English-Language Education Banned in High-Tech Bangalore

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue Oct 3 10:05:40 UTC 2006

>>From the LA Times

English-Language Education Banned in High-Tech Bangalore

Indian officials mandate the traditional tongue, jeopardizing the city's
global competitiveness.

By Jo Johnson Financial Times

October 2, 2006

NEW DELHI More than 100,000 English-speaking children in Bangalore,
India's information technology capital, will soon have to switch to
schools offering lessons exclusively in a regional tongue following a
crackdown on more than 2,000 English-language institutions in the state of
Karnataka. The state government's promise last week to enforce a widely
flouted 1994 language policy requiring the use of Kannada in primary
schools reflects resentment at the influx of relatively wealthy
English-speaking technology workers into Bangalore. The ban on
English-language classes may in time further erode the competitiveness of
a city that styles itself back office to the world, when it is already
suffering from severe shortages of skilled labor, high wage inflation and
overburdened infrastructure.

About 800 schools have been stripped of their status and a further 1,500
face closure, according to an education department official. The move by
the pro-rural state government has provoked dismay among reformers, with
many warning Karnataka to heed the example of West Bengal state, forced by
its own rapid economic decline to abandon a similar "No English, only
Bengali" policy. "So, at one stroke, at least 100,000 children in the
country's soon to be former IT capital have been punished for developing
skills in English, that global as well as Indian language," New Delhi's
Hindustan Times complained in an editorial.

The southern state's chief minister, Haradanahalli Deve Gowda Kumaraswamy,
may be tapping resentment among speakers of Kannada, the local language,
against the outsiders who have generated the vast bulk of new wealth in
the state.

Kannada speakers form a majority in rural Karnataka, which was carved out
of the old Bombay and Madras presidencies along linguistic lines after
independence. State politicians recently mounted a campaign to have
Bangalore renamed Bengaluru. Although cities such as Pune, Hyderabad and
Chennai, the former Madras, are fast catching up with Bangalore, analysts
say it retains an edge in software development, if not in low-end call
centers, thanks to the IT experience accumulated over a decade. Bangalore
is home to more than 1,500 technology companies and accounts for more than
a third of a $23-billion Indian export industry.



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