2 crore Indian children study in English-medium schools
NEW DELHI: The last eight years
have seen a staggering rise in the number of children studying in
English-medium schools across the country. Data on school enrolment for
2010-11 shows that, for the first time, the number of children enrolled in
English-medium schools from Classes I to VIII has crossed the two crore mark - a
274% rise since 2003-04.
For the fourth year in a row, English is the second-largest medium of
instruction in India, ahead of both Bengali and Marathi, according to a
yet-to-be released report on countrywide school enrolment by the National
University of Education, Planning and Administration (NUEPA) under its District
Information System for Education.
"The collection of information under DISE has improved over the years, and now
gives a true picture of enrolments by medium of instruction across the country,"
says Professor Arun C Mehta of NEUPA.
While Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and English have all seen a rise in enrolment in
2010-11 when compared with the previous year, the rate of increase is highest
While there is an obvious demand for the English language in India, academicians
and policy-makers believe state governments are handling this demand in an
extremely unimaginative manner.
"There is a wealth of research which shows that the best medium of instruction
for a child to have a conceptual understanding of a subject is his
mother-tongue. Just because people want their children to study English does not
mean that they need to enroll them at an English-medium school. If
Indian-language schools did a good job teaching English, parents would not need
to send their children to English-medium schools," said
vice-chancellor of NUEPA. He himself studied in a Kannada-medium school where he
picked up good English, he pointed out.
"There has been extensive research to show that the number of years for which
children study a language does not necessarily translate into them being able to
speak or read the language. It is seen that if you show mastery over your first
language and can read and write it fluently, you can learn a second language,
such as English, a lot faster," says Professor
dean of the faculty of education at Delhi University. She points to countless
instances where textbooks are in English but children can't make sense of them.
"Several states have seen a spike in the number of private schools, many of
which call themselves English medium, though they don't teach much English,"
says Govinda. But
Vinod Raina, an architect of India's Right to Education Bill, feels the
recent NUEPA data
should not be interpreted as a rise in enrolment in private English-medium
schools alone, as several states, such as Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab, are
themselves adopting English medium for government schools.
Raina, who has studied the education system in J&K and Punjab, says that
teachers in these states are bitter about being forced to teach in English
without being equipped to do so, with disastrous consequences. "This is not
simply a question of one teacher having to teach the English language, but about
all teachers suddenly having to transact in English," he says. "That government
schools are turning Englishmedium does not, in any way, mean that either
teachers or students at these schools can speak a word of English," says Raina.
Rampal points to an urgent need for a well-deliberated national language policy,
in the absence of which individual states have taken arbitrary decisions
Many, like Shyam Menon, director of Ambedkar University, believe that the rise
in the number of children at Englishmedium schools reflects the aspirations of
India's middle class, which believes that an English education translates into
greater upward mobility, irrespective of the quality of education delivered at