Krishan Kumar, the Secretary of School Education in Punjab, is credited with transforming the government schools of the state. Anju Agnihotri Chaba finds out how he has turned the Punjabi schools into English medium.
One of the key reforms has been the stress on English learning. What is the reason?
It has been observed that people are sending their wards to private schools because they are English medium. Even people who may not have abundant financial resources prefer those schools because they feel English-medium schools impart quality education. It’s to fulfil the need and aspirations of people that we are emphasising on the development of English language skills. Moreover, English is a global international language and proficiency in it will enable our students to tap into an array of employment avenues.
How has this been achieved?
Our resource persons have devised innovative teaching techniques and activities at the state level. Specially-designed teaching/learning material and practice worksheets are provided to the students. The content of the syllabus has been prepared to make the teaching-learning easy, interesting and effective. District- and block-level mentors are provided training in these techniques and they, in turn, hold training workshops at the block level to equip and motivate teachers to introduce these in their classes. They also monitor these classes.
We have also set up English labs and clubs. Students have started conversing in English. They have also taken to reading under the “Library Langar” programme wherein lakhs of books lying in the school libraries have been made available to students.
WhatsApp groups of teachers, students and parents have been formed to share good practices and solve problems.
In a state where clearing the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and studying in a foreign university is the main concern of every youngster, what role will the government schools play?
The programme for improving English language skills at the school level will certainly strengthen their foundation for learning different skills such as listening, speaking, reading and writing in the English language, and they will be better equipped for challenges abroad. We have also started a special programme on the pattern of IELTS coaching for developing language skills for students from Grade 6 to 12. We also lay tremendous emphasis on teaching the basics of every subject to our students.
We often come across stories about students from private schools shifting to government schools in Punjab. How did you achieve this shift?
The “School Shikhiya Sudhar Muhim” includes extension and augmentation of infrastructure as well as innovative teaching techniques. Under it, the school buildings have been spruced up, learning aids adorn the walls and we have smart classrooms for e-learning. We also have maths/science/social studies parks. On the whole, the schools have been given a “smart look’ in every sphere. The teachers are doing yeoman service in changing the face of government schools. They invite parents to visit schools during science, maths and English fairs.
All this has changed the public perception of government schools. People are especially impressed when they see our students speaking in English while explaining concepts or taking part in declamation etc. This motivates many parents to make the switch.
There is an apprehension among a section of people in Punjab that this lopsided emphasis on English is taking away children from their roots. What do you say to that?
Under the “Word of the Day” project, schoolchildren are taught one word each in English and Punjabi.
The idea behind developing vocabulary and language skills in both English and Punjabi is to enable our students to face the challenges of globalisation while strengthening their cultural roots.