Acting on the suggestion of the Group of Secretaries set up by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the HRD Ministry has advised all states and Union territories to have at least one government-run English-medium school in each block. The Union government, The Indian Express has learnt, has refrained from issuing an order as establishment of schools is a matter of state policy. The advisory was despatched on May 1 this year.
Although a majority of school students in the country study in Hindi-medium schools, the number of students enrolling in English-medium schools doubled from 1.5 crore in 2008-09 to 2.9 crore in 2013-14. As a consequence, more states, such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Delhi, have started offering the option of English as a medium of instruction in government schools.
The HRD Ministry’s missive to the states also suggests English should be taught as a compulsory subject from Class VI. However, according to government data, 32 states and UTs already teach English from Class I and four states and UTs have introduced the subject from Class V. As first reported by The Indian Express on January 15, the 12-member Group of Secretaries on Education and Social Development had pushed for promotion of English and science, saying English should be made “a compulsory subject in all schools from Class VI 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”. There are a total of 6,612 blocks in the country.
This group had also recommended that teachers in government schools should not be assigned any non-academic work and that government schools should follow the Finnish model which permits flexibility in curriculum to promote curiosity and creativity. In response to these suggestions, the department of school education has entrusted National University of Educational Planning and Administration to prepare a report on the time spent by teachers on non-teaching activities and its impact on education.
As for the recommendation on adopting the Finnish model of school education, the HRD Ministry has set up a working group with representatives from NCERT, CBSE, NIOS to suggest ways to operationalise this model. The Group of Secretaries also wants a basic aptitude test and counselling to be introduced in Class X for “proper career planning”. NCERT is learnt to have developed a prototype test for Class IX students and is aiming to collect data of 3,000 students before the summer vacation in schools next year.