The Andhra Pradesh government’s move to introduce English as a medium of instruction in all government schools from Class 1 to Class 6 has attracted criticism from various groups and opposition parties. While some elicited fears that the proposed move would ‘endanger’ Telugu language and increase dropout rates, others questioned the haste with which the government is bringing this reform without sufficient preparation. However, if implemented well, it could bring transformational changes in the education sector.
English-medium education to their children is a dream for a large number of parents in India. Many of them toil hard and spend substantial part of their incomes in giving quality education to their children. However, a lot of them who often come from disadvantaged sections like SC, ST, BC and minorities are unable to realize this dream because of poverty.
Introduction of English-medium in government schools is a democratising step as it helps in turning dreams of lakhs of parents and their children into reality. Further it has an equalizing effect as it will help reduce educational inequalities in Andhra Pradesh.
In today’s world it is almost impossible to disagree with the fact that proficiency in English is quintessential to grab better employment opportunities. This can be seen not only from the recruitment process of most of the private companies that test English language skills but also selection to various government sector jobs like Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Staff Selection Committee (SSC) and banking demands proficiency in English language.
A 2016 report of Cambridge University titled ‘Findings of English at Work: Global analysis of language skills in the workplace’ highlights that about 90% of employers in India say that English language skills are important for their organization. Further, English figured among the top three skills, along with learning agility and adaptability, employers look for in India according to the findings of India Skills Report 2019. As they say early bird catches the prey, it is important that our children achieve mastery of English language at early years through sound understanding of fundamentals like grammar, sentence formation among others that would give them a distinctive edge in the future.
Host of challenges
The proposed move could face several challenges like training of existing teachers, retaining children in schools as the move is feared to increase dropouts, and maintain quality of teaching content among others.
The state government is planning to train about one lakh teachers in phases from January to May 2020 by roping in English language experts from English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad and Regional Institute of English, Bengaluru.
For a smooth ride
The state government should allay the fears that has been raised by various quarters by taking proactive measures for the development of Telugu language like:
1.Give more weightage to Telugu subject (For example, if other subjects carry a weightage of 100 marks, the weightage of Telugu should be 125 or 150 marks)
2. Revision of Telugu syllabus to include Telugu meanings of important concepts from other disciplines (For example words like Prajasvamyam (Democracy) and Loukikavaadam (Secularism) from polity. Similarly, Telugu meanings of important concepts of other disciplines of natural and social sciences can be introduced to make students familiarize with their usage.
3. Set minimum marks that one need to score in Telugu subject to make them eligible for State government’s Pratibha Awards, given to meritorious students.
4. In the event of a tie, the marks in Telugu should be considered to decide a class/school/district and state topper.
5. Telugu language development fund should be set up and its proceedings should be used for popularizing the language. A separate award ‘Gidugu Ramamurthy Award for excellence in Telugu language’ should be given to persons who are doing yeoman services for the development of language.
6. Make creative writing in Telugu a compulsory elective in every class in order to allow children unleash their creative potential in their mother tongue in the formative years which would also help in their overall development.
7. Make Telugu a compulsory subject in every state government exam and consider the marks scored for final selection.
Further, training of teachers in English language skills is a crucial aspect that should be addressed before implementing this move. The state government should train teachers from next month, leveraging the use of information technology. The state government’s education channel MANA TV should be used to train teachers.
A monthly or bimonthly examination should be conducted for teachers under the supervision of District Education Officer and the performance in these examinations should be linked to their incentives and promotions. Further, a pilot study can be conducted to identify the challenges before implementing this scheme on a wider scale.
The proposed move should be seen as an investment in our future generations, to help our children better equip themselves with skills necessary to face the world when they graduate out of colleges. Despite a sizable number of students making it to IITs and IIMs every year from Andhra Pradesh, backed by strong analytical and reasoning skills, English has always been a bete noire for most of them. This move will help them master English and outshine in all the entrance and competitive exams.
Apart from this, a slew of other measures announced by Andhra Pradesh government in the recent past like AMMA VODI ( a scheme that gives a financial assistance of Rs 15,000 to mothers from Below Poverty Lines families for sending their children to school) and NADU-NEDU ( a programme for revamping school infrastructure) would transform the education sector in the state and help it emerge as ‘VIDHYANDHRA PRADESH’.
Prudhvi Vegesna is an independent journalist and public policy analyst.
Views are author’s own