Is the growing demand for English medium schools slowly dragging Marathi medium schools to their decline in the financial capital?
As per the data, 133 Marathi medium schools in Mumbai shut down in the past decade.
The number of students studying in Marathi Medium schools across the city has also drastically dropped by 65 per cent in the last 10 years.
Between the academic year 2010-11 to 2019-20, the number of students in Marathi medium schools has declined by 67,033, a trend that is fatal for the survival of Marathi medium school, the activists have alleged.
Academics and educational activists have long believed that a perception related to the quality of these schools as well as parents’ attraction towards English medium schools is leading to reduced enrolment year after year. At the same time, little is being done to revive these Marathi medium schools.
Blaming the government’s policies for the ‘rapid’ decline of Marathi schools, outfits such as — Marathi Abhyaas Kendra, Shikshan Hakk Samanvay Samiti, and Marathi Shala Sansthachalak Sangh, MahaMumbai Shikshan Sanstha Sanghatana have been promoting Marathi medium schools among parents and urging the government to help revive these schools. "Every year we organise mahasabhas (get-togethers/meetings) with parents of students studying in Marathi medium schools, promote the idea of sending their wards to Marathi medium schools. We discuss with them how their children can still remain in the competition even after studying from Marathi medium schools," said Sushil Shejule, who is a co-ordinator of Marathi Shala Sansthachalak Sangh and a member of Marathi Abhyaas Kendra.
Shejule said that political parties like Shiv Sena have been campaigning forever on the issues of Marathi Manus. However, they have failed to revive and preserve Marathi medium schools. "
Shiv Sena is not just the ruling party of BMC but also is part of the alliance that is ruling in the state government, it is their responsibility to help revive these schools and stop them from shutting down. They have failed miserably. They are rebranding civic schools by turning them into public schools while starting the CBSE curriculum. Why can’t this be done with the medium of instruction be Marathi? It is a sorry state that Marathi schools are declining in Mumbai. If the trend and pace at which the schools are shutting down continues, there will be no Marathi medium schools by year 2030," Shejule said.
These outfits also claimed that delays in issuing approvals to new schools/teachers and the lack of grants had forced several schools to shut down. The organisations have demanded making Marathi a compulsory language in schools across the state, across all boards, while demanding the imposition of a cap on the number of English-medium schools sanctioned in the state.
Girish Samant, a trustee of the AB Goregaonkar School run by Goregaon-based Shikshan Mandal trust, said: “The education department has now completely stopped grant approval to new Marathi-medium schools. Some of these schools have been vying for permissions since 2012. Both BMC and the state government are on a campaign to save money. They seem to be least bothered about Marathi medium schools shutting down. Since the past decade, they have made things difficult for the management and staff of Marathi medium schools. Even for publishing the advertising for filling up vacancies or hiring staff, we have to first seek approval from a state government-approved high-level committee headed by the commissioner of education in Pune. Marathi schools suffer, struggle for survival and finally succumb to these problems and shut down."
The reason for the decline in the number of Marathi schools was only because the number of students enrolled in them was decreasing, said a senior BMC official. “We had introduced spoken English in Marathi-medium schools since 2016-17 in a bid to retain students, the initiative is still working well. However, parents are attracted towards private schools, and this is not the fault of the civic body,” he added.
“We are working on different parametres to set up Marathi schools and revive existing ones. The government’s policies don't neglect schools. the activists need to understand that,” said an official of the state education department.
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