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Catholics welcome India's push for English in schools

The move intends to give students better access to higher education and global job markets

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Catholics welcome India's push for English in schools

School children were part of program protesting government draft education policy in New Delhi on Nov. 17, 2016. The government has just decided to push English learning in schools nationwide. (ucanews.com photo)

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The Catholic Church in India has welcomed a government committee's recommendation to teach English in all secondary schools, stressing the growing influence of the English language in the global job market.

A 12-member committee of bureaucrats recommended that, starting April 2017, English should be taught in all secondary schools nationwide.  "It is a welcome move by the government," said Father Joseph Manipadam, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops' office for education.

Although English and Hindi are the two official languages, some state schools give students an option to avoid English. "English will help a student's future," Father Manipadam told ucanews.com.

"It will promote inclusiveness and extend international quality and competence to the students, who otherwise lose out in the highly competitive higher education and job market," said a press release from the national bishops' education office.

The emphasis on English should be done without undermining the importance of the local language in primary education, it said adding that people across the globe are "frantically learning" English and "it would be sad if [we] denied such an opportunity to our children."

However, the bishops said the language taught in schools should not affect financial aid provided by states.  Their concern was based on a situation in Goa, a Catholic stronghold in western India, where church-run English schools were declared ineligible for financial aid because the government wanted to encourage early education in the local Konkani language.

"While the government should aid all schools irrespective of language and religion, it is the free choice of parents to select the school and medium of instruction for their children," the release said.

Currently, English medium schools in the country are privately owned and managed with funds collected from students. As a result, only the rich can afford English medium schools that are concentrated in urban areas.

"As of now much inequality in jobs and future training arises from a situation in which the poor do not have a choice of a medium of instruction or do not have the money to pay for English language schools," the bishops' release said.

The Catholic Church in India, through its dioceses and religious congregations, run 18,365 education institutions ranging from kindergarten to higher secondary and colleges. Church officials estimate that at least half of them use English as the medium of instruction.

The release also reiterated the church's rejection of a draft education policy that the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party led federal government presented for discussion last year. Christian groups opposed it saying that the policy threatens to violate India's secular fabric and promote the caste system.

"We still hope and request" that the government withdraws "its anti-people Draft National Educational Policy and makes an effort towards wider consultations," the release said.

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