Ever since the YSR Congress Party government decided to introduce English as the medium of instruction in all government schools for Classes I to VI from the next academic year, a language war has erupted in Andhra Pradesh.
In this age of rapid globalization, the detractors, primarily the Opposition, has argued that the state should stick to Telugu to protect itself from cultural degradation, else it would endanger the regional language’s survival.
Chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has, however, hit back at his political opponents, asking them pointedly whether they sent their children to Telugu medium schools.
Spearheading the anti-English tirade is Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief and former AP chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and Jana Sena Party leader Pawan Kalyan.
“While the party has criticized Jagan over the move, the fact is that under the previous TDP government, AP had introduced English medium in a few schools only as a pilot. Back then, YSRCP was in the Opposition, and Jagan had made a big deal of it. Now, he himself is doing the same," said a senior TDP leader, requesting anonymity.
The TDP leader, however, conceded that English was necessary, but Telugu was equally important. “The Telugu I studied during my youth was very different. However, even within the party, there are both opinions, for and against the English being the medium of instruction in government schools," he added.
“Language is a means of communication. Today English is a global language, but our vernacular languages are where our thoughts form. At the same time, English is needed to reach out to people at a global level. I myself studied in a Telugu medium school and came to know only in sixth grade that English alphabets exist," said Prof. E. Venkatesu, a faculty member of the University of Hyderabad’s political science department.
Venkatesu, who had conducted a nationwide survey during his stint with the central government, said the popular demand, especially in subaltern communities, was to have English medium schools. “English is no longer seen as the colonial language. In the entire country, over 90% of children in government schools belong to backward classes, SC/STs and minorities. What Jagan has done is good. There are writers in English and Telugu, and there has to be an exchange of ideas between both sides," he added.
The state government is, however, firm in its decision. Reddy told a gathering on Monday that in order to eradicate poverty, students should get jobs, for which English as a medium of instruction is important. AP’s illiteracy rate is 33% against the national rate of 27%, he pointed out, adding that the standard can be improved only if the focus is on improving primary education in the state.