Karnataka: What the Medium-of-Instruction Ruckus Betrays

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sun Jul 6 20:16:23 UTC 2008

Saturday, July 5, 2008
What the Medium-of-Instruction Ruckus Betrays

The Karnataka High Court has passed its verdict on the issue of medium
of instruction, giving a carte blanche to businessmen to run English
medium schools if they wish to. The Indian Express reports on 3rd
July: In a significant judgment on the language policy in the primary
education system of Karnataka, a Division Bench of the High Court on
Wednesday scrapped portions of a 1994 Government order making Kannada
or a mother tongue the mandatory medium of education in all primary
schools recognised by the Government.

English media is mostly calling this as a step towards victory in a
globalized world. But in reality, both English media and these
"educators" have made it clear that the welfare of the state is simply
absent from their list of priorities. Why? Because it is an
established scientific fact that education is most effective in
Kannada for Kannadigas. The goal of these "educators" and English
media is not the good education of Kannadigas. They're just bent upon
making a quick buck from creating an aura of sanctity around English
and fooling the gullible Kannadiga parent. While the "educators" get
an immediate market, the English media is assured of a market when the
children start learning English, albeit slowly. The further Kannadigas
go away from Kannada, the greater their profit! Also, it is only a
weak mind leaning on converting the whole of Karnataka into a
call-centre that can conjure up the theory that English can
single-handedly take us to appalling heights in this globalized world.
Stronger minds bank on real knowledge which can be provided only
through one's own language. What can sustain us in the global scenario
is not a cesspool of fakers trying to imitate accents, but a
well-organized system of education which is possible only in our own

Kannada media and Kannadiga thinkers, on the other hand, are calling
this whole thing as a death-blow to Kannada and doing nothing other
than shedding emotional tears. This betrays their helpless feeling
that Kannada can continue to exist only by the application of force.
That whole thinking process if flawed. Instead, the so-called
Kannadiga thinkers must seriously consider establishing the necessary
high-quality institutions and training programmes to provide every
kind and level of education in Kannada itself. If the Israels, the
Germanys, the Japans, the Chinas of the world can do it, why can't
Karnataka? One is reminded of the way the Technion in Israel started
off in Hebrew-medium at a time when Modern Hebrew was being spoken by
a precious few in Israel, and even lacked words needed for common
day-to-day usage! The Technion is a premier institute of technology in
the world, and even to this day provides top-class engineering
education in Hebrew. Kannada is not in such a sorry state today as
Hebrew was in 1912, not by any measure! Yet, because our thinkers and
planners lack strong will-power, we Kannadigas have taken for granted
that Kannada education is only for children in rural areas. Not for
adults, not for urban areas. This very assumption is leading us from
darkness to darkness.

One can choose to pardon the shortsightedness of the handful of petty
hawkers who are creating all this hue and cry about medium of
instruction to ensure the day's meal. But the Government of Karnataka
cannot be pardoned for the disregard with which it is viewing
education in Kannada. The Government is failing to realize that with
the slow disrespect for Kannada which is creeping into the creme de la
creme of Karnataka, the state is headed towards death. At least the
Government should stop acting like a petty hawker looking at securing
the day's meal, and invest in longer-term projects and initiatives! At
least the Government should dare to dream big!

Where are the real statesmen who understand that it is Kannada which
can improve the lives of Kannadigas? Where are the real statesmen who
can dream like the Israelis and set up Kannada-Technions? Are they all
dead? Have they all sold their souls?


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