Is English-medium for education necessary?

Balanced scorecard makes better gradeEducation in English is spreading. English is the most sought after medium of instruction in India today. Even in the small towns and villages, the parents are aware that the mastery of English is necessary for a respectable living. I get reminded time and again about my own medium of education at the high school and intermediate in science level. The switch over from the vernacular in school final to English in intermediate science was not very difficult for science education. Why is then English medium spreading so fast and is being recommended right from primary stage even by National Knowledge Commission in its report? Perhaps, the better employability of the students of English medium education demands this.

Kerala and Delhi states ranked at the top of the recently developed Educational Development Index (EDI). However, according to the State Report on Elementary Education in India, 2005, a National University of Educational Planning and Administration publication, Andhra Pradesh has more students studying in the English medium than any other state, followed by Tamil Nadu. The study only account for students studying in government and government-aided schools- primary, upper primary, secondary and higher secondary schools.

In Andhra Pradesh, while 90.34 lakh students out of a total of 1.13 crore students go to schools where Telugu is the medium of instruction, 19.32 lakh attend English medium schools. However, In the EDI list, AP is ranked eighth.

In Tamil Nadu, third on the EDI list, out of total enrolment of 97.8 lakh, 78.2 lakh students go to the schools with Tamil as the main medium of instruction, while 18.06 lakh go where English is the preferred medium.

In Maharashtra, 7.58 lakh go to English-medium schools while 1.04 crore go to Marathi-medium schools.

In Bihar and UP, English-medium students lag further behind in enrolment numbers. Both the states are the last in ranking. One reason may be the less urbanization of the states.

Surprisingly in Jammu and Kashmir, more students study in the English medium than any other language.

Interestingly, Kerala and Delhi states ranked at the top of the recently developed Educational Development Index (EDI). EDI rankings did not take the medium of instruction as a performance indicator. But students enrolled in English-medium schools are only a small fraction of those receiving instruction in Malayalam and Hindi respectively. In Delhi, Hindi is the most favoured medium with nearly 15.5 lakh students opting for schools with national language as the medium of instruction. Again, English is way behind with only 4.34 lakh students going where it is medium of instruction.

The medium of instruction for the subjects other that English must be the vernacular. The kids at the tender age coming from all sorts of social status can’t be sufficiently comfortable in understanding the subject if taught in a language that is not their mother tongue.

The Kerala and Delhi model can work and are better. Students may start learning English from the primary class itself and can continue learning up to school final or higher secondary as one language. The medium for other subjects may remain the language of the majority of the students- one of the major Indian languages. But the emphasis must be on using newer techniques. The students after 12 years or more for school final or higher secondary must be able to communicate perfectly in English. They need not be mastering the fine intricacy of grammatically correct English and appreciate the finer literary aspects of English writers and poets. But they must be as good in written and verbal communication as those studying in English medium or better. Teaching, testing, and examination must aim for attaining this skill of communication through rigorous language labs, group discussions, dramas, debates, and presentations through audio and video aids. And that will serve the purpose of the market.

However, it will require first the training and development for the teachers responsible for teaching this foreign language to the students. Students can’t be expected to learn a language from the teachers who themselves are deficient in communicating in English language. And that must be taken care of on priority in education.

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