Karnataka: closure notices to 750 Bangalore schools

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed Sep 20 13:13:18 UTC 2006

Closure notices to 750 Bangalore schools
Tuesday, September 19, 2006 09:22:30 am

 In an overnight move, some 1,400 schools in Karnataka have been ordered
to close. The state government says that the schools were teaching English
in clear violation of a 1994 notification which makes it mandatory for
educational institutions to teach subjects in Kannada till the primary
level. However, these schools have been using only English as the language
of instruction.

1994 order violated

The state government has therefore cracked down on the schools, dealing a
blow to lakhs of students across the state. Parents are quite obviously
worried and unsure. The state Education minister says he is aware of the
concerns of the parents, but he has been forced to take this extreme step.
The 1994 government order made it compulsory for all government-recognised
schools to use only Kannada as the medium of instruction till Class V. In
a list released by the Education Department, a total of 1,440 schools
according to the Department's policy had been permitted to offer Kannada
medium education, but the State Inspection Team found that classes and
exams in many of these schools were being conducted in English. The
Directorate of Primary Education (DDPI) has directed Block Education
Officers (BEOs) to shift students to government aided and unaided schools
in the vicinity.

Ambiguous language

The controversy owes its genesis to a vaguely-worded notification issued
by the Karnataka government in 1994. The notification created confusion
over the definition of mother tongue. All that the notification says is
that the medium of instruction in all schools in Karnataka from class I to
class IV should be the mother tongue of a child Kannada. While some would
define mother tongue as the official language of the State, others say it
is the language which the parents of a child speak. By another definition,
mother tongue is the language the child is most familiar with, and need
not be the language of either the child's mother or father.

Parents want English

The management boards of private schools mentioned in the list say that
most parents demand English medium education for their children. The
schools that have been served notices claim the government has to give
them at least a years' notice.

Our move is justified

TIMES NOW spoke to the state Primary and Secondary Education Minister
Basavaraj Horatti, who justified the move saying the schools were
violating the government conditions on which they were given recognition.
When quizzed about the fate of thousands of unsuspecting students, the
minister said, "There are many schools in the state that are approved by
the education department and it's the responsibility of parents to send
the children to such schools."

Students bear the brunt

However, the sudden crackdown has certainly dealt a blow to lakhs of
students across the state and parents are worried and unsure as to what
their next step should be. Parents, teachers and school authorities are
questioning the government's actions. They have two questions - what was
the government doing for the last 12 years and if the schools are being
penalised, then why are the officials who permitted this violation being
let off? Almost all the parents we spoke to also feel students should be
proficient in both languages.

They cannot do this to our children all of a sudden. English language is
as important as Kannada, said Shailaja Harish, one of the parents. Knowing
English language is a must in these days otherwise one cannot progress. We
have no choice but to move our son to an English medium school, declared
another parent.

Bangalore reacts

Karnataka governments unexpected crackdown has definitely raked up a
debate over the long-standing matter surrounding Kannada chauvinism. A
section of Kannadigas feel that Kannada should be the lingua franca, or
language of business in the state. A more liberal set believes that
English should be given equal preference as that is the language of
commerce worldwide and denying Kannadigas an opportunity to speak it will
put them at a disadvantage on the world stage. The most noted proponent of
the argument is Infosys mentor N R Narayanmurthy. Most of the
opportunities in the country today are for people who have had an English
medium education. Second, an English Medium education gives you the
ability to move from state to state. We need such opportunities for all
our youngsters in our country, said Narayanmurthy to TIMES NOW. "English
need not be given the label or the 'status' of a 'second language' but
could be taught in an informed manner without text books and exams,"
opined Former Education Minister, B K Chandrashekar.

Giving prime importance to the regional languages, noted Writer, Professor
U R Ananthamurthy said, English in India just has a frontyard in form of
English schools where as all other Indian languages have a backyard and a
front yard. It is from this fertile backyard (Indian languages) from where
we will have the talented writers local language.



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