Nation on the March

Nation on the March
Nation on the March

Jun 8, 2010

15th June, English language & Gujarati Students!

Come 15th June and the parents are going mad with the preparations for their school going children. Worst off are those who seek first time admissions for their tiny tots.

Selecting a school, interviews, influencing admission process, donations, and often getting fleeced in the process. In a large city near my town, a residential school is charging almost Rs.1,000 PER DAY for kids who are primary section, a whooping Rs.3,50,000 from NRI parents!

Today, the  mad rush is for English medium schools. Those in other schools go to various outlets for learning spoken Dozens of self-help books are available which even housewives religiously read. Some DTH service providers like Tata Sky provide online help to learners, if I remember their advt correctly. Students prepare for TOEFL as a part of their plans to study abroad.

English is becoming more proficient in this universal foreign language that holds key to the future of this new generations aspiring students.Perhaps, their parents and elders who studied in 1960s and 70s in schools of Gujarat were not so fortunate. They were rather very unforunate.

Mr V Gangadhar came to Ahmedabad in Gujarat in  mid-1958 and started working in the local textile (Little younger to him , I was in  class VI at that time. He has written candidly  about the lack of foresight of the politicians in teaching English to Gujarati students from early age. ( : 

For the first ten years of my life in the city, I witnessed the furious battle between the 'Eighth standard camp' and the 'Fifth Standard camp', the former insisting it was adequate if English teaching began from Std VIII while the latter demanded it should start from Standard V. 

The first group had firm political support from Morarji Desai and his stooges in Gujarat. So, the average Gujarati graduate ended up knowing very little English. 

Most college professors and post graduates would read only 
Gujarat Samachar or other local dailies, and not The Times of India. As for reading English books,forget it!"
I vividly recall that :
  •  Both groups had one Mr Thakorebhai in their camp and to differentiate them for one another, the local news papers jocularly named them Thakore Panchma  (V) & Thakore Aathma (VIII) based on their ideology.
  • Also, there was one education minister who was anti-English - Mr. Maganbhai and he propagated  college studies with Gujarati as the medium of instruction. Students were greatly frustrated and named course as Magan-medium' after him!
Elsewhere also,  Mr Gangadhar writes about pitiable English in Gujarat :"For over 40 years, anti-English politicians have used subtle propaganda to brainwash the people into believing that English was "foreign" and was not needed for an "ideal" kind of education taught at institutions like Gujarat Vidyapith.The lobby functioned under the leadership of Gandhian politicians like Morarji Desai ....... Such a fiasco was possible only in a State like Gujarat where people were not academically inclined. The Gujarati middle class which ought to be concerned with the state of education, was satisfied if boys and girls somehow acquired a degree and got jobs within the state......As a result of this lopsided policy on English teaching, boys and girls, who had learnt practically nothing beyond the English alphabet faced problems when they reached the college classes. During the 1960s, when I taught English at an Ahmedabad college, it was difficult to interpret the poems of Shelley, Keats or Tennyson or the essays of Lamb, Chesterton or Addison to students who had little background in the language. The local English teachers solved the problem by "teaching" English in Gujarati. "

So much about the 1960s.

If you are curious why I picked up this topic today, the reason is simple. I stumbled upon yesterday one newspaper cutting dated 19th June 1974 which was published in a renowned Gujarati newspaper " Gujarat Samachar"  (Vadodara edition). One English medium school in a nearby town was recruiting Teachers and the secretary of the school placed the following advt ! (Identity purposefully  masked in the copy below, as I do not intend any disrespect). 

It is placed below  only to reflect the rot that was created by the policymakers few decades ago and was visible in 1974.

No prizes for finding out less than one dozen mistakes !