A very pertinently important question must be bothering many parents, educationists, and perhaps psychologists too. What must be the best medium for instruction? Naturally the answer will always be in favour of the mother language. But will it provide the advantages and employability for professional career? It is for this reason that the country is switching over to an alien language as medium of education and instruction at an exponential rate. As reported recently based on data collected by the National University for Education Planning and Administration (NUEPA)*, ‘nationwide enrolment in the upper primary section of English-medium schools rose 74% during 2003-2006. In actual figures, this is a rise from 54.7 lakh students in 2003 to 95.1 lakh in 2006.’
The students from the English-medium schools will be far better in communication, not necessarily literary excellence in that language. Many believe they are smarter too. Naturally this puts to disadvantage all those students who are sticking to mother language as medium. What can be done about it? One simple question must be honestly answered by the English teachers responsible for that. How many years or hours of intense teaching is required to learn a foreign language to master it for communication, both spoken as well as written. Should the 14 (2+12) years of learning English as a subject not be sufficient enough for attaining proficiency? What can be done to get the equally good proficiency in English keeping it a second language for all, as it is now in most of the states? Perhaps, a little change in the mindset of the English teachers, their retraining, and making them use technologies as teaching aids will make the vernacular medium students also equally proficient in English. All the state governments must be serious about overcoming the situation. Some have started doing that by establishing finishing schools for the graduates. But it must be taken up at the school level itself. Most of the English teachers themselves are not proficient enough in English. They must undergo an intense training and develop the skill. With an interest and mindset backed by digital aids, it can’t take anything more than two months. Let them understand that it is never too late to learn and it is they who have been preaching this.
English as a medium for most of the business activities and computers as tools to provide efficiency and ease, are two basic skills that a student must acquire as early as possible for bringing in the equity in society and inclusive growth. The states that will falter will be left behind. As per the report, “the growth of English is more in non-Hindi speaking states, mostly the southern states which account for over 60% of the students enrolled in English-medium schools in the three-year period. English-medium also accounts for well over 90% of the enrolment in the northeastern states. In north, except in Punjab and Gujarat the growth of English has been sluggish.”
I have been visiting many of the private engineering colleges in and around Noida and talking to the students. I find that most coming from rural background can’t communicate in English even in their final year. Is it not a shame for the teaching system that even after 10+2+4 years of proximity with the language doesn’t make the student speak confidently in English?
Basically, the language teachers must get status but appreciate the key role they play, as without knowing the language, a student can’t understand the subject taught in English or by reading the books in that language.
Let Nitish and Mayawati move fast and take the corrective measures to come up to the standard of the South. Both the states must encourage good private players in education and spend on training its teachers and technologies, particularly one who is to teach English.
*The total number of children enrolled in class I to VIII in 2005-06 in India is about 150 million. Only 9.5 million get education in English medium schools. Rest about 140.5 million are in schools of Hindi and various regional languages as media of instruction with Hindi at the top of 78.4 million.