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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Gujarat: English mandatory from Class 1, and Gita for Classes 6-12

Gujarat Education Minister Jitu Vaghani made these announcements Thursday in the Assembly during the Education Budget discussion, saying these were part of the implementation of the National Education Policy, 2020.

Written by Ritu Sharma | Ahmedabad |
Updated: March 18, 2022 7:24:05 am
As per the rules drafted under the notification, the introduction of Bhagwat Gita will be made in the form of story telling and recitation. The GR also states that this would be evaluated (Representational)

The Gujarat government Thursday announced that it would make English a compulsory subject from Class 1, implement a bilingual medium of instruction — and introduce the Bhagwad Gita in the curriculum of all state-run schools from Class 6.

Gujarat Education Minister Jitu Vaghani made these announcements Thursday in the Assembly during the Education Budget discussion, saying these were part of the implementation of the  National Education Policy, 2020.

On the decision to make the Bhagwad Gita a part of the syllabus from the new academic session in June, the Government Resolution states: “The school education will include Indian culture and knowledge system… in the first phase, values and principles of Bhagwad Gita will be incorporated in state government schools from Class 6-12 in a manner that they are able to understand as well as generate interest for these.”

As per the rules drafted under the notification, the Gita will be introduced in the form of storytelling and recitation — which will also be evaluated — in Class 6-8.

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Education secretary Vinod Rao told The Indian Express: “For instance, a few chapters like storytelling of what great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave or others have spoken about Bhagwad Gita. This would be a part of the main medium like Gujarati and not an optional subject. Thus, in the Gujarati subject exam there may be a question on Gandhi’s interpretation of Gita.”

Recitation and storytelling of the Gita will also be part of school assemblies. Additionally, extracurricular activities on the text — such as debates, essay-writing, plays, drawing and quizzes — will be introduced in government primary and secondary schools.

Jesuit activist Father Cedric Prakash termed the decision “a shock though not totally unexpected” and sought reconsideration. “The study of any and every religious or holy  book needs to be welcomed by all and at all times! However introducing only the study of the Bhagavad Gita in Government schools smacks of majoritarianism violative of the secular fabric of the country and another step towards the establishment of the ‘Hindutva’ Rashtra,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the minister announced in the Assembly that English as a subject would be introduced from Class 1 in all government schools from June.

Simultaneously, schools will introduce Gujarati and English as mediums of instruction from Class 6 for Mathematics and Science.

So far, English as a subject has been taught from Class 3.

“Gujarati is mandatory and the language is important. But, at the same time, English will be taught to Class 1 and 2 students too,” Vaghani said.

The compulsory teaching of English has been a long-debated issue in Gujarat, with several government attempts to do so being opposed by academicians, politicians and alleged right-wing activists on grounds such as “overburdening” children and resisting a “foreign language”.

In 2012, the Gujarat government decided to introduce English as a compulsory subject in the second semester of Class 3 from the 2013-14 academic session. Till then, the subject had been introduced from Class 5.

“The coming academic session we will introduce English as a subject in Class 1 which will be progressed to Class 2 in June 2023,” Education Secretary Rao said.

The Government Resolution Thursday on introducing English in Class 1 and bilingual teaching states: “National Education Policy 2020 lays stress on mother tongue and at the same time on states to encourage multilingual education.”

There are more than 32000 government primary schools (from Class 1-8) in Gujarat with more than 51 lakh students.

“In Class 3, students are not able to grasp the language as efficiently as they would in Class 1. It is so that they are able to at least understand the language and talk in English too. I would again stress on the fact that Gujarati both as a medium and subject will remain compulsory, English is only another subject,” minister Vaghani told The Indian Express.

Vaghani said bilingual books have been prepared to ensure better understanding of both languages. Officials in the Education Department said that these bilingual books will be for Maths and Science in Class 6-8.

However, there will be no English textbooks for Class 1 students; these will only be for teachers. It is likely that what Class 3 students are currently following will be used for Class 1 students from June 2022.

“There will be books for teachers only, the teachers’ edition. Class 1 students will follow the same pattern which is currently followed in Class 3 where there are workbooks for teachers only and stress is laid on speaking and understanding and not writing,” Primary Education Director M I Joshi told The Indian Express.

Detailing the area of learning, the Government Resolution states: “In Class 1 and 2, English language will be introduced as an ‘introductory’ subject through reading and listening activities. In Class 3 to 5, English as a second language will include listening, reading, speaking and writing. Also, revising in Classes 3-5 textbooks of Maths and environment will include important terminology in English.”

The existing curriculum for Class 3 lays stress on only listening and speaking. It has common words used in English including days, functions, greetings and basic words. The students have a workbook on the curriculum of Class 3. Actual reading starts from Class 5 onwards.

The content for these classes is being drafted. “For Class 6-8 including the printed and audio visual content will be prepared by Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training (GCERT) while for Classes 9-12 it will be prepared by Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB).

The Gujarat government has been treading carefully on the decision to introduce English. In 2012, also an election year, the government announced the decision to advance the learning of English to Class 3.

This time, too, the announcement comes in an election year.

However, the stance of the state government as well as the public in Gujarat for English as a subject has witnessed a shift over the last decade.

The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation started its first English medium school in 2013. In 2017, Ahmedabad civic body schools introduced English as a subject in Class 1 itself for its schools in other mediums.

In 2017, the state education department also announced plans to start one English medium school in each taluka. This could not be implemented.

“In Classes 6-8 Maths and Science will have bilingual textbooks. Remaining all other textbooks will be in the existing language. This will be introduced in phases, starting from Class 6 in 2022-23 and progressing to Class 8 in 2024-25. A bridge course for Class 6 will be prepared by GCERT and supplied by Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA),” the note issued by the Education Department states.

Further, in 2025-26 for Class 9 till 12, Maths and Science textbooks will be available in both Gujarati and English medium with the option given to students to choose any one medium.

In 15,000 Schools of Excellence, bilingual textbooks will be implemented mandatorily. In other government and grant-in-aid schools it will be implemented based on existing circumstances.

Also, self-financed schools other than English medium can implement the bilingual textbooks voluntarily.

The introductory textbooks for Class 1 and 2, revised English textbooks for Class 3-5 and Class 6-8 bilingual textbooks will be prepared by Gujarat State School Textbook Board (GSSTB), the GR states.

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