Suresh Kumar, the Karnataka Minister of Secondary Education, has sent a letter to Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Mohan Reddy, objecting the government's decision to implement compulsory Telugu or Urdu in Andhra schools, leaving out Kannada.
In his letter, he says “The Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to convert all schools into English medium and compel every student to learn Telugu or Urdu as one of the languages has defied the spirit of bonhomie that always existed between our states. The impact on the morale of Kannadigas residing in border areas of Andhra Pradesh, did their schooling in Kannada medium all these years is more than what meets the eye. Cultural conflict is more demoralizing than any other social conflict.”
He recalls historical relations between the two Southern states, “Kannadigas and Andhra people have shared generations of camaraderie that dates back to Krishnadevaraya’s time and beyond. We have very little difference on linguistic grounds, as our languages are similar, accents are similar, we have almost the same script, and culturally we are one. We both share the same festivals and share the same holy places.”
Suresh Kumar adds that he is concerned about the loss of jobs and the mother tongue of the students, “The decision taken by your government to follow two language formula will not just put the lives of so many Kannada Language teachers in jeopardy, many children will be deprived of learning their mother tongue, for the simple reason that they are living outside Karnataka. In this regard, I sincerely request you to take necessary action to protect the interest of Kannadigas of your state by continuing the minority language schools, who teach Kannada as a language or medium. I firmly believe that this decision will restore the integrity which always existed between us for generations.”
This follows the Andhra government’s move towards making English compulsory as the medium of instruction in all State board schools, starting with classes 1 to 6 in the first phase. This means that non-language subjects like Mathematics, Science and Social studies will be only taught in English.
With several groups opposing the policy and expressing fears over the loss of knowledge in Telugu language, the government has assured that the Telugu language will be made a compulsory subject, and in some cases, Urdu, 'based on necessity.'
According to an APSCERT (Andhra Pradesh State Council of Educational Research and Training) official, currently, students in primary schools learn two languages in school - English, and their mother tongue or preferred language (Telugu, Hindi, Kannada etc.) However, starting from class 6, Hindi is made compulsory as the 'second language', if it isn't already the 'first language'.
In this case, the grade of “first language” defines the level of difficulty it is taught at. So, the “second language” is less difficult than the first language.
This means that for Kannada medium schools in Andhra now being made to switch to English medium, in primary grades, children will have two language subjects - English, and Telugu/Urdu - as Telugu/Urdu has been made compulsory. Starting from class 6, Hindi is likely to be made mandatory, the APSCERT official said, and may leave no scope for students to learn minority languages in the state.
Minority languages in the state of Andhra Pradesh, like Kannada, have not been mentioned in the English medium policy so far.
The Karnataka government in 2015 made it mandatory for all schools in the state to teach Kannada either as first or second language. In state syllabus, students can choose another language as third language, and this includes minority languages too.
Inputs from Jahnavi Reddy.