ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Road to English

Slow Migration of the Economically Weak Child to Elite India

Students of English from the economically weaker sections in private schools in Delhi now go through an extended phase of muteness and incomprehensibility before they finally pick up the language, almost by osmosis. The US education system, which promotes bilingualism as opposed to diglossia here, has some lessons for India if the attempt is to make English learning more easy, enjoyable, and useful.

The views expressed are her own.

Put yourself in my place. You are a music teacher sitting at your ­keyboard face to face with a class of six-year-old children in an English-­medium school in Delhi, trying to teach a song whose English lyrics are on a sheet of chart paper on the wall. One ­little boy is singing cheerfully with the others. You cannot hear him, but you can see him actively mouthing words. A closer look, however, tells you that his lip movements do not match the words of the song.

Back in 2006, Indian private schools that had been granted government land at concessional rates were directed to ­reserve 15% of their seats for children from the economically weaker sections (EWS) of society. Then in 2009 the central government passed the Right to ­Education (RTE) Act, making it mandatory for all private schools to reserve 25% of their seats for EWS children. This Act, notified in 2010, has been implemented in private schools from 2011.

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