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English debate rerun in Gujarat

Ahmedabad, Feb. 7: Bengal's communists once believed in it. Now the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is on the warpath over it.

The Narendra Modi government's decision to teach English from Class I in 3,000 state-run primary schools across Gujarat from the next academic year has angered the RSS, which feels students should be taught in their mother tongue till the age of 10.

Vidya Bharati ' the Sangh's education wing ' has threatened an agitation against the government's 'ill-advised decision' and said it would launch a 'mass awareness' programme if the government does not review its move.

'In our primary schools we will not teach English,' declared Harshad Shah, the president of Vidya Bharati's Gujarat unit, which runs 450 schools across the state.

Shah said a delegation of Vidya Bharati office-bearers recently met Modi and education minister Anandiben Patel to register their protest. But the chief minister told them teaching English was the need of the hour for Gujarat's development. Gujarati youths, he said, had suffered because of lack of fluency in English. He, too, had suffered as he was not conversant with the language, Modi claimed.

Shah rejected the chief minister's contention. 'Has the IT sector not developed in countries like Japan, Germany and France ' all non-English-speaking countries' English, he added, should be taught from Class V.

The Sangh leader clarified that Vidya Bharati is not opposed to any language. 'What we want is that until the age of 10, a child should be taught in his or her mother tongue.' In Gujarat, where on an average 1.5 lakh high school students fail every year in Gujarati, there is no point teaching English, he said.

In Bengal, the Left Front government had abolished teaching of English till Class V as the Marxists felt it would check dropout rates in rural belts, but later reintroduced it last year.

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