Craze for English

It is easy to look at the increasing number of English medium schools and the number of children studying there as a sign of the rising ambition and aspirations of the people.

A study conducted by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, under the Human Resources Development ministry, has found that the number of children enrolled in English medium schools in the country has registered an exponential increase of 274 per cent in the last seven years and now stands at over 2 crores. While there is increase in the number of children studying in other languages also, the biggest increase is in the case of enrolment in English medium schools. English is the second largest medium of instruction in India, ahead of even widely spoken languages like Tamil, Kannada and Marathi.

What has helped English is the idea that English will help in the professional advancement of children more than other languages. It is a global language and the best means of communication across states within the country. Knowledge of English is an indicator of social status also. The profusion of English medium schools even in small towns shows the spread of fascination for the language to the grass roots. While the mastery of an international language will give a definite advantage to Indian children, the disadvantages of losing touch with the mother tongue should not be lost sight of. It is a basic axiom of education that instruction in the mother tongue is the best for children in the early stages of their education. It is necessary for the best comprehension of the subjects taught, for mental development of children and to give the best expression to their creativity. The fact that many teachers in the thousands of English medium schools are ill-equipped to teach the language makes the situation worse.

The three-language formula was once accepted as the ideal language learning system for schools in the country. It is hardly implemented and is not even mentioned now. Since the language of instruction is the choice of parents during early schooling days of children it can hardly be criticized. It may be difficult to turn the tide of English because of the real and imagined benefits it bestows on students. But it will be unwise to wean children away from their mother tongue and the government should come up with a clear cut policy that strikes the right balance between the mother tongue and English.

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