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Gujarat fails to promote English five years after it launched programme to teach the language via satellite

By Rajiv Shah
Latest data collected by the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), prepared by elite NGO Pratham, has suggested that Gujarat’s five-year efforts to push English among schools has miserably failed. Released on January 13, 2015, the top study has found that just about 9.8 per cent of the children in rural Gujarat, studying in class V, could read English sentences, which is the lowest scorecard compared to the rural areas of all other major Indian states, but Madhya Pradesh (9.6 per cent). The all-India average on this score is 24 per cent, and Kerala tops with a whopping 68.5 per cent.
 The ASER study has further revealed that 26.7 per cent of class VII children in rural Gujarat could read English sentences, as against the all-India average of 38.8 per cent, and just two states’ rural children of class VII perform worse than those of Gujarat – Chhattisgarh (21.5 per cent) and Madhya Pradesh (18.3 per cent). The best performing state on this score, again, is Kerala, with 80 per cent of class VII children found to be reading English sentences.
The survey further finds that, of those who could read English sentences, just about 54.8 per cent of rural Gujarat’s class V children, and 69.8 per cent class VII children, could tell the meaning of what they were reading. This is against 62.2 per cent of children of class V and 66.3 per cent children of class VII children telling meaning of English sentences out of those who could read them at the all-India level.
Poor report card of English in Gujarat comes despite the state government's what seemed in 2009 to be  valiant efforts to promote English, "setting aside" the RSS’ ideological reservations towards encouraging the language. The Modi government in 2009 declared it was all set to spread teaching of English in Gujarat's schools with the help of the Educational Satellite of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
At that time, it was declared that more than 20 million children studying in 22,000 government schools of Gujarat would “benefit” from the programme to learn English. The programme had found opposition from Vidya Bharti, the education wing of the RSS, which was opposed to the propagation of English over Gujarati. Modi had then insisted that English had to be  “conquered” first if Gujarat had to emerge as a global player.
In fact, the Gujarat government in 2009 launched a Rs 600-crore project to provide a 42-inch LCD or plasma screen TV sets to directly telecast English lessons to be given by teachers from Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Application and Geo-informatics (BISAG) in Gandhiangar. At that time, already, some 5,000 schools had wide-screen TV sets. Rest of the schools would have to be provided the sets in due course.
Modi’s website, www.narendramodi.in, pointing towards the importance of English, said three years later, in 2012, that to “increase” the knowledge of the English language among Gujarati youth, the state government had started SCOPE (The Society for Creation of Opportunity through Proficiency in English) programmes. “Over two lakh students have acquired proficiency in English so far through this initiative”, it declared, adding English speaking was a “requirement of a Gujarati student”.

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