Recently, it was reported in the media that Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi made a surprise visit to a government higher secondary school in the union territory. While interacting with the girl students of Class XII, she asked them to write what they would like to do after completing their Plus Two. According to a news report, the students were unable to write their answers to the question correctly in English. Reacting to the students’ written response in ungrammatical English, Ms. Bedi made a remark that “this would restrain them from succeeding and mar their self-confidence”.
The students’ lack of proficiency in English might have shocked Ms. Bedi but I was neither shocked nor surprised by it. Why? It is a known fact that most students studying in higher secondary schools, not only in rural but also in urban schools, do not have adequate English language skills. It is my guesstimate that over 80% of the students in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry cannot express themselves in English even after having learnt English for 14 years. If that is the case, the percentage of students who are “AngloSkilledNots” (those who do not have English language skills) can be more or less the same in other States too. If it is a matter of grave concern, how should policy-makers and educationists respond to this stark reality?