IN LAST five years, as many as 12 lakh students have failed in Maths and nearly 7 lakh in English in Class 10 exams conducted every March by the Maharashtra SSC Board. A majority of them who have failed in English are from Marathi medium schools and other medium schools such as Hindi and Urdu.
This staggering figure of failures prompted State Education Minister Vinod Tawde to announce last week that there was a need to make English and the ‘much-dreaded’ Maths optional subjects for Class 10 students. Towards this end, the minister has invited suggestions and views from experts across the state before taking the final decision.
Tawde’s objective “to make life easier” for Class 10 students by making English and Maths optional has, however, not gone down well with education experts, teachers, principals, trustees, parents and even former academicians. There seems to be unanimity among them that such a step in today’s competitive world will not be not in the larger interest of students, especially for Marathi and other medium schools when it comes to English language.
The experts and teachers strongly feel that each and every student should know basic Maths and that every student should be well-equipped with the English language skills if he or she has to survive with intense competition worldwide.
“Making English and Maths optional will push our students back in this rapidly progressing world. It is certainly not a solution to the large number of failures in both the subjects. The most hit will be students from Marathi-medium schools.
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“If you make English optional in Class 10, then Marathi medium students will lose interest from earlier classes. This means, they will never be able to learn English that is so essential in today’s information age,” said Agnes Paul, principal of the S V S High School, Khadki, one of the oldest schools in Pune.
As for Maths, Paul said every student should know at least basic Maths. “If a student does not want to take Maths as a subject, they can always opt for general Mathematics, which is an easier form of the subject,” she said. General mathematics was introduced in 2008 in view of the large number of failures and rising dropout cases.
Echoing similar views, educational expert Gursimran Kaur said the state government should avoid taking a retrograde step and revamp the existing system. “Bring in quality teachers, change the system, make the subjects more fun to learn and revamp the syllabus, but don’t do away with English and Maths. These two subjects are the soul of learning in schools and they should not be tampered with,” she said.
Dominic Lobo, who runs the National English School, said, “Is the state government interested in ensuring a better tomorrow for our students or are they wanting a darker future for them? Anybody who talks of making English optional in this information age where English is the global language is certainly living in some parallel world.”
Lobo said instead of finding the reasons for failures of lakhs of students in English and Maths, the state government seems to be taking an extreme view. “Why not ensure that there are quality teachers available for each and every school in Maharashtra. Why can’t we make the subjects easy to learn and less confusing? Why can’t we have a system which helps us get quality teachers who in turn make life easier and simpler for the students? The government needs to retrospect first,” he said.
Mukund Sarda, principal of the New Law College, Erandwane, said, “I heard about this plan by the government and was shocked. Especially, making English optional will hit the Marathi medium students hard. For example, if Marathi medium students who had dropped English in Class 10 want to go for law after Class 12, they will find it most difficult both in Class 12 and after that to learn law for five years. Law is all in English and complex field…it needs hard effort to understand the language of law…the same goes for engineering and medical field.”
Sarda said there should be professionals from engineering, law and other fields teaching in schools. “The government should rope in experts from these fields to lay solid foundation for our students,” he said. Education officials said the government was already exploring this possibility.
Jayshree Marale, a retired principal of PCMC schools, said,”Marathi medium students are so poor in English that till Class 5 many of them even do not know A,B,C D…But making English optional is not the solution.
“If a student from vernacular medium has to survive in this competitive world, he or she has be fluent in English. The state government should launch a massive campaign for improving the English langauge skills of Marathi medium schools, especially those from civic and Zilla Parishad schools,” Marale said.
S Rithe, a parent from Bhosari, said, “It is shocking to imagine that the government can even think of doing away with English subject…Yes, but they can make Maths simpler but not scrap it.” P Dhumal of Sambhaji Brigade, said, “It is clear that the government wants to implement saffron agenda…We strongly condemn any such move to make our students weaker in today’s competitive world. The government should instead look for ways to reduce the failures of students in these subjects.”
After proposing it, Tawde apparently does not seem to be keen on strictly going ahead with his plan. On Saturday, his office, in response to a query, said, “The plan is not for immediate implementation. It is a thought process initiated by the minister and will be discussed threadbare with education experts.”
In the statement, Tawde said he spoke about making the subjects optional as he had met several students who conveyed their inability to crack the subjects. The minister’s office, however, said after taking in the suggestions and views of education experts, the final decision whether to make the subjects optional or make them easier will be taken.
SSC board chairman G K Mhamane refused to comment, saying the matter relates to policy decision of the government.
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