news Wednesday, April 01, 2015 - 05:30
Anisha Sheth | The News Minute | April 1, 2015 | 7.58 am IST Follow @anisha_w Language is closely tied with economic opportunities. It is this aspect which is crucial to the debate surrounding the Karnataka government’s decision in making Kannada the compulsory medium of instruction. On Tuesday, the Karnataka legislature passed two bills –-the Kannada Language Learning Bill and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Karnataka Amendment) Bill 2015 . They now await the President’s approval, which if given, would make Kannada or the mother tongue the medium of instruction in all schools affiliated to the state board, including private schools. Primary and Secondary Education Minister Kimmane Ratnakar has said that it would not be applicable to ICSE and CBSE schools, even though they actually fall within the ambit of the bill. Kannada is studied as a subject until Class 10 in state board schools. Currently, English is taught as a subject starting from Class 3 in government schools, where Kannada is the medium of instruction. The move comes after the Supreme Court dismissed a curative petition filed by the state government after a Constitutional Bench of the Court ruled that the state government could not impose Kannada as the medium of instruction in private schools as it interfered with the right of parents to choose for their children. General Secretary of the Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Private Schools Karnataka (KAMS) Shashi Kumar D told The News Minute that they welcomed the move to make Kannada a compulsory subject, but said that they would initiate legal measures to challenge the law. Program Head for Education at the Centre for Child and the Law at National Law School of India University Niranjan Aradhya said that in passing the law, the state government’s decision was actually in accordance with existing research in the field of education, the National Curricular Framework and also Article 350 of the Constitution (on mother tongue as medium of instruction), all of which, the Supreme Court had failed to take into regard in its ruling. “With all due respect to the court, it has failed to consider this. It is in the best interest of the child that it learns in a language that it is familiar with. When you suddenly impose a language on children and ask them to mechanically memorise words, you kill their creativity and ability to express themselves freely. This is a gross violation of the child’s rights,” he said. According to Shashi Kumar, research shows that a child could best pick up languages by the age of 10, but unable to express the research related to language learning and the brain in English, he switched over to Kannada. He said that changing the medium of instruction suddenly at the age of 10 would affect the child’s self-esteem as after the age of 10, they would become aware of mistakes in language usage. “Why are the majority of children who study in Kannada medium schools unable to speak English very well?” he said, adding that this policy would make it very difficult for children to pick up English as they grew older. Asked if teaching methods did not have anything to do with this, he agreed, but maintained that it was necessary to introduce English as the medium of instruction from Class 1. “You cannot look at the micro view when it comes to this, you have to have a macro perspective. Why do you have one law for the poor and one for others? People do feel that they would have had better economic opportunities and salaries if they spoke English well,” Shashi said. On whether English had become the economic language of the world, National Secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions S Prasanna Kumar said that Indians are obsessed about English because the sub-continent was colonised by the British. “We have accepted that English must be spoken,” he said. Pointing out another colonial empire, he said that he had been to France, and if people spoke another language, it was Spanish, not English. He said that Europe’s economies too functioned without English. Prasanna Kumar said that the position demanding that Kannada be learned was not a dogmatic one because no one was asking that English should not be taught.  “But what the government is doing is actually creating an emotional wave around Kannada. It is not enough to introduce Kannada in schools. The administrative language must also be Kannada,” he said, pointing out that many government records including those of the judiciary were in English. “Even documents from the chief minister’s office are in English.” With respect to the instant case, Prasanna said that private school managements were merely fighting out the case legally because their businesses would take a hit if private schools did not teach in English. Asked if the private managements were persistent with the legal battle because their admissions would be affected he said: “No, not at all. We are fighting for the right of the parents to choose the medium of instruction for their children, as well as the management’s right to teach in the language they wish. We are running private institutions without any government aid.” Admitting that he thought that English was an economic necessity, Prasanna added: “I was a part of the Gokak language movement and I am a Kannada activist. But one needs to understand that English is necessary because of competitiveness and sustainability. You have to prepare the child for that.” Asked about countries such as China and Japan whose economies were doing well despite economic activity being carried out in non-English languages, he said that they were bi-lingual languages at most. According to Ethnologue website China close to 300 languages are spoken in China. Research shows that language and economic activity are closely related. In an older interview to The News Minute, linguist and head of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, Ganesh Devy explained that government initiatives could not just create economic opportunities for people, but these could be done in the mother-tongues of people. Devy had said that through carefully planned policies for local economies and education, the government had ensured that Bhili (Gujarat), Chang and Khezha (Nagaland) and Khandeshi (Maharashtra) languages and flourished. They even recorded greater speakers between two consecutive censes. Asked about Kannada being taught in schools when the People’s Linguistic Survey listed around 50 languages as mother tongues being spoken in the state, Aradhya said that this was why the law states that the mother tongue would be taught where possible. If in a school there were just two speakers of a particular language, and everybody else spoke a different language, then it was not practical for the government to appoint teachers for that language. “But if there are 100 students speaking say Konkani in a school, then the state is obliged to appoint teachers and ensure that the language is taught to the child,” Aradhya said. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute

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