Embracing modernity: RSS schools increasingly adopting English medium education, technology
In a major shift, a large number of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-founded ‘Saraswati Shishu Mandir’ schools are switching over to English medium learning. RSS office-bearers said that English textbooks for all subjects taught in classes 1 to 5 had been introduced in many schools from this academic year and there were plans to do the same for classes 6 to 8 from the next session.
The move has been greeted with surprise by many, as these schools have mostly kept aloof from English medium education right from the time of their inception in 1977. However, RSS officials claimed that the change was being ushered in only in those institutions where the management committees, students and parents had demanded the same.
But that’s not all. In Meerut Prant, many schools run by the saffron organisation are being upgraded to ‘model schools’ that focus on holistic learning through music lessons, sports, yoga, early introduction to technology and the option of English medium education. Principals of many of these schools say that their institutions could compete with the best.
According to RSS office-bearers, there are 1,223 Saraswati Shishu Mandirs running in 49 districts of eastern UP -- in Awadh, Kashi, Gorakhpur and Ayodhya Prants. They say that “a large number” of these schools have already embraced English medium education. So much so that barring Hindi and Sanskrit, all other subjects, including mathematics, were now being taught through English textbooks.
Ramji Singh, ‘Pradesh Nirikshak’, Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan (education wing of RSS), Kashi Pranth, said, “Barring Hindi and Sanskrit, all course books for classes 1 to 5 have been translated in English, while work is on in full swing to translate the course books for classes 6 to 8.”
“However, this does not mean that we have, in any way, shunned our fundamentals. In all our schools -- be it any medium -- ‘Saraswati Vandana’, ‘Bharat Vandana’ and ‘Ekatma Stotra’ are recited. Our culture remains firmly rooted in our traditions,” he said.
Singh claimed that English medium books and teaching was only being introduced in schools where students and their parents had raised the demand and the school management committees had agreed. “We still have a large number of our schools running in Hindi medium all across the state,” he said.
RSS officials said that several Shishu Mandirs had switched over to English textbooks on their own, after their management committees took a decision in this regard. As a result, they said, they were unable to share the exact numbers of schools in UP where lessons were being imparted in English.
In Prayagraj, one of the six-seven RSS schools that have reportedly switched over to English medium is the Jwala Devi Saraswati Shishu Mandir at Civil Lines. School principal Yugal Kishore Mishra said, “We have introduced English medium books for classes 1 to 3 from this year. As a result of this change, we are now also laying more stress on the knowledge of English while recruiting teachers.”
Similarly, Shishu Mandir at Rasulabad and the Rani Revati Devi Saraswati Shiksha Niketan at Rajapur have also introduced English medium textbooks for Class 1 students from this academic session.
A teacher at one of these schools said that for students of classes 1 to 5, maths course called ‘Comprehensive Mathematics’ had been introduced, while for smaller children, ‘Play with Numbers’ had been brought in. Likewise, English textbooks, ‘Science and Environment Studies’ and ‘Saraswati Computer’, had also been introduced, she said.
Officials shared that Vidya Bharati got textbooks for its schools printed at its publishing set-ups in Lucknow -- ‘Sharada Prakashan’ and ‘Saraswati Prakashan’ -- and one in Mathura.
‘Model schools’ in Meerut
In another move seen as the RSS embracing modernity in educations, Vidya Bharati is busy transforming many of its schools in Meerut Prant into ‘model schools’. Apart from various facilities for sports and computer learning, the option of English medium education is also a key feature at these schools.
Arun Jindal, district co-ordinator of Vidya Bharati in Meerut, said that there were over 350 schools run by the RSS education wing in Meerut Prant (including Saharanpur, Meerut and Moradabad divisions) and at least 50 of these were being treated as ‘model schools’ that could compete with good public schools.
These schools, teaching children in both Hindi and English, were affiliated with both the UP Board and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), he said.
Baleram Brijbhusan Saraswati Shishu Mandir is one such ‘model school’ located at Shastri Nagar in Meerut. Principal KK Sharma proudly claimed that his school was at par with the best public schools -- and not only in education but also in extracurricular activities, including sports.
“We run separate sections for Hindi and English medium students on the same premises. Those who study in English medium get their certificates through the CBSE, while the others get them from the state education board. Almost 50% sections in the school are English medium, as the demand for English education is growing with every passing year,” said Sharma.
He said that the school recently organised an ‘ English Exhibition’ along with science and Vedic mathematics exhibitions.
The admission form of these ‘model schools’ offered students a choice between both the mediums, said Jindal. “Those who opt for English then have to appear in a written test before they are given admission,” he said.
Jindal said he hoped that with time all ‘model schools’ would completely convert to CBSE schools. “CBSE has a uniform syllabus across the country. It helps students in that the syllabus remains unchanged even if they move to another place. Also, English is a global communication language, so, we can’t deprive our students from its benefits as they chart their careers,” he said.
The official said that the schools emphasised on helping students build a holistic personality with the help of lessons in yoga, music, moral science and sanskriti (traditions).
Many of these schools have included sports such as basketball, Kho kho, volleyball, badminton, chess, skating, shooting and other games in their curricula.
“The Baleram Brijbhusan Saraswati Shishu Mandir has a 10m air rifle and pistol shooting range too,” said principal Sharma while recounting the achievements of his students at the School Games Federation championships and other tournaments.
Probably the most significant change at these ‘model schools’ is the introduction of computer classes right from nursery.
Nursery section teacher at the Baleram School, Pratibha Sharma, said, “We teach children how to switch the computer on and off, write their names using paint brush in PhotoShop and fill colours into different shapes. They enjoy it a lot.” The school has three computer labs with 150 machines, she said.
Speaking about the merits of decentralisation, Jindal said, “Earlier, Vidya Bharati’s function was centralised, but its decision to decentralise in the past two years has helped in turning around these schools more effectively. Now, they have formed district units. In-charge of these units and other officials keep a close watch on these schools and work together with the principals and other staff for their continuous development.”