Rajasthan: Govt-run English-medium schools may soon become history

The Congress government launched Mahatma Gandhi Rajkiya Vidyalaya scheme for classes 1-12 to mark Gandhiji's 150th birth anniversary in 2019

CM Bhajan Lal Sharma and his government seem determined to reverse every Congress initiative
CM Bhajan Lal Sharma and his government seem determined to reverse every Congress initiative

Prakash Bhandari

From the very outset of its tenure beginning December 2023, Rajasthan's BJP government led by chief minister Bhajan Lal Sharma has appeared hell-bent on either reversing all projects launched by the previous Congress government under Ashok Gehlot, or rechristening them. And one of the most recent steps in this direction is the possible closure of English-medium schools approved by the previous government, or their conversion into Hindi-medium ones.

As part of a series of special programmes to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019, the then Congress government had decided to open Mahatma Gandhi Rajkiya Vidyalaya (English medium) from classes 1 to 12.

Today, there are 3,737 English-medium schools under the umbrella of the Mahatma Gandhi English-medium schools initiative. Apart from this, 1,463  new English-medium schools have also been proposed. But apparently unmindful of the very large number of applications for admission into the government-run English-medium schools, the state government seems determined to convert them into Hindi-medium schools instead.

In state capital Jaipur, various Mahatma Gandhi English-medium schools see between 16 and 34 candidates apply for a single seat. Needless to add, lower-income group families unable to send their children to private English-medium schools have made a beeline for the government-run schools.

"In Sanganer (the Assembly segment of the chief minister), there is a Mahatma Gandhi school in the Mansarovar area with a capacity intake of 54 in each class, but the school has received 1,880 applications. This shows how desperate people are to get their children admitted," Hanuman Bagra, a transport operator and BJP worker, said.

In the city's affluent Gandhi Nagar area, home to state government employee colonies and IAS officers' residences, the Mahatma Gandhi school has received some 310 applications for admission to a single class, even from a few IAS officers. The school's 670 seats filled up in no time, so the state government added 55 seats, for which the school has already received 330 applications. In Sherpur of Dholpur district, one such school with 287 students is routinely facing demands to raise the number of seats.

"These schools were intended to offer English-medium education to the people who were unable to send their children to private schools because of the high fees. Much thought was also given to the fact that rural children should also have an opportunity to study in English-medium schools.

"We also found boys and girls from Rajasthan facing hurdles while appearing for all-India competitive examinations because they didn't know enough English. In my own home, I was inspired by my granddaughter, who speaks fluent English. Educationists also suggested opening more English-medium schools," Gehlot has said.

Before this, English education was offered in Rajasthan's schools only from class six onward, which presented learning difficulties for students thus far taught only in Hindi.

Under the Congress government, education minister B.D. Kalla supervised the development of centres of excellence as per the Vision 2028 paper prepared by the education department, with the medium of instruction being English from classes one to eight.

"The response was tremendous, and by 2021-22 we had to convert 533  government-run schools to English-medium ones. This number soon touched 2,029. Finding teachers with an English background was also a big task. We decided to hire 10,000 contractual teachers divided into levels 1 and 2.

"For level 1, it would be mandatory that the applicant should have studied in an English-medium school and passed the class 12 board examination in English. He or she would also have to possess an elementary diploma. The level 2 eligibility would be to graduate in English-medium with at least a B.Ed degree. Contractual teachers would be paid Rs 16,900 a month,” Kalla said.

"The BJP government has decided to tamper with the English-medium schools just when they had started yielding results. This decision will deprive the poor of quality English education. Our efforts are being wasted for no valid reason,” Gehlot said.

“These schools were opened for political purposes, the intention was not to provide quality education. We have been advised by government officials to review such schools,” said Madan Dilawar, the present education minister.

“It’s a conspiracy by the BJP government to deny underprivileged children the opportunity to study in English-medium schools. Rather than closing them down, the government should try to improve the standard of such schools and also provide basic infrastructure.

"The opening of these schools also inspired the youth to take up honours courses in English literature at the graduate and postgraduate levels, in the hope that they would get jobs as English teachers. This would have paved the way for improving the standard in these schools. But the BJP government is now working to close these schools, which is unfortunate,” said Abhishekk Jain Bittu, secretary of the Abhibhavak Sangh, an organisation of parents.

As a side note, the state government has appointed a committee of 11 MLAs to key management positions in seven state-funded universities to suggest policy for new courses, fee structures, and recruitment of academic staff.

Unfortunately, of the 11 MLAs, seven have no educational qualifications beyond school level. MLA Shankar Lal Decha, who has been appointed to the board of Govind Guru Tribal University in Banswara, has studied up to class 10. MLA Kailash Meena is studying for a bachelor's degree from a private college, while Bahadur Singh, who dropped out in class eight, has been appointed to the management committee of Braj University. 

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