In 2008, Chief Minister of united Andhra Pradesh, YS Rajasekhar Reddy had introduced English medium in 625 ‘Success schools’. But academicians feel the scheme did not succeed as envisioned.

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Delve Education Saturday, January 22, 2022 - 19:22

The recent announcement by the Telangana government to introduce English medium in all government schools across the state has stoked a discussion about how it is going to be an uphill task for the government. Though everyone has welcomed the move, teachers, academicians, and intellectuals feel that unless the government adopts a planned and well-coordinated strategy, the plan will remain just another futile attempt to bring in a change without much thought and effort.

Following the Cabinet meeting on January 17, the Chief Minister's Office announced the Cabinet’s decision to introduce English as the medium of instruction in government schools. The release read, “There is an increase in demand for English medium education, the need for having English as medium of instruction in government schools is in demand, the Cabinet observed. The Cabinet felt that parents in rural areas are ready to send their children to government schools if their medium of instruction is English”

Citing an example from the past, M Ravinder, Vice President, Telangana Progressive Teachers’ Federation said the idea is great but there are several points that need to be taken into consideration by the government before implementation. “In 2008, then Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) announced that 625 schools in the state would be converted into English medium and introduced as ‘Success Schools’. Rs 625 crore was budgeted for the same. Within months, 625 English medium success schools were opened across the state. Without the construction of any new building, existing schools which were Telugu and Urdu medium were partially converted into English medium schools. No new English medium teachers were hired for the new schools. This was an utter failure. The same success schools are operational even today and the same teachers who taught in Telugu medium continue to teach in these English medium schools. How much capability the teachers have to teach in English is really a matter of concern,” said Ravinder.

While the Telangana Progressive Teachers’ Federation welcomes the idea of introducing English medium schools, the teachers’ body feels that recruitment of new teachers and imparting training to existing teachers is the need of the hour. “It is unfortunate that after Telangana was formed, though orders were passed, the government has not recruited new teachers. Around 35,000 posts of teachers are yet to be filled. They say recruitments are not happening because government schools are not doing well. But the fact is, without good teachers, how can the schools do well? No one knows if the government is ready for this change. Whether the committee constituted will approach all the teachers’ unions and intellectuals for opinions and suggestion remains to be seen,” added Ravinder.

P Nageswara Rao was elected as an MLC from Khammam in 2009, a year after Success Schools were introduced. During his tenure as MLC, he questioned the then Chief Minister YSR about how English medium schools were introduced without recruitment of new teachers who could teach in the English medium schools. “The Chief Minister replied in the Council that the government would impart training to the existing teachers to teach in the English medium schools. I asked the CM if he could train his MLAs to speak in English like him in 15 days. I told him if he tried to do this, he would understand if the existing teachers would be able to do the same. There was no answer from him. Teaching in English is different from knowing English. Teaching needs ability to express, creativity, comprehension etc. It isn’t just verbal communication. It is ridiculous to claim that teachers recruited to teach Telugu medium could be trained to teach in English.”

Trained teachers- a challenge

The Progresive Teachers’ Federation in the state too feels that English speaking teachers need to be recruited to teach in English medium schools. “Teachers have a habit of thinking in their mother tongue while trying to speak in English. Subjects like Maths, Social Studies, Bio Sciences in English medium schools need to be taught by teachers who are fundamentally strong in English. The terminology, vocabulary, grammatical framing of sentences can be done only by teachers who are fluent in English. Just to change the board of a school to include English medium in it is not a big deal but to recruit capable teachers is the real challenge”, added Ravinder.

Nageswara Rao feels that to introduce English medium schools without doing the needed preparation would be a mere populist political measure rather than a serious academic exercise. “Such decisions cannot be taken just as bureaucratic decisions. I had a torturous time when I shifted from Telugu medium to English medium in class 7. I was humiliated and I was very low on confidence. I also felt like ending my life. It isn’t easy for students to change mediums.”

Teachers feel that a favourable ecosystem needs to be created for the transition. Some of the points put forward include recruiting teachers fluent in English and developing infrastructure in schools. Teachers also feel that by converting schools with good infrastructure into semi residential and fully residential schools, students who cannot get help at home in studies can be trained and extended additional help at school.

A. Latha, a government Zilla Parishad High School teacher, felt that it was the right time to introduce English medium schools. “Everyone wants to provide English education to their children. Because government English medium schools are less, parents have been shifting their kids to private schools. Not everyone can afford sending their kids to private schools hence it was necessary to introduce English medium schools. Presently, those from other mediums are made to give a test to understand if they would be able to make the switch to English medium schools after having studied in Telugu medium schools.”

A similar announcement was made in Andhra Pradesh in September 2019. They had said they will convert all Telugu medium schools to English while continuing to teach Telugu as one of the compulsory subjects. The government had also issued a government order (GO) announcing the decision to convert all Mandal Parishad Primary School (MPP) and Zilla Parishad schools into English medium. Initially the move was to come into force for standards 1-8 from 2020-2021, and for standards 9 and 10 from 2021-2022.

Interestingly, the government order was challenged in the Andhra Pradesh High Court and was struck down citing that the order was a violation of Article 21-A. The government however was not ready to give up and they moved the Supreme Court. The case is currently pending in the apex court and no interim relief was provided. While the Andhra Pradesh government had announced that English would be made compulsory, in Telangana, the government is likely to offer both English and Telugu as options for students to choose from. The modalities are being worked upon by a sub committee, which will be headed by Education Minister P Sabitha Indra Reddy.

READ: Opinion: English in govt schools, a masterstroke by TRS to check the BJP