Monday, December 14, 2015

Telugu-medium students do better at math than English-medium students - report

A recent report (PDF, 18 p. + appendices) concludes that "Telugu (mother tongue) medium students on an average perform significantly better as compared to English medium students after controlling for students ability, household characteristics and parental aspiration. This analysis suggests that introducing English medium of instruction at earlier grades during school life may negatively affect learning outcomes of students."

The report's author P. Sree Kumar Nair compared math test score data of 182 primary school students from 78 English-medium schools and 694 students in 144 Telugu-medium schools in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. He asks "does medium of instruction affect learning outcomes?" His answer is yes, it does. But the material conditions of these two groups of students are quite different. He notes:

"Summary statistics indicate that Telugu medium students are still substantial in number and are a disadvantaged lot as they not only have fewer infrastructural facilities but also their nutritional levels are significantly lower than their counterparts. Such a situation leads to lower cognitive development of students. Moreover Human Development Report of Telangana (2014) also reveals that there is lesser accountability on the part of government school permanent teachers that offer Telugu medium education. Against all such odds, there exists a strong potential for Telugu medium students to perform better. Thus, this evidence supports the claim that this paper strives to make about the need to give importance to mother tongue based education at primary levels of education." (p. 16)

Thus, the report cautions against changing the medium of primary education from Telugu to English. "In other words, a step towards a transition of schools at primary level from Telugu to English medium might create larger inequalities by widening the gap in the achievement levels.... Moreover, insistence on instruction in English is certainly a barrier for the poor, rural and lower caste students as revealed by this study." (p. 16-17).