Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has been making a concerted effort to get Telugu medium educational institutions in the state to switch to English as the primary mode of teaching. His government’s latest such endeavour came Tuesday, when it directed all government, private aided and unaided degree (graduation-level) colleges in the state to compulsorily adopt English as the medium of instruction from this academic session.
The decision comes about a year-and-a-half after the government ordered schools in the state to switch to English, though that November 2019 direction has been mired in legal trouble.
Not put off by the hassles, the government believes that its latest directive will enhance the students’ job prospects, especially at the global level. This, in effect, means that from the coming session, students seeking degree (graduation-level) courses will not have the option to study them in Telugu.
The Tuesday order notes that of the 2.62 lakh students who joined degree colleges in the 2020-21 academic session, 65,981 were from the Telugu medium background and opted for the same medium colleges.
“Our own statistics show that 60 to 70 per cent of Telugu medium students are themselves opting for English medium in the graduation level or College level; the rest of them are not doing so purely due to their inhibitions — be it fear of learning a new language or so,” Prof HemaChandra Reddy, Chairman, AP State Council of Higher Education, told ThePrint.
“All the PG and research programmes (barring language-based research topics) are in English, then how will the students cope if they study only in Telugu?” he added.
“We don’t want students to be limited just to the Telugu states for employment — we want them to go work outside, perhaps abroad. In fact, in Andhra, we don’t even have enough industries to accommodate our youth. We lost the capital Hyderabad to Telangana after bifurcation.”
Critics, including the opposition, however, question the move, on the grounds that migration to a new language at this age will not be easy, especially after years of training and conceptual learning in Telugu.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been alleging that the move is also an attempt by the Jagan government to wipe out Telugu culture.
“This English medium is being made mandatory in government schools and colleges. People from really backward, rural communities choose government institutions. How can they suddenly start learning English and will they be able to adapt easily? We are not against English medium but all we are saying is leave it to the student to pick the medium, give them an option. Don’t make it a compulsion,” the BJP’s state general secretary Vishnu Vardhan Reddy told ThePrint.
Responding earlier to such criticism, Jagan took digs at Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu and former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, both of whom opposed his decision, asking them what medium of schools their children and grand-children study in.
‘Doing it in phased manner’
The state government claims that it has planned a phase-wise migration to English medium, at both the college and school level, to ensure that the process is smooth.
For instance, it claims bilingual textbooks are being printed for students to study the same concepts in English and Telugu at the same time. QR Code-based books are being set up for students to listen to topics through an audio mode.
HemaChandra Reddy told ThePrint that for the thousands of teachers employed in the Telugu-medium colleges and schools, workshops are being conducted to train them to adapt to English mode of teaching. He added that pre-recording of the entire syllabus is being done, the audio of which can be used by teachers in the classes, with them acting as mentors.
State Education Minister A. Suresh had earlier said that the new policy nowhere takes away students’ right to learn their mother tongue or neither is it undermining Telugu in any way. He added that the implementation is being done because Telugu medium students are lagging behind those of English medium.
Critics, however, say that the government does not have the capacity for efficient implementation of the policy and demand that it should be left to students to pick their medium of education.
“Do we have enough teacher-training colleges that can cater to this new demand of English-teaching lecturers… All these bottle-necks, unless resolved meaningfully, will only stymie this decision of shifting to English medium overnight,” said Naga Sravan Kilaru, state general secretary, Telugu Yuvatha (Telugu Desam Party’s Youth Wing).
“A good start would be a phase-wise systematic approach. We should begin with introducing spoken English classes in degree colleges,” he added. “Spoken English should be added to the Skill Development Programme and these systems will yield more results than these overnight statements and government orders.”
Not the first time
This is not the first time that the Jagan government has imposed English medium in educational institutions.
In November 2019, the government issued an order making English medium compulsory for all government schools from classes I to VI in primary, upper primary and high schools under all managements from 2020-21.
There are about 44,000 Telugu medium elementary schools in the state. About 4,000 of them are listed as “success’’ schools, where the medium of instruction is both Telugu and English.
The state, however, received a setback when the order was challenged in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, which struck it down on the grounds that it was a violation of Article 21-A and that parents of students, coming from economically weaker sections, will not be able to guide their children.
The government then moved the Supreme Court but the apex court refused to provide any interim relief. The case currently is pending in the Supreme Court.
“Until the issue is cleared in court, the government cannot implement anything. But we are fully ready. Also, due to the pandemic, schools have been shut,” an official from AP’s Department of School Education told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
“We are also planning to have one Telugu medium school per mandal, but when we conducted a study, more than 90 per cent of parents were okay with English medium.”
Jagan Reddy’s push to move all Telugu medium institutions to English mode is also in sharp contrast to Centre’s New Education Policy (NEP) that has laid emphasis on the mother tongue. The NEP states that wherever possible up until Grade 5 or beyond the mode of teaching to students should be in their mother tongue.
In its 2019 order, the state government, however, said that although English medium is being made mandatory, regional languages or mother tongues such as Telugu, Urdu will be compulsorily taught as languages in schools.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)