[lg policy] Karnataka: Skewed policy ensures English is alien to kids

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sun Feb 8 22:55:52 UTC 2015

Skewed policy ensures English is alien to kidsSunitha Rao R
<http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toireporter/author-Sunitha-Rao-R.cms> | Feb
8, 2015, 04.00 AM IST
READ MORE Teacher <http://www.speakingtree.in/topics/people/teacher>|Tamil
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Bengaluru: A spelling bee contest was on at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
recently. High school students from Kannada medium schools across the city
queued up to spell words. There was much struggle and exasperation before
the final relief when the word c-o-p-y was spelt right. Light, steel,
human, miser, polar, blood, cost—even the simplest of words turned out to
be hard nuts to crack.

Radhika (name changed) came off the stage weeping as she could not spell
one word that she had practised over five times. "No one speaks English in
my school or at home. It's not easy," she said between sobs. The aspiration
to speak English was hard to miss at the competition.

This is the ground reality that the Annual Status of Education Report
(ASER) 2014 portrayed in its latest edition. Half of the Class 5 students
in the state cannot read a Class 2 level text. Only 39.3% of eighth graders
in Karnataka can read English sentences. Of these, 73.5% can tell the
meaning of those sentences.

A skewed language policy in Karnataka has ensured that generations of
learners do not even know the English alphabet until they are 10. It takes
even longer for them to construct sentences.

Proper English lessons begin only after class 5. And this is showing in
results, say teachers. "Teaching English to Kannada medium high school kids
is no joke,'' points out Ravikumar KG, English faculty at Honnaganahatti
government high school near Magadi. "The problem lies in the foundation. In
many cases, we have to start teaching right from alphabet because English
in the primary stage is very basic."

Not surprisingly, Geetha M, a class 10 student at the 110-year-old Fort
high school, Chamarajpet, does not speak English. This is Bengaluru's first
high school and has 186 students in English medium wing and 81 in Kannada.
But none can speak English here. The majority in the English medium wing
are children of migrant labourers from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

"They also have to learn Kannada as a third language, but all other
subjects are in English," says S C Chandrashekar, headmaster of the school.

But do they speak English? "No. Communicative English has been an issue, as
they have had no exposure to English earlier and no encouraging atmosphere
back home. Besides, there is lack of positive attitude to even learn," says
Jyoti Hegde, who teaches English.

The scene at the government high school in Goripalya, off Mysore Road is no
different. Almost all children go for private tuitions to ensure they do
not fail in the coming SSLC examinations. "When we decided to make English
speaking mandatory in class, the children did not even turn up which is
worse. It is better they are here than working as labour elsewhere,'' said
a teacher.


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