A Group of Secretaries on education has recommended to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that starting April this year, English should be taught in all secondary schools and there should be “at least” one government-run English-medium school in each of the 6,612 blocks in the country. On Friday, the Group on Education & Social Development pushed for promotion of English and Science, saying English should be made “a compulsory subject in all schools from class 6th onwards” and “at least one English medium school (be set up) in every block along with Science education facility in a radius of 5 kms”.
The Group had secretaries of Higher Education as well as School Education & Literacy as members and its recommendations were framed after consultations with state governments. Education, being a subject in the Concurrent List of the Constitution, is guided by the Three Language Formula as laid down in the National Policy on Education (Parliamentary Resolution) of 1968. The Formula provides for the study of Hindi, English and “modern Indian language” in Hindi-speaking states and regional language, English and Hindi in non-Hindi-speaking states.
It’s only in Central Board of Secondary Education-affiliated schools that English is compulsory for the first eight years. However, the Board does not offer English as a compulsory subject in classes 9 to 12; rather, students need to choose between English and Hindi.
Last October, the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) had suggested to the Ministry of Human Resource Development that the medium of instruction from elementary to higher levels in schools should be the mother tongue and English should not be compulsory at any level.
The Secretaries’ group, in an effort to improve learning outcomes in the country, has suggested that surveys by “third party” be allowed annually to measure outcomes. Besides, they have called for the country’s participation in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and said that there should be a School Education Quality Index (SEQI) to assess and rank states on their performance, with partial funding to states linked to improvement in their SEQI scores.
The 12-member group has also recommended that the “policy of detention in secondary schools” be reintroduced, with states being given the freedom to decide at which level or class the detention policy will come it and alternative safety nets such as skill training and remedial interventions from Class 6. It also wants a basic aptitude test and counseling to be introduced in Class 8 for “proper career planning”. As many as 18 state governments want Section 16 of the RTE, which prohibits the detention of any student until they complete Class 8.
On skill training, it has said that skill development centres should be opened in districts with more than 25 percent tribal population and in minority-dominated blocks. On higher education, it has recommended the standardisation of post-school national exams for entrance to all higher educational institutions through a National Testing Organisation that would conduct JEE, NEET, UGC NET, CAT, GATE and CMAT for entry into medical, engineering as well as university colleges.
It has suggested that 50 best colleges be made autonomous by giving them administrative, academic and financial autonomy as well allowing them to fix their fees and curriculum. For the rest, it said that the university curriculum be reviewed every three years by all departments. Last October, the PM formed 10 Groups of Secretaries to undertake a critical review of the work done by the Union Government in the respective sectors and provide “new ideas” to push the reform agenda further.