Suresh Audimulapu, Andhra Pradesh education minister, says we find there’s no accessibility and affordability in education in AP... only 39.2% of ST and 49% of SC students study in English medium
With the Andhra Pradesh (AP) government deciding to change the medium of instruction to English from the next academic year, the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government has come under fire from various quarters, with the Opposition claiming that the move will endanger Telugu, the state’s language.
However, brushing aside criticism, AP education minister Suresh Audimulapu said the decision was not taken suddenly, but after careful examination of the state’s school education scenario. In an interview, Audimulapu, among other things, said that among those enrolled in schools, only 39% of Scheduled Tribe (ST) and 49% of Scheduled Caste (SC) students are studying in English medium schools, as against 80% of students from the other (forward privileged) communities. Edited excerpts:
The YSRCP government has drawn a lot of criticism from the Opposition on this issue. Your response?
We never said that we will discourage students from studying in Telugu. Telugu is a compulsory subject from Classes I to X, it will continue to be there. I would like to pose a question to them (critics): why have the children of affluent people studied in English medium?
But when it comes to protecting Telugu language and culture, is it only the responsibility of the downtrodden and rural youth? This is not fair, we have to give everyone a level-playing field. Most of the people from the SC/ST communities are celebrating today. Of course, there will be a lot of challenges, of teaching them properly.
What was the main reason behind introducing English as the medium of instruction in government schools?
We found that there is no accessibility and affordability in education in AP. SC/ST and minorities have been denied access to education, as only 39.2% of ST and 49% of SC students study in English medium, while the percentage is 82% among other (forward) castes. A total of about 62% school students study in English medium across Andhra Pradesh.
We did not do this out of the blue. The government has come from talking about compulsory education to right to education. In AP, the gross enrolment ratio is 25%, meaning out of 100 students who pass out of Class X, only 25 go on to study in college. As education is unaffordable and inaccessible, this happens. Our concentration is now to strengthen enrolment and to increase that.
The state will make English as the medium of instruction for Classes I to VI from the next academic year. Are there enough trained teachers for it?
English was always there in training courses (for teachers). In total, from Classes I to X, there are about 45 lakh students studying in about 45,000 government schools. The state government has identified 98,000 teachers who will be imparting education to Class I to VI, out of which about 30,000 are already qualified. We are making all-out arrangements from January to May next year and are also entering into memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with language universities for training. We will also prepare teaching manuals and conduct regular assessments as well.
What is the next step after this?
We have got a road map and blue print for the introduction of English. After the next academic year, we will implement English as the medium of instruction in the other classes (VI to X), year-on-year. Give us four years and see how Andhra Pradesh will be against other states. We are supplementing the transformation of government schools.
The state government has also started the ‘Nadu-Nedu’ programme (to improve infrastructure in government schools), under which 45 million photos have been taken. We will show how the schools will change in three years and are also changing curriculum to suit changing needs with regard to the needs of society. We will maintain student-teacher ratio as per norms as well. We are getting out students ready for employment by 2041. Are we really making our children fully equipped and industry-ready? This is a question that a welfare government should ask itself.