Why so crazy about English as medium of education
EDUCATION BY DR AKHTAR HUSSAIN MIR
Whenever I happen to visit some English medium school in Srinagar, the horrors of our educational system become clear to me. The city has become a school town but at almost every level of society there are parents at their wits’ end and children barely hanging on. Children at some elite schools though constrained to call them so, let us presume, are the luckier ones, but the rest is a sad story. There is a serious problem, that every parent is desperate to provide his ward education in English medium. One can understand the compulsion—English for many is the way to get ahead at a global level as well as to lift you up socially. The best job it is believed are available to those who speak and know English. To impress someone and present his case or arguments, it is considered better to speak English. But the myth that we are conversant with English in India goes only so far.
While discussing the problem with one of my friends, who teaches English in one of the reputed institutions of the valley, his dismissal of the rules of English grammar is annoying, but he does speak to the reality. And the reality is that in many English medium schools in the valley, neither the teacher nor the students know sufficient English. Yet, they are expected to teach and learn history, physics, chemistry, biology and the rest of it. When this problem has been recognized, two corrective steps have been taken. The first is to dumb down the whole system to the level of the lowest common denominator and second is to try and simplify English literature texts. Both are short-sighted. Even non literary person stands as literate for the BOSE and CBSE boards for instance.
India became independent from British rule in 1947. Even then, English “as she is spoken” was available to a minority. Since then, years of various political whims and nationalistic decisions have meant that education has been on a seesaw, moving up and down keeping just about everything in mind except children and their needs. What is to be needed instead, is the imparting of education in a medium that children can understand and a simultaneous effort to teach spoken English. This will reduce the time wasted in attempting to teach concepts in an alien language to children who speak some other language at home and to each other. Right now, students are being deprived of the very precious resources of knowledge and understanding. Nor can it be forgotten that most teachers themselves come from the same pool, so are similarly handicapped.
The result is a large group of half-educated children, many of whom have been frustrated or beaten down by a haphazard system and parental ambition. The tragedy of course is that other problems which afflict all schools remain—a proliferation of boards and standards, not enough quality teachers, a lack of consensus on examination system, ill conceived course curricula, unbalanced focus on academia over extra-curricular activities, little coordination with universities and their requirements. And those who rail against the coaching class system might stop and consider that if the schools were able to do their job, tutorials would not exist. It is not just slow learners who use the alternative system; often it is the very clever as well. The well-off now all flock to the boarding schools and thus duck the Indian system. Those with no alternative have to make do with no school or government-run schools, which are hit and miss at best. And the vast mass of upwardly mobile and overambitious is stuck in the middle, neither fish nor fowl.
Author is Professor political Science. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 25 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 25 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 26 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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