It is the last few years of teaching Malayalam at the Presidency Girls Higher Secondary School, Egmore. There are only six students learning the subject at the higher secondary level, while there are none at the primary and high school.

Kesari Higher Secondary School, Mylapore, which once had around 15 students in each section, has strength of only 15 in the primary section in Telugu medium today. .

It is a grim scenario at a majority of the minority language schools in the State. Many such schools once had more Malayalam/ Telugu/ Hindi/Kannada/ Urdu medium sections. But with the dwindling number of students, many schools now offer more English medium sections, while the mother tongue is an optional language.

The existence of minority language and even to some extent, Tamil medium schools, seems increasingly difficult as parents are keen on educating their child in English medium. Moreover, the number of people from other States settling in the city has come down over the years. Hence, there is not much charm in joining a minority language school, particularly if it is not close to one's residence, say school heads.

The State government's move to make Tamil compulsory from 2006 in all schools was another stumbling block for minority language schools as Tamil took precedence over minority languages. The Linguistic Minorities Forum of Tamilnadu, which has been making many representations to the government, wants Tamil Nadu to implement the three-language formula as followed in most States, including Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, West Bengal and Karnataka.

Tamil Nadu follows the two-language formula, where Tamil is the first language and English the second. Under the Act of 2006, the mother tongue can be taught as an elective subject, but there is no public examination so far, say language teachers.

“The minority language school students study three languages (Tamil, English and mother-tongue), whereas local students read only two languages (Tamil and English),” says C.M.K. Reddy, Chairman, Linguistic Minorities Forum of Tamilnadu.

A majority of the parents would not want to burden their child with an additional language, thus the strength of these schools is decreasing leading to their gradual closure.

The Forum also commissioned a study and presented to the government that a majority of States follow the three-language formula.

P.K.N. Panicker, correspondent, Kerala Vidyalayam Higher Secondary School, says if these schools have to exist, the only solution is to convert them into an English medium with mother-tongue as a compulsory language.

Officials from the School Education Department say in all the district headquarters, the strength of students in government and government-aided Tamil medium schools is also decreasing. “We are not preventing students from studying in these minority language schools and the government is also supplying textbooks. The quality of these schools has to improve to attract more students,” says an official.

Hindi medium schools, however, say they do not get textbooks from the government. “We have been representing to the School Education Department for years. They say only if there are more than 5,000 students can textbooks be printed. As there is no text book for Hindi in Social Science, Science and Maths, teachers translate from other languages and write it on the blackboard,” says S. Adhiappan, headmaster, Motilal Fomra Higher Secondary School, Sowcarpet.


Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012

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