The Karnataka government’s decision to make it mandatory for all schools to teach Kannada as at least the second language has made it to the courts once again.
The management association of CBSE schools in Karnataka is set to approach the Karnataka High Court on the issue as they feel they are in a “fix” before the next academic year starts in June.
Speaking to TNM, M Srinivasan, president of the CBSE Schools Association, said, “We are in a fix. The central government says make Hindi the second language; Karnataka says make Kannada the second language. We are caught between the two.”
We don’t want to be caught in the crossfire between the state and centre. That is the reason we are going to the court for clarity,” he added.
The association has more than 100 schools attached to it. In total, there are more than 250 CBSE schools in the state, out of which close to 170 schools are in Bengaluru.
Refusing to “oppose” the decision to make Kannada mandatory, Srinivasan said that if they go by the state government order they will “violate the President approved central enactment” and if they don’t “the Karnataka government will hold them guilty”.
He added, “Parents have reasons to teach their kids French or whatever their mother tongue is. They are also anxious. We are of the opinion that neither Hindi nor Kannada should be imposed. Children and parents should be given the choice.”
Srinivasan also invoked a recent Supreme Court decision in which the apex court ruled in favour of them with regards to a similar move to impose Kannada in schools by the state government.
Parents divided on the issue
But not all parents are on the same side on the issue. Although a majority are of the opinion that the state language should be learnt and respected, some parents do not want to overburden their wards with learning a new language.
One such parent, Rachana, said, “I think learning the local language is an important life skill. But in the long term and also considering Bengaluru has more than 40% migrant population, it will hardly come to any use if our children go out of the state. I think it should be taught in a much more fun way than just overburdening children and forcing them to pass in exams as a mandatory second language.”
But others feel that all students, including migrants, should learn the local language.
Jyothi, another parent, states, “Whichever the state you reside in, in the country, you should learn the state language. It is basic courtesy to give respect to the state which is giving you shelter and everything else.”
“Moreover, kids are very capable of learning any language very quickly. It is human tendency that wherever you go, you pick up the local language,” she added.
In the most recent judgment that was given in May 2014, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the SC had said that the government cannot force Kannada as a medium of instruction to students up to Class 5. The Karnataka HC had held the same view earlier.
“The right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution includes the freedom of a child to be educated at the primary stage of school in a language of the choice of the child and the state cannot impose controls on such choice just because it thinks that it will be more beneficial for the child if he is taught in the primary stage in his mother tongue,” the Bench had said.
Sashi Kumar, General Secretary of the Associated Managements of English Medium Schools in Karnataka which first approached the HC against the state government directive, told TNM, “It is very clear that the law of the land states that the selection of language and the choice of medium of instruction lies with the parents. The government cannot impose and violate the fundamental right.”
Sustained campaign by state body
But SG Siddaramaiah, Chairman of the Kannada Development Authority (a state government body), does not agree.
Speaking to TNM earlier on the issue, he said, “This is a state language and the language of the land. Ten years ago, Tamil Nadu moved for Tamil to be made the first language. We are being more liberal and allowing the option of having Kannada as the second language.”
The government’s latest decision came on the back of a series of similar moves. The KDA had also issued notices to the Namma Metro on the use of Hindi in its signboards, terming the practice an “unnecessary imposition of Hindi”.
KDA had asked for the inclusion of Kannada in exams for bank jobs and national-level competitive exams. It has also carried out a sustained campaign against the absence of Kannada instructions in bank forms in the state.
It had even issued a notice to the regional heads of nationalised, private and grameena banks, making it compulsory for bank employees to learn the language.