Kumar Raja Babu is just 13. But he knows the value of a good education system and the importance of English which is seen by students as well parents as a ticket to economic betterment.
Babu, who belongs to Bihar, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi complaining about the poor condition of government schools in his state and urged him to make English a compulsory subject.
“My father does not earn much and so we had to do our primary education from a government school in Bihar. The education in primary schools in not good in our state,” Kumar Raja Babu, son of a driver, said in his letter.
A student at a private school in Delhi, Raja Babu also highlighted the lack of English as a subject in government schools as a big handicap for Bihar students. “I urge you to request the Bihar government for English teaching from Class 1, as without it students have to face a lot of difficulty in higher classes,” he wrote.
Urging the PM to think over the problem raised by him, he expressed his desire that the issue should also find a place in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio programme.
In Bihar, English is not compulsory and the marks students get in the subject has no impact on their overall result.
“But unless the subject is made compulsory, the seriousness will never come both for the teachers and the taught,” a senior education department official said, praising Raja Babu for raising the question.
The letter, received by the Prime Minister’s Office in February, was sent to the state cabinet coordination department from where it was referred to the department of education in August, referring the issue and boy’s name. The matter is with the state education department now.
A few years ago, the academic advisory committee of the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB) had sent a proposal to the government for making English compulsory so that students from the state do not suffer in higher and technical education and during their search for jobs.
However, the board said it was not considered feasible, adding it could lead to alienation for the poor.
The Bihar government has started working on ways to remove the deficiency through a training programme for teachers, but without making the subject compulsory.
Into its fifth and final year, Bihar Language Initiative for Secondary Schools (BLISS) has been working on preparing a ground for improved English learning and teaching in Bihar schools. BLISS is a programme of the British Council in partnership with the United Kingdom’s department for international development (DFID) and the Bihar Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad.
Michael Connolly, assistant director of English partnerships (India), who was recently in Patna, also vouched for what the Bihar student wrote to PM.
“Our survey shows attitudinal change not only in the teachers but also among the youth as well as their parents. Some of the teachers, as well as parents, told us that making English compulsory would lead to more seriousness,” he said.