Published: 24th January 2022
Where will we get so many teachers? Acceptance of Telangana’s decision to convert govt schools to English medium comes with questions
During the recent cabinet meeting, the state government formed a sub-committee under Education Minister P Sabitha Indra Reddy to form guidelines for the same
English medium is always assumed to be quality education.
And in this one statement, Chava Ravi, General Secretary, Telangana State United Teachers Federation (TSUTF) summarises the sentiment towards English-medium government schools. Surely, most, if not all, associations, teachers and parents can get behind the decision of the Government of Telangana cabinet to introduce English as the medium of instruction in all governments schools. But they are also aware that there is more work that needs to be done to turn this decision into reality than meets the eye.
Ravi claims that there are about 21,500 vacancies in Telangana government schools alone, "and without teachers, how can quality English education be delivered?" he asks. To add to that, 98 per cent of the schools hardly have any sanitary workers, at tenders or watchmen, he informs. "We welcome the decision whole-heartedly because underprivileged parents have been asking for this so that their children can advance in life too. But this should not be a paper statement, it should be practical. Both infrastructure and teachers should be in place to deliver on the decision," he says.
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It remains an undeniable fact that the strength in Telugu and Urdu-medium schools has been dwindling and if the number of students being enrolled in government schools needs to be strengthened, then switching to English medium is certainly beneficial, says Mutyala Ravindar, State Vice-President, Telangana Progressive Teachers’ Federation (TPTF). "But without having enough teachers who can teach in English, how can admissions be increased?" he questions. He hopes that a proper action plan will be in place before this process begins and suggests that English be introduced gradually, as opposed to all at once, starting from primary classes.
Ravindar also goes on to remind us about the former late Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy's Success Schools programme to promote English medium in government schools, indicating that this is not a new crusade for the government. He reiterates that the urgent need is to, "Understand the readiness of government school teachers to teach in English, offering orientation and immediately commencing the teacher recruitment process by issuing notifications." He also reminds us that as per the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, wherever possible, students till Class V should be taught in their mother tongue/regional language/local language and the Right to Education Act, 2009, also says that the medium of instruction shall, as far as practicable, be in child’s mother tongue. "Before turning to English medium, we must remember the right of students to learn in Telugu," he says.
Nagati Narayana, State President, Telangana Parents Association (TPA) shared that they both welcome and extend their support towards their decision and says that, "With the introduction of English medium, the status of government schools will soon be on par with private schools. Parents need not depend on private schools and pay lakhs of rupees for the sake of English-medium." He also added that English is certainly the need of the hour, especially when it comes to job opportunities.
Telangana Recognised School Management Association (TRSMA) also welcomed the move "100 per cent", but Y Shekar Rao, President, TRSMA said that first and foremost, "the training of teachers, especially in the areas of communication and vocabulary, and providing good infrastructure is the need of the hour."
Hear it from the heads
Headmaster of Government Primary School, Old Nallagutta, Hyderabad district, Ch Showry, applauded the government's decision and stated that often, underprivileged parents enroll their children in private schools only so that they are able to avail English-medium education and this decision of the government will prove to be comparatively light on their pockets. "Though, by my estimation, only about 40 per cent of the teachers are able to teach in English, the government should take up this issue and continue to push for English medium," he says.
"There are so many problems," begins P Augustien, Incharge Headmaster, Zilla Parishad High School (ZPHS), which is a Telugu-medium school in, Chintalakunta, Mahbubnagar district. He, like others, suggests that first, the priority should be the recruitment of teachers and then, easing children into English-medium mode of instruction, starting with primary sections. "If the former is not done, it will again lead to an increase in burden on existing teachers and the same complaints will come in of teachers not doing their best or not turning up at all," he explains. And if this happens, ultimately, the loss will be suffered by students. He also agreed that switching to English-medium will certainly help students, especially when it comes to higher education opportunities.
What do teachers think?
Math teacher from Government High School in Lashkar Bazar, Warangal district, Ramadevi Kunta, also emphasises on training and says that in previous years, though training was carried out for primary and high school teachers, there is still a lot of work left. Aruna Kannal, who teaches Biological Science at the Telugu-medium Zilla Parishad High School, Nagunur, Karimnagar district, opines that "compulsorily", teachers need to be equipped with the right skills to take on the task of teaching in English, "especially in communication skills and subject-specific English training". But apart from teachers, the switch won't be easier for students either, she says, especially for secondary students. "A slow transition is the way to go for students," she shared.
Though there is no clarity whether the government will discontinue Telugu medium completely or run it in parallel with English medium, Senior Teacher Kulala Dattatri at Zilla Parishad High School in Chintalcheru village, Medak district says that both will run parallel, just like it is currently happening in their school. He also expressed confidence that as far as their school is concerned, apart from two to three teachers, they will manage the switch.