[lg policy] India: Modi can turn the tables on his detractors by pushing language choice in schools

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Mon Sep 23 16:58:34 UTC 2013

Modi can turn the tables on his detractors by pushing language choice in
schoolsSep 23, 2013, 12.00 AM IST

The Union cabinet
<http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Union-cabinet>has given an
eager nod to a new policy proposing countrywide standards for
size, language, nap time etc in playschools. Strict implementation of this
policy will require more regulators at both central and state levels, and
likely close down most playschools. This follows in the footsteps of an RTE
Act <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/RTE-Act> that contains the
seeds of undermining the very right it proposes to guarantee — setting such
onerous terms for classrooms, playgrounds and other facilities that its
full enforcement would close down many of India's not-enough schools.

Among the onerous provisions sought to be imposed on all
that they must teach in the mother tongue. But the
Centre has no business decreeing the medium of instruction for schools
across the country. Why should the primary medium of instruction be limited
to so-called mother tongues or local languages in a diverse country like
India? What happens, for example, when people migrate to other states? Or
when the child's mother has a different 'mother' tongue than the father? Or
when English is habitually spoken at home, as is increasingly the case
across India? Playschools should be free to respond to local demand,
instead of being placed in an official straitjacket that's standard
throughout the country.

Narendra Modi's Gujarat, however, offers an experiment in schooling that's
interestingly different. In Surat, the government tenders schooling options
ranging from the local language and English to Hindi, Marathi, Urdu, Oriya
and Telugu. This provides a good opportunity for a man who many fear will
be a democratically elected dictator if he ascends to the PM's chair. By
putting forward an educational agenda which offers language choice in
schools, Modi <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/Modi> could turn
the tables on his detractors by showing up where they, not he, are being
dictatorial. The task of a democratic government should be to facilitate
choice, not thwart it.


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