etc. But while many of the broader concerns have merit, the less obvious aspects of the current education system that deserve some serious thinking are often overlooked. The importance of the mother tongue in education is one of them.