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The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Wednesday set aside a State Government Order (GO) accepting the proposal to gradually covert the medium of instruction in Government Schools to English from this academic year onwards (Dr. Srinivas Guntupalli v. The State of Andhra Pradesh and ors).
The Bench Chief Justice JK Maheswari and Justice Ninala Jayasurya allowed a batch of PILs challenging the GO, holding that,
“… looking to the history of pre-independence and post-independence and as per the recommendations of the Report of the States Reorganisation Commission, 1955 and the National Policy on Education Act, 1968 and various other Reports, it is unequivocally recognised that medium of instruction in the schools, particularly, upto to standards I to VIII must be in mother tongue.”
The Court added,
“The effect of the National Policy on Education, 1968 and other Reports cannot be whittled down by way of issuing G.O., by the State Government, contrary to the spirit of the RTE Act and also to the provisions of the Constitution and also by the judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Therefore, the decision of the Government, converting the medium of instruction from Telugu to English medium from Standards I to VI or I to VIII as the case may be, en-bloc, is against the National Policy, on Education Act, 1968 and various other reports, therefore, it cannot be accepted, hence, the impugned G.O, is deserves to be set aside.”
In particular, the Bench found that the GO violated Section 29 (2) of the RTE Act; Section 7 (3) and (4) of the Andhra Pradesh Education Act, 1982 Act; Rules 8 and 23 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2010 and Rule 25 of the Andhra Pradesh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2010.
These provisions, the Court notes, provides that “the curriculum and the medium of instruction must be in mother tongue or irrelapsable literacy in mother tongue.”
After taking stock of various Supreme Court rulings and views forwarded in texts and by social thinkers, the High Court went on to note,
“The mother tongue plays a huge role in the development of personal, social and cultural identity; more so, the first language often enables a deeper understanding of themselves and their place within the society along with increased sense of well-being and confidence …. Thus, by education, personality of a child develops and the said education, if imparted in mother tongue, it makes the child educated in an atmosphere free from fear; thereby, he may be in a position to express his views freely.”
Andhra Pradesh High Court
This apart, the Bench found that the GO in question affected the rights of minorities to run the educational institutions based on religion and language and to administer the same in terms of Article 30 of the Constitution.
The Court also pointed out that the GO had not received Presidential assent and that it was contrary to the Central Government’s policy. Therefore, the GO was hit by the doctrine of repugnancy, it was held.
The GO in question was passed in November last year and it entailed the following changes:
Conversion of classes from I to VI in primary, upper primary and high schools under all managements into English medium and gradually increase each further class from next consequent academic year;
Enhancing the skills of the present deployed teachers, by developing Teachers’ Hand Book, Training of Teachers in English medium teaching skills and knowledge, Compendium of best classroom practices and other pedagogical material for supporting the teachers and to submit proposals for recruitment of teachers for filling up of the posts and;
The Director, Text Book Press was to obtain consent, indent and ensure the supply of English medium text books in the next academic year
Inter alia, the State defended the decision as being in line with the objects of the Constitution and not falling afoul of the the Right to Education (RTE) Act. The Court was told that the decision was taken based on inputs from parents, and that the same would be beneficial to those children who could not afford to obtain english medium education in private schools.
As far as the State’s submissions on parental inputs were concerned, the High Court pointed out that “it is not the function of the Parents’ Association to recommend for change of medium of instruction” under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Therefore, this contention was repelled, with the Bench also taking critical note that the authorities had substituted its own independent decision for that taken by the parents in this case.
As far as accessibility to English medium education was concerned, the Court observed that there were parallel English medium schools in Andhra Pradesh, leaving the child and parent the choice between going for an English or Telugu medium school. “In such a situation, if poor people want to get their child admitted in English medium school, they can admit their child”, the Court said.
The State had also justified its decision while citing supporting recommendations in various reports including those of the N Balakrishnan Committee and the Regulatory and Monitoring Commission under the leadership of Justice R Kantha Rao. The Court, however, did not accept these submissions given that these reports were not made available to the Court.
Among other grounds, the Court found it difficult to accept the State’s contention that making English a compulsory subject would not diminish the credibility of the Telugu language. In this regard, the State had submitted that at the Mandal level, there will be one school continuing to offer education in Telugu medium.
The State added that transport to these schools would be provided for free to children requiring the same. Therefore, the State argued that there would be no violation of Section 29 (2) of the RTE Act, which lays down that “the medium of instructions shall, as far as practicable, be in child's mother tongue.”
The Court, however, disagreed, observing that, "… on change of medium of instruction as English in the schools, running one school in each Mandal in the District would not satisfy the requirement of the provisions of the RTE Act, therefore, the said stand is also not tenable and is hereby repelled.”
The High Court’s judgment also details the historical context in India, as far as elevating the use of vernacular languages is concerned. Apart from referring to the efforts of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore and Dr.Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in this regard, the Court was also prompted to recount,
“Mahatma Gandhi said that the baby takes its first lesson from its mother; therefore, change of medium of instruction at primary stage to any other language is a sin to the mother tongue.”
The Bench further pointed out that the UNESCO and NCF also supported that the mother tongue or regional language as the medium of instruction, which can result in overall development of the citizen.
Moreover, it was highlighted that, “in the State of Andhra Pradesh, the development of the regional language/mother tongue Telugu is having its own history”, while referring to the efforts of Nannaiah, Gidugu Rama Murthy Pantulu, the JPL Gwynn Committee, Dr.Krishnamurthi etc.
In this backdrop, the Court observed,