Mother, the tongue can be a NEET handicap!

Many students, who feel their English is not good enough, are afraid to pursue science after school.

For twenty years, Karnataka has granted licenses only to Kannada medium schools. The effect is now becoming glaringly visible — government-run schools and PU colleges have shown consistently poor results in comparison to private English-medium schools, and the difference in pass percentage stands at a whopping twenty percent. Now, with single entrance tests, such as NEET for admission to medical college, increasingly becoming the norm, whither Kannada-medium students?

As students get ready to write the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) in July for seats in private medical colleges, those from schools offering the state syllabus continue to worry if they will be at a disadvantage when appearing for it as compared to those from CBSE and ICSE schools, which follow a superior syllabus.

While their fears on this count may be largely unfounded as they go on to study the NCERT syllabus in their PU courses, which often levels the playing field, their medium of instruction could, however, pose a problem going by academicians. Pointing out that most, who do their schooling in Kannada, find it harder to opt for science subjects in their PU courses, they believe the medium of instruction plays a big role in the career choices of students. .

"Many students, who feel their English is not good enough, are afraid to pursue science after school. Even if they are doing as well in the subject as any English medium student, they prefer to take either arts or commerce in PUC,” says an officer of the education department, noting that the top PU ranks in science are almost always bagged by students from the more developed southern part of the state while the honours are shared by students across the state in arts and commerce courses.

“Students from backward areas hesitate to go in for science because of their poor English language skills. The medium of instruction should be blamed for this,” he says.

Some believe the confidence of Kannada medium students often takes a beating as they don't always perform as well in their PU courses as those from English medium schools. They point to this year's II PUC final exams, where of the 2,87,655 Kannada medium students, who appeared for it, only 1,34,877 or 46.89 per cent cleared it.


On the other hand, of the 3,48,713 English medium students, who wrote the examination, 2,29,136 or 65.71 per cent passed it. Moreover, districts where a larger number of English medium students wrote the examination, recorded the highest pass percentage in the II PU final examination, they note. Districts like Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Kodagu, Bengaluru and Uttara Kannada, where students wrote the examination in English, had a pass percentage of over 80 per cent, but the districts of North and Hyderabad Karnataka, where Kannada medium is more popular, had a far less pass percentage.

The question worrying many now is how the government intends to deal with the apparent discrepancy between English speaking students and those less skilled in the language to give all of them an equal chance at cracking NEET, which will be the only admission test nationwide for entry to private and and state- run medical and dental colleges from next year.

Higher level exams need broader study
Interestingly, the gap between rural students, who often study in the Kannada medium, and their English savvy urban counterparts in not very high in the SSLC examination. But Mr. Rakesh T Shetty, a lecturer in a composite college, has an explanation for this.

“The SSLC examination pattern is different from that of II PUC. SSLC students don't need to depend on learning resources other than their textbooks. But at the II PU level, students cannot depend on just one textbook and need to refer to many books. Rural students always face a problem here as their lack of English skills becomes a barrier," he explains. Many in the PU department tend to agree.
According to them hundreds of Kannada medium students, who get a distinction in the SSLC examination, find it difficult to match the performance in their PU courses. “There are multiple reasons for this. But a serious effort is required to bridge this gap," adds an officer.

Pointing out that around 3,000 government schools across the state are facing threat of closure because of declining admissions, Ms. Parimala Bhat, an academic researcher, believes this only reflects the growing demand for English medium schools. “Every student wants to study in the English medium for a good career. This is the reality. The mother tongue versus English debate should not find a place here. The government must respond to what parents want," she adds.

Agreeing, Mr. Chalapathi S, an academician, notes that most students, who excel in the PU examination, are from private schools offering quality education in the English medium. “Marks may not be everything in life. But it is important to have a good score from a career perspective. The onus is on the state government to do the needful and give students of its schools a better deal," he underlines.

State needs to introspect: Dr. Veena Bhat, academician
Kannada medium stops at the SSLC level as most state PU colleges, including the government- run, offer education in the English medium. The transition from Kannada medium in schools to English in PU is no easy task.

The reality is few students, who have studied in Kannada medium till their SSLC, feature in CET, JEE, JEE advanced or CLAT as goodlanguage skills are required to appear for these tests. But whenever such issues are raised the state government becomes emotional in its response.

This problem is not confined to Karnataka alone, but is found in Tamil Nadu too The fact is the country is moving towards the one nation-one test concept.
So if we force any one language on students they could have a problem when competing at the national level. There are reports that over 3,000 government-run Kannada medium schools are facing a closure because of shortage of students. This trend should force the state government to introspect on its policies. But no one is ready to accept the reality.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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