Address legal issues before introducing English medium- The New Indian Express

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The government of Andhra Pradesh through GO number 81 will introduce English medium from Class I to VI, starting from 2020-21 academic year and extend it to Class IX and X in the succeeding academic years. This decision of the government has created a lot of debate and controversy with political parties, academicians and intellectuals taking very strong position both in favour as well as against it.

ALSO READ | No threat to Telugu, it’s a must in all schools: Language panel chief

Those against the introduction of English medium argued that this would make students forget their mother tongue and, hence, is not desirable.

Those who supported the move stressed the fact that when the option is available, the preferred medium happens to be English, hence, why deny it to the students who go to government and zilla parishad schools?

I had been a Telugu medium student right up to the degree level. English became medium of instruction only in my post-graduation. Personally I never felt it as a disability. But both in school as well as in college, teaching of English as a language was very good and the proficiency I gained in English as a language stood me in good stead in later years. The only time when I felt that my English was inadequate was while answering precis writing as part of the English language paper for the IAS exam. I believe unlike those days English language paper for IAS these days is only a qualifying one in the preliminary exams, that too at a comparatively lower standard.

As a student of Telugu medium from a village background, I always had a complex when cousins of mine studying in English medium in the town came to visit us. It’s not just the English medium, but their better dressing and better awareness that were also the reasons for the complex.

In the end none of them did better academically or professionally as life progressed. That is because though the medium of instruction was English, the standards were not up to the mark.

Though I don’t want to generalise from my experience, the short point which I want to highlight is there is something more than English medium that is required to equip the children from the rural schools to perform better in life both academically and professionally.

It would be a fallacy to think just the medium of instruction would make all the difference in academically equipping students. Children of the elite do better not just because they study in English medium schools but because those schools have better faculty, better methodology and facilities.

Does Telugu language suffer if the medium of instruction is English? For this, my answer would be no. Telugu language today is suffering since unlike English it’s optional at degree level and there are no language courses in the professional colleges.

If someone is serious about doing a service to Telugu language, it should be made compulsory at degree level and introduced as a subject in professional courses. There is an argument that professional students are already taxed and may not be able to take this additional burden. I don’t think it’s a sound argument.

If we want Telugu as a language to survive, we should introduce it as a compulsory additional subject in professional courses as well.

Today, English as a medium of instruction has become an aspirational issue for certain sections and there is no point in denying the same. The right thing would be to give students an option to choose either Telugu or English medium, instead of making it compulsory.

This definitely would mean additional expenditure for the government, but legally also denying the option of studying in the mother tongue by introducing compulsory English medium may invite problems.

While discussing the matter with a young lawyer Umesh Chandra, he has brought to my notice the following. Right to elementary education was made fundamental right under Article 21A, and in pursuance of the same, Right to Education Act was promulgated, which specifically says medium of instruction as far as practicable should be in child’s mother tongue.

It goes on to give the reasons for the same to facilitate the child to express his views freely, free of fear, trauma and anxiety. When that is the stated legal position, can the State government deny the option of studying in the mother tongue to those who wish to do so by making English as a compulsory medium of instruction? I hope the legal issues were addressed properly before the decision was taken.

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