Parents had raised concerns that mandating children to learn a 'tough' language would bring down their average score in exams.

Compulsory Kannada in schools Educationists say language syllabus is easy-to-graspRepresentation Photo
news Education Tuesday, January 28, 2020 - 12:47

Following the Karnataka government’s stance that it will not go back on the implementation of compulsory Kannada learning in all schools in the state, several parents and schools had voiced their concerns about their children’s ability to perform well.

Parents had raised concerns that with Kannada not being the mother tongue of many children in the state, mandating children to learn it would bring down their average score in exams. With pressure from schools and parents, one important question that arises is: How difficult is the Kannada language syllabus?

Speaking to TNM, Madegowda, Director of Karnataka Textbook Society, says that there is a huge difference in difficulty level in first and second language Kannada textbooks in the state. Madegowda says that the second language textbooks are easier and framed to ensure that children, whose mother tongue is not Kannada, can also learn the language.

“Children have the capacity to learn whatever new language they can learn. Obviously, marks are important and we understand parents’ concern. But will parents ask the government to remove Mathematics or Science as subjects just because they are difficult? When a child starts learning a language since Class 1, by the time they write board exams in Class 10, they would easily be able to write the exam and score well,” Madegowda says.

The Congress government under the then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had passed the Kannada Language Learning Act in 2015, making it compulsory for all schools, irrespective of the board, to teach Kannada. The Act came into effect in 2017 and ever since, schools have been mandated to teach Kannada either as a first or second language.  

The legislation came about after Kannada Development Authority and several pro-Kannada organisations argued for it. Speaking to TNM, Ganesh Chetan, a member of Kannada Grahakara Koota, says that the parents are demanding that Kannada be taught as third language as they don’t care about learning the local language.

“Kannada is the official language of our state. This demand for third language is a diversion measure as they (parents) only care about marks. If a child is taught a language from a young age, they will learn it. What’s wrong with learning Kannada? The children will obviously be taught everything from alphabet to grammar. If people are living here, they need to know the language of the people,” Ganesh Chetan questioned.

According to Shivarame Gowda, Director of Bengaluru North Division, Department of State Educational Research and Training, the second language Kannada textbooks for primary school children has alphabet, separate sections where children can practise various gradations as opposed to first language textbooks.

“For Class 1 Kannada, we have the Savi Kannada textbook and Kannada Nali Kali book. In the lower classes, alphabet and maatraas are taught. The Nali Kali work book has directions on how to write the curves in the letters. It is very easy. Apart from that there are words and phrases. It is not at all difficult,” Shivarame Gowda says.

He maintains that unlike First language Kannada textbooks, the second language ones do not have old Kannada lessons for high school students. “The chapters are easy. Lessons are small in a story format compared to those children studying first language. For those children, whose mother tongue is not Kannada, if they start learning from Class 1, it will not be difficult. That is why the state government decided to implement it in a phased manner,” he says.

Corroborating his view, Basavaraju, Executive Director of Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement (GRAAM), an NGO that works towards public policy in education and health, says that encouraging students to learn new languages is important.

“My mother tongue is Kannada. But I also speak Hindi and English. It is a common perception that Hindi is the national language when it is not. What If someone is living here and studying here, it becomes necessary to learn the state’s official language. Imposing Hindi goes against the principles of federalism and we must respect that different languages are spoken in different states. There is nothing wrong with making it mandatory to learn Kannada,” Basavaraju said.