Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Education in Matrubhasha

Yesterday  the Supreme Court of India came up with a very significant judgement.

It was a long process and involved judgment, but the summary was this.

"No government can force a student to chose his or her medium of education. It of course means, the parents or guardians of the child have absolute right to pick any medium of education for their children."
And a few of this morning's front pages in Kannada news paper world.

"Setback to Kannada"

"Kannada Medha", roughly meaning the sacrifice of Kannada. 
"Public opinion is that this verdict is against the very concept of linguistic states"
"Central government (UPA) has kept mum on this topic"

Kannada Prabha

"English medium not accepted"
"A result due to the lack of experts"

Samyukta Karnataka
 "Can't force medium of education says SC"
Overall, a situation of gloom in Karnataka. 6 to  8 news TV channels in Kannada were abuzz since yesterday itself that this is a big setback to Kannada language.

Before anyone starts wondering why I am writing this, the issue is closer to my heart. I am a product of Kannada medium schooling and it worked very well for me even when I switched to English medium for higher education. My medium of education never became a hurdle even when working in top levels in IT industry for long number of years. In fact, the ease with which we could pick up Maths, science, social studies etc. when taught in our mother tongue, was something I am quite happy about.

Now some observations:

In my view, most Kannada papers and news channels are overreacting. Activists are also over reacting. Supreme Court's constitution bench has quoted Article 19 (1) to arrive at this judgment. No government or organization can go against the constitution.

Secondly, this is not anything specific to Kannada or Karnataka. The same judgment will be held as a benchmark, like the SR Bommai case in article 356, for other states too in the future. This is a landmark judgment that will have long term effect.

Thirdly, there is no need to beat the chests that there's been a "defeat" or "setback" to Kannada. Look at the actual reality. Nearly 74% of the one crore students in Karnataka are ALREADY studying in Kannada medium. All the government has to do is to make sure that the quality of education for these folks, plus those 6% studying in other Indian languages, is at the same level as the 20% who are studying in English medium. Can they do it? That's the big challenge.

Fourthly, the state government already has control over 69% of the schools in Karnataka. They are either fully government owned or government aided. Made the quality of education in here top notch, and the 2 to 3% shift happening each year to private schools will slow down. Why do parents send kids to private schools that mostly teach in English medium? Because they want "better" education and "better" career. If the government or aided schools can provide the same at competitive levels, who would pay higher amount to switch to private unaided schools anyway?

Fifthly, India has nearly 1400 mother tongues. When a continent sized country with so many mother tongues are in place, it is extremely difficult to come up with any kind of language formula. The three language or two language formulae have to factor in the important fact that English is as Indian today, as any other Bharatiya language. Take the examples of Poschim Bongo or Uttar Pradesh. Opposing English just won't work as ordinary parents for the past 3 generations are seeing English as a way for their children's "better" career. The governments need to understand the "better" part well. Then everything will fall in place. So far there is no practical linguistic policy for schools, that make every Indian boy or girl go through equal linguistic difficulty level, yet practical enough to earn living in the future. Presenting here a quick summary sheet on the language categories of India that I had prepared earlier. There may be crores, or even 10s of crores of Indians who might not have practical access to their mother tongue medium of education, strictly following the freedom that the Supreme Court outlined. In my view, crores of children already might be forced to go through a medium of education that is already violating the Supreme Court's judgment, across India.

Lastly, no one is opposing teaching Kannada or other language. The issue is with forcing the medium of education. If a large group of people, like 25 to 35% in the state now, mostly in urban areas, see a value in English medium education, the governments and activists have to sit back and think.
  • Why are they preferring English? Is it blind westernization? 
  • Is it better salaried jobs for English medium educated students compared to Kannada or other Bharatiya language educated students? 
  • Is it the poorer quality of education in Bharatiya language schools in most cases? 
  • Is it much beyond language like Science/Math which are easy to learn in English medium? 
What needs to be done? 

It's time for experts to talk to 1000s of parents.. Maybe lakhs. Find out what is working in English medium and why people are even willing to fight for 20 years in courts, all the way to Supreme Court to oppose imposition of medium by the government?

I feel that the majority of the parents won't be against Kannada or other Bharatiya langauges that they speak at home. Their focus will be more business oriented. Investment on their children for a better return for them and children in the future. When a vast chunk of urbanized parents, and now even semi-urban parents, are thinking in education as investment, the government has only ONE option. To make the schools under its control supremely competent a global level. Then everything will fall in place. That's my opinion.

What do you think?

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  1. I completley agree with you on this. People are using this issue more emotionally than rationally. Some activist group are making a mountain from this mole. I do agree with Supreme Court Judgements regarding this. Choice of language has to be left to parents, to chose for their kids. In this competitve world, we must look forward for a growth opportunity windows, rather than emotional attachments. This doesn't means, I am telling everyone to leave their mother tongue and start learning everything in English.

