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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

By Chitralekha Patil, President of Raigad district women cell

If numbers are to be believed total 4093 vernacular medium schools all over India are getting closed. And I say why they wouldn’t? No students means No schools! Because there is a strong perceptive undertone amongst especially the rural folk that English (Angrezee) is the answer to all. While speaking to some of the rural mothers, I heard them say, ”Amcha tar aayushya gele – pan atta English ni mulanche tari kahi tari bhale hoil” (As in, our life is anyways gone, so if he/she studies in English medium may be our life will change). Anyways considering the current scenario of rural India unlike the actual claims of our marketing ruling party, the situation in and of rural India is pathetic. Not only is there infrastructural poverty but mainly it is an intellectual poverty that is a haunting issue of tomorrow. Because of lack of skill, unemployment is very high and hence the depressive undertone of the mother I mentioned in earlier.

And the aspirational mothers are right, why not? English is a global language. It does open opportunities. Today 52.1% of internet content is in English.  Besides, even if we see an example of China who has been on a backfoot relatively to America, in terms of their lack of global language skills.

Colonization done by the Britishers took English in every part and mainly to the controller of a lot of things could only receive in English. Hence may it be a creative, an employee or a supplier; he, who could sell himself in English, was successful.

So a rural parent in India with these aspirations is not at all wrong. But then problem today is the half-baked cake!

Half-baked cake! Confused?

I being in education and politics have experience a lot of rural schools and teachers, especially the newly cropped breed of English Medium schools in the rural areas most schools don’t have proper teachers. It’s not completely management fault. I am sure they want to hire good, fluent, qualified teachers but (a) getting these kinds of teachers is a huge problem. (b) The one which are available in the village are qualified but not fluent. I happen to speak to a couple of rural English medium teachers. So they could tell me by definition what a noun was, it’s “a” for an apple. But when it came to making a simple conversation with me or any one in English they could not speak beyond half a sentence. Why this? If their theory is okay? Why can’t they converse and does not then it get us to the basic of “Why we learn a language?”

If communication is not proper, concept understanding process will be hampered. “Concepts” -  I believe are the basic of “Why we go to a school?”

To speak, read and write, Right? Then isn’t our rural generations of children in danger if they are not even learning their Marathi properly; may be with this half-baked language they get all the more confused with their concepts. Please let us not forget that these are children from families with no background in English. Isn’t that a scary aspirational bubble that can blast?

It got me to the 2nd question to many trustees who managed such school, “why not simply hire well qualified teachers from cities”? Well one of the trustee say, “Our parent can pay maximum fee of Rs. 20,000 to 30,000 per year”; let us note here while on the other hand we have schools in Mumbai which charge 7.5 lakh per student per annum. The trustee continues, “Plus because of rural poverty & political pressure very often fees don’t get recovered. So if we aspire to get a teacher from outside (a) we can’t sustain her salary (b) the teachers don’t even want to come and live in villages and are unable to and not willing to adopt the rural life style. And finally they get ample opportunities in bigger cities owing to schools, tuition classes, special tutors, camps & courses etc. And hence we are left with what is available.

But my question is what really is available is of very poor quality. On one hand we talk about gapping the bridge between rural & urban and on the other hand these confused aspirational schools & level of education will degrade our rural youth instead of upgrade. They will be conceptually very poor & confused in a poor language. I think being in a young country; with the maximum nos. of youth this is a very scary aspiration, it will only give us half-baked cakes and even more frustrated future generation.

I think it’s a time Govt., educationalist, education officers; CSR foundations that sponsor schools understand this aspirational need properly and fuel it with proper trained teachers. Because it is about India’s future and no one can take our agrarian rural youth out of consideration when we think of India.

The aspirational need is not wrong. The good quality fodder to these aspirations is not available. It is time Govt. and CSR start pumping in money in teachers training, language enhancement skills and grants and schemes which will get urban 2nd generation teachers to seep into the grass roots of the rural and make a real change, which is actually very necessary for a country like India. But if not done well, this new Angrezee Zingaat generation will be another problem to solve!

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