The Union Cabinet cleared a new National Education Policy (NEP) last year in July, where it recommended education in mother tongue or regional languages ahead of English. However, several states across the country have witnessed an increase in applications for enrolment in English-medium government schools in the last two years, especially after the country went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Recently, in Rajasthan, government English-medium schools have received three times more applications than the available seats. The Mahatma Gandhi State Government Schools, the English medium schools launched in 2019, had classes 1 to 8. Every year one class is added to accommodate the promoted students. According to senior officials, the schools have received 60,000 applications, while only 18,093 seats are available in Class 1.
A school in Jaipur, the state capital, received around 1,400 applications for a mere 60 seats, reported The Times of India. In 2019, there were 33 Mahatma Gandhi State Government Schools, which has no crossed 200. One hundred sixty-eight such schools were introduced only last year to accommodate more students as applications flooded in. As many as 330 existing schools are also being considered to be converted into English-medium facilities, said Sourabh Swami, Director of Secondary Education.
Financial Crisis Forced Students To Shift From Private Schools
According to Swami, many people got to know about the quality of the government English-medium schools due to initiatives like E-Kaksha, which started last year during the pandemic to teach students through online classes.
Moreover, education in these schools is free. Due to the financial crisis caused by the pandemic, several parents have not been able to pay the high fees of the private school. The private schools have not reduced the fees, which has led to parents shifting their wards into government schools, said Abhishek Jain Bittu, state spokesperson of Sanyukta Abhibhavak Sangh, Rajasthan. Sanyukta Abhibhavak Sangh is a platform for parents whose children study in schools.
Other States Have Also Witnessed Rise In Demand
Rajasthan is not the only state dealing with the increasing demand for government English-medium schools. Chattishgarh state government had opened 52 English medium schools last year, reported The Print. Due to the high number of applications, the admission process, which was scheduled to run till December or January had to be closed in November 2020.
According to the Chhattisgarh School Education Department officials, the schools have become extremely popular because they are affordable, provide quality education with qualified teachers and are equipped with libraries, and computer and science laboratories. More experienced teachers have also applied for jobs in these schools because they pay well. The government had received around 60,000 to 65,000 applications in two or three months for enrolment in the English medium schools, named after Swami Atmanand, a well-known educationist and social activist from Raipur.
Improved Facilities In Government Schools
The Uttar Pradesh government has also converted 15,000 primary and upper primary schools into English medium schools to modernize the education system. The schools boast of smart classes and provide free books, uniforms, bags, shoes and socks, and importantly, the kids learn to speak in English. Demand for seats in English medium schools set up by the government has also increased in Tamil Nadu, reported The Hindu.
Families who had lost jobs due to the pandemic had to relocate to their villages, and shifting the kids to government schools was necessary. Moreover, the government English-medium schools students also avail the benefits of the government welfare schemes – like free nutritious food, textbooks, geometry box, laptop, uniform, bus pass, bicycles among others. The School Education Department's policy for 2020-21 noted that close to 7.1 lakh children were enrolled in the English medium sections in Tamil Madu.
With the state governments planning to open more English medium schools, it has proved the popular notion of parents being reluctant to enrol their kids in government schools wrong.
Majority Prefer English Medium Schools
However, the medium is English, and it plays a crucial role in the increasing demand for government schools. English is the most preferred medium of instruction in several states, especially in southern India, as per the 2019-20 Unified District Information System (UDISE) report published in The Federal.
According to the survey, Jammu and Kashmir has close to a hundred per cent enrolment in English medium schools. Telangana follows J&K with 73.8 per cent of children enrolled in schools instructed in English. In states like Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Haryana, and Punjab, the percentage of children preferring English medium schools has seen a considerable rise, with almost 50 per cent of students desiring English as their medium of instruction 2019-20. Going against the NEP 2020 recommendations, India continues to prefer English as its preferred medium of instruction.