Delhi gung-ho over English, not Hindi 


NEW DELHI: It may not take too long for English to overtake Hindi as the largest medium of instruction in schools in the national capital. While Hindi still retains the top slot, the academic year 2010-11 saw an increase of nearly one lakh in the number of students attending English-medium schools in the capital when compared with the previous year. Simultaneously, there was a decrease in the number of children studying at Hindi medium schools of a little over a lakh.

The data is part of a yet-to-be released report on school enrolments across the country, prepared by the National University of Education, Planning and Administration (NUEPA).

R Govinda, vice chancellor of NUEPA, feels a direct migration from Hindi medium to English medium may well have occurred in Delhi, a city with greater prosperity and access than the rest of the country. "People who are just above the poverty line want their children to benefit from studying at an Englih-medium school, as they have seen people who speak English doing better in life than those who don't," says Govinda.

He also believes that the rise in enrolment in English-medium schools has much to do with the enterprising business community, for whom education, too, is another business. "I recently met a builder who said he was diversifying into the field of education as there was a good market for it," says Govinda.

According to professor Shyam Menon, vice chancellor of Ambedkar University, the growing demand for the English language in Delhi reflects a widespread urban phenomenon, seen across the country's metros.

"English is identified with those who are at the core of the country's economy. The closer one's proximity with the English language, the closer one is perceived to be to the core of the Indian economy. The same analogy can be extended to those who live on the geographic periphery of the country's economic centres, and are deprived of both English and the benefits of the economy," says Menon.

That Delhi's civic body is opening English-medium sections in municipal schools too may have a hand in the growing number of students in English-medium schools.

"The state governments, MCD and education department have, for long, been lobbying for an increase in English-medium schools without consulting educationists on its implications. The English language is seen as a passport to growth and prosperity. But it's also important to examine the larger role that language plays in the life of an individual and for a culture," says Rahul Dev, founder of Sampark, an organization that works towards the preservation of Indian languages.