Switching language of instruction leads to high drop-out rates in higher secondary school in Goa.
The school system in Goa is severely flawed, Devidas tells us. Children start out learning in Marathi, and then the government makes them switch to studying in English at the age of 16. Students are dropping out in alarming numbers because of the strange situation they find themselves in when they enter Class 11: they cannot communicate properly in the medium of instruction. Devidas explains, “I also left school only because of this reason. I wasn’t doing well because my English was bad, I couldn’t understand what was being taught. I didn’t want my parents to keep spending so much money on books when I knew I would never excel in the final exams.” Out of the 29 students who were with Devidas when he joined higher secondary school, not even one managed to pass the board exams two years later.
Sameer, who is a Project Assistant for Video Volunteers in Goa, also faced a similar problem. The first language he spoke was Konkini, at home with his family. But from Class 1 to 4 in school, everything was taught in Marathi. This is because when Goa was freed, it didn’t have the organisational structures in place to set up schools in its own language so the Maharasthra Education Board stepped in and took over. In 2002, legislations were introduced which stipulated that after Class 4, Maths and Science had to be taught in English. So when Sameer was in Class 5 and asked to recite the times tables in a language he had never spoken before, it was a challenge.
“They still haven’t dealt with this problem,” Devidas tells us. “Most of the teachers are from other states and they speak Marathi, but even their English isn’t perfect. So how can they teach in English? They blame the students, saying they are lazy. But this is not true. It is their job to make the classes interesting. And to make the students understand. If they are not doing that, how can they blame the children?”
Devidas says the only solution is that Marathi slowly be phased out from the primary schools, and that all classes be taught in English right from Class 1. “We can have separate classes to learn Hindi and Marathi, but we should be taught in English for everything else.”