    Parents must also consider educating mother tongue and its importance to their kids. Nowadays, most of the parents also ignoring the mother tongue and even at home they converse in English. This has to be changed. But, this can be acheieved only through parents. They must encourage their kids to read Kannada newspapaers, books, novels and other important books. And, they must try to maintain their daily conversations in Kannada.

    Coming to state government or central governments role on this. I feel, they haven't done their job perfectly. There are stats available infront of us, more than 25000 government schools were asked to close down due to lack of students strength in Karnataka. Imagine those numbers in whole India. Also, the standards of government schools is way below the standards as we compare to that of the Private English medium schools. Instead of crying over Supreme Court's judgement, Government must ensure the quality of schools and colleges they are running. The sad part is, the opposition parties are using this as a political agenda, rather than thinking in a rational perspective. Today in Inida, most of the parents wants their kids to become either Engineer/Doctor (nearly 80%), for which English proficiency is a must.

    Learning mother tongue is a must, but it should not be forced. Parents are not ready to put their kids future at stake by putting them to Kannada medium schools. In Conclusion, I welcome Supreme Court's Judgement and your arguements on this.!

  2. Complex issues here, my personal opinion is the state "should" make kannada as compulsory. 1st, 2nd or 3rd options in schools. Coming to the medium, yes choice is always of the parents, at the same time, there are thousands still learning in that medium. Reducing the importance to the language in the name of choice will gradually diminish the usage of language. Our state capital already is big example, where in I notice friends want to falunt thier linguistic knowledge communicating other languages than kannada. Ultimately, love for ones mother toungue need be respected and encouraged.

  3. Sorry for my English as I'm also a Kannada medium product :)... I feel that state govt. should make Kannada as compulsory. Its not only the matter of business oriented mindset of parents, but also have to think about the very existence of Kannada. Now only many kids are learning in English medium and English has become their official language of communication in school, home, play ground, with parents, street vendors etc.. They know how to talk in Kannada (thanks to the parents who cant forget Kannada) but not how to write or read. Its a matter of concern.

    Also the students absorb more effectively during their 1-5 standards of education and that's where its considered as foundation. After this age you cannot induce the things to their brains especially language. Hence making Kannada a mandatory medium of study is a must.

    Coming to the questions, yes, parents are opting for English medium of learning because of their Kids future and lack of quality coaching in Kannada medium.

    Its not true that learning Science\Maths in English makes it easy to understand. However we have to improve and change some of the terminologies in subjects like science and maths instead of using mere translation from English. Our great Gnana Peethis and Co. should think on this and do something instead of screaming our language is in threat or doing some petty politics. PooChanThe had suggested this long back and urged people to use the word computer as computer in kannada also instead of Ganaka Yantra. These are small adjustments we need to make to keep the language growing OR be aggressive as Tamilians.

    Some steps may seem as rude but its necessary to preserve our language in existence.

    //Ganesh Adiga

  4. Nice article ji, :) i agree with your statistics and also with 1st observation.... and somewhere i am not with your last para.... i think we cannot neglect or we cannot take it very easy, now a days people are very much crazy about English even in rural areas, i was in Anekal for 3 years as a Vidhyarthi Karyakarth (Vistharak) from RSS so my observation in that area is like this.... i may be a wrong...... but don't you think this English is introduced by Macaulay and team because to rule the India for long time....? they wanted to change our education system and for that purpose they introduced this English and now that has been growing like anything.... if now we failed to take action on this matter it will grow very fast.
    And now NASA wanted to learn Sanskrit and they are facilitating to learn it for there scientists. in this case why should we stick on to English only, why should not make our children s to learn Sanskrit. i wanted to discuss so many thing on this issue with you sir so i will mail you the rest of the things if i wrong pls teach me.... :)

  5. Ravivarma - We can discuss as much as we want about MaCaulay. But the fact is that English has become an Indian language. India has the second largest English speaking population in the world, even bigger than England, the birthplace of English! We need to simply understand why crores of Bharatiya parents are preferring English medium.


    Anaamika - You are absolutely right. Children can learn more languages at a young age. It becomes very tough after age 10. Strangely, that's the exact argument used by KUSMA (unaided schools org) to ask for more languages in primary school, and not just Kannada!


    Sushma - Making Kannada as one of the compulsory languages is different from teaching everything in Kannada. Please think over it.


    Pradeep T - Yes, we should ask why attendance in Govt schools so bad? Why are they closing, that too in rural areas?

    - K

  6. We need to improve the economical viability of our Bhartiya Languages. Our Bhartiya languages need to become medium of earning. We need to push these languages in higher education, graduation and post-grads. Need to encourage research in these languages. Once parents are convinced that child can excel and make good career and increase in earning potential via his native language, then they would automatically shift to these languages as medium of education. Several advanced countries like Germany, Japan, Israel have done wonders through their native languages without surrendering to English. We need to study english just to deal with the english speaking countries, thats it. Other than that all internal affairs can be managed via native languages and Sanskrit as connecting and unifying language for entire nation.