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LANGUAGE POLICY FOR EDUCATION IN INDIAN STATES: KARNATAKA
B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
1. DEVELOPING A SENSE OF PARTICIPATION IN MULTILINGUAL NATIONS
A multi-ethnic and multi-lingual pluralistic nation needs to evolve education and language policies in such a way that all the segments that constitute that nation develop a sense of participation in the progress of governance and nation-building. In addition, the specific aspirations of the individual segments of the nation need to be met to the satisfaction of the various ethnic, religious, and linguistic communities. India's Freedom Struggle was not merely a struggle for independence; it also laid the groundwork for all nation building even when the people were under foreign yoke. Our leaders did not postpone nation-building processes until we were given freedom. The resolutions passed in the various conferences conducted by the Indian National Congress reveal that the national leadership, while waging their battle against the British rule, thought well ahead of time and prepared the nation with advance steps in the fields of education and language policies. One such step was the generously agreed upon principle to re-organize the British India provinces that were a product of the British tactics of accession for the administrative convenience of the rulers into somewhat linguistically cohesive states. Another resolution that was passed and partially implemented twenty-five years before independence was the policy on National Education that emphasized the use of the mother tongue as medium of instruction in schools.
The story of the linguistic re-organization of the provinces began with the re-structuring of the provincial Congress Committees. Karnataka had to wage a battle to get this privilege of having its own Karnataka Congress Committee. There were many impediments but that is not the focus of this paper. This paper aims at providing a language policy update relating to Karnataka, and it forms a part of the series of articles that I intend writing for as many Indian states as possible in a few years. This paper is a part of my personal on-going project that seeks to describe, analyze, correlate, and explain the language policies of various Indian states in so far as these relate to education and governance. I published an earlier version of this paper as an article with the title "Evolution of Language Policy for Education in Karnataka" in the volume Papers in Applied Linguistics edited by K. S. Rajyashree and Udaya Narayana Singh (Rajyashree and Singh, 2001). I plan to update this paper as and when new information is available.
2. INTERESTING SIDELIGHTS OF KARNATAKA
Karnataka offers many interesting sidelights. A national political party, either the Indian National Congress or the Janata Dal, always ruled the State, since independence and linguistic reorganization. The adjacent states of Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh have strong regional political parties. The absence of strong regional political parties did not stop the growth of a strong sense of Karnataka identity among the people of Karnataka. Modern Karnataka came into being as a single linguistic state after uniting the Kannada-speaking territories from several adjacent states. For long, the name of the state remained Mysore State, to accommodate certain regional demands. Karnataka has a rich ancient history. The border disputes with Maharashtra and Kerala still continue after many years of linguistic re-organization. Karnataka has a very strong program to implement the use of Kannada as the language of administration in government departments. The state also has well-defined language policies for education. The most significant aspect of the language policy is that it tends to be very practical. However, language agitations in favor of Kannada as the sole medium of instruction or in favor of retaining English as an important alternative medium still continues.
3. EDUCATION AND LANGUAGE: INDIAN MILESTONES
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, 'Every one has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory... Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children'1. The Constitution of India also makes provision for '... free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years'2. But the Constitution has no explicit statements regarding the language(s) to be taught in education or the language(s) through which education has to be imparted (except in the case of linguistic minorities). This may have been a tactical compromise or declaration on the part of the Constitution makers, because every one could sense the great linguistic complexity of free and democratic India.
The National Policy on Education of 1968 spoke about the regional languages and the Three Language Formula. The 1986 Policy reiterated the earlier stand. The States Reorganization Commission had asked the Union Government to elucidate a policy outline for education in mother tongue at the Secondary stage. The All India Council for Education recommended the adoption of the Three Language Formula (TLF) in September 1956. The endorsement for this formula came from various directions. It was adopted by the Chief Ministers' conference. The National Policy on Education 1968 recommended the inclusion of the TLF 'which includes the study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the Southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi speaking states, and of Hindi along with the regional language and English in the non Hindi speaking states' in at the Secondary stage. This was reiterated in the Education Policy 1986 and was adopted as the Programme of Action by the Parliament in 1992. These are major attempts to arrive at a language policy for education. Since education is in the concurrent list of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, the language policy formulation for education and its implementation is left to the State governments under the Constitutional safeguards and broad guidelines cited above.
The National Curriculum Framework for School Education: A Discussion Document released on January 1, 2000, while reviewing the Three Language Formula, states,
According to this document the three languages are: (i) the home language/the regional language, (ii) English, and (iii) Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states and any other modern Indian language in Hindi speaking states.
4. THE KARNATAKA SITUATION
Karnataka, one of the 28 states of the Union of India was formed on November 1, 1956 by integrating 20 geographical units on the basis of the language used by the majority, and geographic contiguity. One of the important reasons for bringing the various parts into a single administrative unit was to facilitate effective administration and give an impetus for the development of the people. The integration of the geographical units that had Kannada as the dominant language of use was expected to help the people to work united for faster economic development, and help wider participation of common people in the developmental activities initiated by the State government. It was also expected to help develop Kannada as a fit vehicle of communication and education to meet the modern needs. So, the linguistic re-unification was followed by the enactment of the Karnataka Official Language Act, 1963 which declared Kannada as the Official language of the State. Karnataka has common borders with Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Maharastra, and Kerala states where Telugu, Tamil, Konkani, Marathi, and Malayalam are the Official Languages respectively.
