A parent has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, asking them to intervene and sort out the issue.

Many parents and schools oppose implementation of compulsory Kannada ruleRepresentation Photo
news Education Monday, January 27, 2020 - 14:27

It’s been three years since the Karnataka government made it compulsory for all schools, public and private, to teach Kannada either as the first or second language. This move is now facing resistance from a certain section of parents and also several schools. Parents of children studying in ICSE, IGCSE, and CBSE schools say that the legislation is impeding their children’s ability to score good marks as their average score is falling because of the rule.

“I am from Karnataka but my family moved around as my father was in the forces. I have learned Hindi because I kept changing schools. Now my child is unable to score good marks because Kannada has a tougher syllabus than Hindi,” a parent whose child studies at a prominent school in Bengaluru said, “When children in other states are able to score more marks because of the second language, why should my son be denied that chance?” 

The parent has also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, asking them to intervene and sort out the issue. “My son, who is studying in Class 3, has opted for Hindi as a second language. Now the Karnataka government has scrapped Hindi as a second language option, and he has to learn higher level Kannada, which even local Kannadigas find difficult. Make education easy, accessible and relevant,” the woman’s letter states.

What the legislation states

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 first or second language.

The legislation was passed amidst a massive lobby by pro-Kannada groups and the Kannada Development Authority, who argued that Kannada being the language spoken by a large section of people in the state, needs to be prioritised.

The law will be applicable for students from Class 1 to 10, and is currently being rolled out in a phased manner. The implementation began with Class 1 students being mandated to study Kannada in 2017. So far, the compulsory Kannada learning is applicable to Classes 1, 2 and 3 and starting this academic year, Class 4 will be included.

Private schools want Kannada as third language

On January 3, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Suresh Kumar met with over 150 representatives of these schools and made it clear that the rule must be implemented. Last week, the Kannada Development Authority officials met with representatives of various schools affiliated to ICSE, CBSE and IGCSE boards, and insisted that the schools follow the law as the government would implement the law strictly from the new academic year.

Speaking to TNM, Shashi Kumar, General Secretary of the Karnataka Associated Management of Unaided Schools (KAMUS), said that the association has requested the state government to provide an option of teaching Kannada as a third language.

“There are so many children whose mother tongue is not Kannada and they want to study Hindi. We are not opposed to the government making Kannada compulsory, but we are requesting that instead of making it the compulsory first or second language, give an option for third language. Children must be able to choose what they want to study,” Shashi Kumar said.

The KAMUS has also submitted a letter to minister Suresh Kumar asking him to approach the Ministry of Human Resource Development and seek guidelines for implementing the law.

“The government has no proper framework. We have requested the minister to seek the MHRD’s permission to introduce a three-language policy,” he added. Shashi Kumar says that the KAMUS may move the court against the government’s decision, as it is impeding on the children’s fundamental right to learn or speak whichever language they want to.

“We have requested successive governments to introduce the third language option. We will be forced to move the court as this rule is violating the fundamental rights of children from other states to learn whichever language they want. If the matter is sub-judice, then the government cannot force schools to implement it,” he said.

Kannada Development Authority, state government adamant

The Kannada Development Authority, which had lobbied for making it compulsory to learn Kannada in schools says that stringent action will be taken against schools that violate government orders. “What audacity these schools have to not implement the law? What is the shame in learning Kannada when they are living in Karnataka? If people go to Germany or Japan, they learn the language of the land, right? If someone is coming to our state, should they not learn Kannada?” questioned TS Nagabharana, Chairman of KDA.

Nagabharana said that the state government will not compromise on the issue and that action will be taken against schools violating norms from the upcoming academic year. “We have been lenient with these schools for the last three years. In Tamil Nadu as well, the Tamil Learning Act is being implemented. Why should we not do everything to promote the language of our land? If these schools do not follow rules, the government can cancel their no objection certificates. Let them move the court if they want to,” he added.

KG Jagadeesha, Commissioner of the Department of Public Instruction, said that the law states that Kannada must be taught as second or first language since those children studying in ICSE, CBSE and IGCSE have third language as an option only for those studying between classes 4 and 7.

“There is nothing wrong in learning a new language. Children can learn languages easily if they start learning from a young age. It is a law and it must be followed,” he said.

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