In the midst of its battle against the Corona virus pandemic, the Jaganmohan Reddy government has hit a legal barricade on one of its ambitious programmes. The Andhra Pradesh High court set aside the government’s orders introducing English as the medium of instruction in all government schools from classes 1 to 6 from the 2020-21 academic year. The plan was to subsequently add classes 7 to 10 over the next four years.
The Government orders had been challenged in court by BJP leaders who argued that medium of instruction should be the mother tongue.
The decision of the government had led to a war of words with the CM himself taking on Chandrababu Naidu and Pawan Kalyan, accusing them of hypocrisy. Jagan’s argument was that if the children of Andhra Pradesh had to compete effectively, learning in Telugu won’t suffice. The government said parents aspiring for a better future for their children, were forced to shell out high fees to admit their kids into private English medium schools. And contrary to the accusation of the opposition that Telugu was being done away with, the mother tongue stayed as a compulsory subject in the 44000-odd government schools.
Education minister A Suresh points out that 43600 parent committees had demanded that English medium government schools be provided to the people. He says even Naidu’s own village of Naravaripalle in Chittoor district supported the demand.
In order to ensure the court did not set aside its GO, the government told the bench that for every block, there will be five Telugu medium schools and if any child wanted to study only in a Telugu medium school, the government would provide free transport to the child if the school is located more than 3 km away. Senior officials in the government regret that the court still did not agree.
While the government is expected to approach the Supreme court in the case, under the present Covid19 circumstances where legal work is largely affected by the crisis, getting a go-ahead in quick time will be difficult. But while the government may accuse the opposition of politicising education, this legal hurdle may actually prove to be a blessing in disguise. It had the onerous task of training close to one lakh government school teachers ahead of the academic session. The government should be glad that it did not have to launch this programme in difficult circumstances of a national lockdown.
But the larger question is who decides the good of the students. Do the people who decide that students should study only in Telugu medium, send their children and grandchildren to a vernacular medium school? Or do they aim to get a seat, through merit or by recommendation, in the best English medium school in town?