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According to a yet-to-be released report by the National University of Education, Planning and Administration (NUEPA) under its district information system for education, the number of students in English-medium schools across the state grew by 19% from 18.9 lakh in 2009-10 to 22.5 lakh in 2010-11 while there were nearly 1.2 crore students enrolled in Marathi-medium schools. It’s important to understand that English is here to stay, and we will continue to see a migration from Indian language schools to English medium schools. While it’s important that children are fluent in their mother tongue, it has long been established that English is the language of economic activity and enjoys a higher social status.
“There has been a steady decline in the number of students in BMC schools because very few of them are English-medium. Meanwhile, the state government has tied up with the British Council to train its teachers in English”, said Sumit Mullick, senior Maharashtra bureaucrat and former state education secretary. Though there has been a rapid increase in enrolment across English-medium schools, Madhav Chavan, director of NGO Pratham, believes the figure is a lot lower than the demand for the language, as many people who want to send their children to English-medium schools cannot afford to do so. “The dearth of teachers for the English language is also a reason why there are fewer enrolments in English medium schools compared to the demand for the language”, said Chavan.
He conjectures that the growth in numbers at English-medium schools in the state is the result of rapid urbanization. We must remember that 48% of the state is urban. I would imagine that cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Aurangabad have largely fuelled the growth in enrolments at English-medium schools, he added. But Nilesh Nimkar, director of QUEST, an NGO that works with children in the tribal belts of Maharashtra, feels that the craze for English-medium schools is fast catching on in rural parts of the state. Even in small towns where everyone is fluent in Marathi, people struggle to speak English with each other, he added. Nimkar, a former consultant to the government of Maharashtra, says “there are very serious implications of studying in a language one doesn’t know”.This puts double the load on a child, who has to first grasp the language and then use the language to learn other subjects. At an early stage in a childs development, her thought processes are developing and language is the medium of ones thoughts. When the medium of instruction is not a childs mother tongue, this hampers her development, he said. “Maharashtra is currently discouraging the setting up of new Marathi-medium schools”. Instead of improving the quality of teacher-training in English, so that it can be developed well as a second language, the government wants to shift the medium of instruction to English without the infrastructure to do so. One can’t suddenly change the entire language of a society, said Nimkar.
Courtesy: Times of India
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