This paper analyses the social, economic, political, legal, and linguistic aspects of the evolution of the language policy for education in multilingual Karnataka, and presents a detailed review of the policy and its practice. The language policy of Karnataka, as it stands today, is not framed and implemented in a single stroke, but it has evolved in the course of time through the process of mutual understanding and adjustment of roles for various mother tongues (home languages) as school languages. It may be a role model for similar contexts prevailing in the other multilingual states of India.
5. KARNATAKA LINGUISTIC DEMOGRAPHY
As per the 1991 Census, Karnataka has a population of around 4 crores. It is one of the most multilingual states (Table - 1) in the country. The 1971 Census records 166 mother tongues in the state. The changing linguistic pattern in the past few decades presents an interesting picture.
Table - 1
The above table indicates a gradual reduction in the percentage of speakers of Telugu, Marathi, Tulu, Konkani, and Kodagu, and increase in the percentage of Urdu, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam speakers. This may be due to the identification of some language speakers with Kannada, and migration of speakers of other languages into Karnataka. The reasons for this are yet to be probed in detail.
6. URBAN AND RURAL DISTRIBUTION
Table -2 given below illustrates the distribution of various mother tongue speakers in the rural and urban areas.
Table - 2
It is clearly seen that Kannada, the Official Language of the state is the mother tongue mainly of rural people, and Tamil, mainly a language of migrants, is an urban phenomenon. Also, the languages whose speakers showed a decrease in their strength are also from the rural areas.
Table -3 given below reveals the direction in which bilingualism is distributed in Karnataka. It gives the percentage of bilingual speakers in each mother tongue group in relation to the total population of Karnataka, and relates it to the percentage of the bilingual speakers who are bilingual in Kannada. The figures reveal that among the different groups of mother tongue speakers, maximum number of bilinguals is found among the Kodagu mother tongue speakers, and the least number of bilinguals are found among the Kannada mother tongue speakers. Most of the bilingual Kannada speakers are bilingual in Hindi. The percentage of bilingual Kannada speakers has doubled in the four decades from 1961 to 1991. Among the minority language speakers, Marathi speakers are least bilingual.
Table - 3
8. EDUCATION AND LANGUAGE CHOICE
After the unification of Karnataka, the language policy in Karnataka evolved in several stages with the decisions taken by the bureaucracy, committees, and legislature. These decisions were guided at times by the prevalent dominant public opinion, and often were adjudicated by the judiciary by looking into the claims and counterclaims of various minority mother tongue groups that sought for their mother tongues the status of school languages(s). Often social, economic, political, legal, and other issues not related to education came to influence the language choice for education purposes. The demands made by one group were weighed against the demands made by other groups. In this multilingual setup, the preservation of its interests as the dominant linguistic group, and the fear of loss of stature in the state that it considers to be its traditional homeland shape and guide the responses of the majority mother tongue group (Kannada).
The linguistic minorities are afraid that the language of the majority will be used as a tool of oppression against them. They perceive a threat to the existence of their community as a distinct group. They fear the loss of their home language. Sometimes the majority perceives some threat to the existence and continuation of their language (Kannada) from Hindi, some other times from Sanskrit, and at other times from English. But the minority, most of the time perceives a threat from Kannada, the Official Language of the State, and tries to find shelter under English. Even among the minority groups different groups have different threat perceptions. Some speak out. Some others remain silent.
Under these circumstances, four distinct stages may be identified in the development of the language policy for education in Karnataka. They are: (a) First Phase: Before 1956 - prior to the formation of Karnataka, (b) Second Phase: 1956 to 1982 - after the formation of Karnataka, (c) Third Phase: 1982 to 1988 - after the Gokak Committee recommendations, and (d) Fourth Phase: 1989 onwards after the intervention of the judiciary. We are now in the Fifth Phase: Fifth Phase- the evolving Challenges of the new millennium, but this stage is hardly recognized either by the bureaucracy or the political leaders.
9. THE FIRST PHASE: BEFORE 1956
A perusal of the documents from 20 regions that comprise the present day Karnataka indicates the existence of three different kinds of schools: Vernacular schools, English schools, and Anglo-Vernacular schools. The vernacular schools taught the regional language and other subjects in the same language. Similarly the English schools taught English and other subjects in English. Both these types of schools existed in almost all the regions. Although several common elements in the curriculum adopted in the different regions could be identified, there were differences in the curriculum from one region to another. Only languages having their own script had found a place in formal education at the time of unification. The aim of this education system was to spread "...European knowledge throughout all class of people and this was to be imparted to the upper classes through the medium of English and to the masses through their own spoken languages."3 Even at that time the social status was the deciding factor in the choice of type of education.
