Karnataka: Parents cheer as English makes a comeback

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Jun 4 13:16:37 UTC 2007

   *Parents cheer as English makes a comeback*

June 03, 2007

Bangalore: Six-year-old M.B. Shalini came out of the school with awestruck
wonder in her eyes after learning the basics of a language she had never
known before - English.More than three million first standard students of
government-run primary schools across Karnataka have begun taking English
language lessons. The schools had stopped teaching English almost two
decades ago. Even as parents are enthusiastic about English's comeback
beginning on Friday, a section of leading Kannada writers and several
pro-Kannada outfits are upset.

"It sounds so different from Kannada," Shalini said. "I'll take some time to
exactly pronounce the words like they are." The Karnataka government had to
bow down to pressure from pro-Kannada language lobby in the late 1980s and
banned English up to Class V. The ban was strictly enforced in government
schools. But private schools continued to impart education from the primary
level in English, effectively producing two classes of citizens in the
state. But with Bangalore becoming the hub of IT, and globalization
producing jobs where knowledge of English is a must, parents across the
state began to clamour for English.

The government came under renewed pressure to bring English back into the
curriculum at the primary level. Families complained that the children found
it difficult to switch over to English from Class V. The demand was
particularly strong from the poorer sections, which sent their children to
government schools because fees are much cheaper than in private
institutions. "It is essential to know English for better job prospects,"
explained M. Boraiah, the guardian of a tiny tot. The Janata Dal-Secular and
Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government was under pressure from the
pro-Kannada groups not to reverse the ban.

But the government went ahead. Officials say the move will benefit around
3.5 million children studying in over 50,000 government schools across the
state. Meanwhile, the government and around 2,100 private schools in the
state are locked in a legal battle over violation of language policy by
these schools. The managements of these schools had taken permission to run
the institutions with Kannada as the medium of instruction. However, they
adopted English because of demands from parents of their students.

The violation had been on since the early 1990s. But it was only last year
that the government decided to strictly enforce the rule and de-recognise
the schools found flouting the norms. The government then decided to allow
the schools to run only if they gave an undertaking that they will follow
Kannada as medium of instruction and paid up fines for violating the rule
all these years. Furious, around 2,000 schools moved the high court. But the
court rejected their plea and gave time until June 14 to file an affidavit.


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