9. THE SECOND PHASE: 1956 to 1982
Karnataka adopted a uniform curriculum and syllabus for all its regions/districts in the state from 1959-60, and by the end of 1962-63 all the schools had totally switched over to the new uniform curriculum. Karnataka established the following pattern of language choice for education in schools since the linguistic reorganization of states in 1956.
This pattern of language choice was practiced for nearly two decades in Karnataka. The late sixties and the early seventies witnessed strong opposition to Hindi since it was perceived as a threat to the existence, use, and development of Kannada. This had forced the Kannada mother tongue speakers to lean towards English. However, many among them also felt that Kannada faced a threat to its continuation as the dominant school language from Sanskrit. It was found that the students from the Kannada majority or other minority mother tongue groups also opted for Sanskrit as a subject of study in the schools. Students availing Sanskrit as first language scored more marks in the final examinations than their Kannada counterparts. It was perceived by many that the easy instructional materials used in the Sanskrit classes, and a liberal evaluation system that helped students to obtain higher marks in the final examinations contributed to its popularity among the parents as well as the students. Choice of Sanskrit as a language of preference was normally perceived to be associated with the students coming from the Brahmin communities, but there were also others who began to adopt this language for the purposes of scoring higher marks in the final examinations conducted by the State Board.
It was possible to pass the SSLC State Board examination without passing the Kannada course in the scheme outlined above. It was but inevitable, then, that this scheme created and widened the incompatibility between the policy of language choice for administration and the languages chosen for the purposes of education.
The State government employees lacked adequate knowledge of Kannada to use it as an effective medium of administration. This was found to be an impediment in using Kannada in the administration of the state at all levels. At the political level, there was a growing desire to use Kannada in as many departments of the government as possible. This pressured the State Government to create avenues to enable its employees to acquire a working knowledge of the State Official language through other formal or non-formal means.
Linguistic movements initiated by various political parties, groups of Kannada teachers, students, college and university professors, literary critics, playwrights, and creative writers created an awakening among the Kannada speaking majority to seek a place of pride or pre-eminent place for Kannada in the affairs of the State. Their dream was to restore the primacy and the lost glory of their language as the only medium of governance in the linguistically re-organized Kannada state. This awakening in favor of using Kannada as the language of administration was a consequence of many factors including linguistic movements, political agitations, and the general political awakening among the backward classes. This description of the linguistic situation in Karnataka can be easily applied to many other linguistically re-organized Indian states also.
Spread of literacy mainly in Kannada, and the spread of general education among the people, had led to a new awakening. The large-scale migration of people, mainly from adjacent Tamil Nadu, for jobs that opened up through fast industrialization of the state was perceived to be curtailing the job opportunities for the Kannada majority. All these needed an avenue for the expression of their anger and disgust among the people4. The language choice in education provided an avenue to meet the challenge thrown up by industrialization and consequent migration of people from other linguistic groups. The government decided to delete Sanskrit from the first language list in 1979 and included it in the second/third language list. But the government that took this decision did not remain in power to implement its decision5. The subsequent government reconsidered the stand of the previous government, and decided to maintain the status quo6. Pro-Kannada groups protested against this decision.
10. THE THIRD PHASE: 1982 - 1988
This agitation against retaining Sanskrit in the first language list made the government to think afresh about the language choice in school education. For this purpose the Government of Karnataka constituted a committee (July 5, 1980) with Prof. V.K. Gokak as the Chairman, and placed the following questions before it.
The Committee recommended (January 27, 1981) that:
The Committee further recommended that this should be implemented for the education of Kannada speaking pupils from 1981-82 itself, and, in respect of others, from 1986-87, after taking necessary steps to teach Kannada to them from the 3rd Standard beginning with the academic year 1981-82 itself.
The order (dated the April 30, 1982) issued by the Government of Karnataka on the basis of this report prescribed the following pattern for language study:
The Kannada-speaking majority did not find this solution adequate to meet their demand to accord a pre-eminent place to Kannada. Up to this point, in the debate or agitation over the choice of languages for school education, only the Kannada protagonists were in the forefront. The linguistic or religious minorities did not participate in the debate actively. The Government after reconsidering its order issued the notification (on July 20, 1982) detailing the language choice for school system and modus operandi for its implementation through the circular (dated the August 11,1982).
According to this order:
Pursuing this order, the Director of Public Instruction issued a Circular (dated the August 11, 1982) indicating the strategy to be followed in the implementation of the order ."All the non-teaching Kannada schools in the State should begin to teach Kannada language from the 1st standard in the year 1982-83 as per instructions contained in para 3 of the Government order. For that purpose the following periods of subjects and text books and lessons for study are prescribed as under:
An analysis of this language formula reveals an inadequate understanding of the concepts like 'mother tongue', 'first language' and strategy adopted for choosing languages for education. Also this formula stands out as an exceptional case where a regional (majority) language/Official Language of the State is ascribed a special status of 'sole first language' in the secondary school, and this language is made a compulsory language for all students irrespective of their mother tongue with the same syllabus. This formula does not grade languages as first language, second language, etc., either in terms of pedagogical concepts, or in terms of chronology of their introduction in the school system. In this formula, the Kannada mother tongue student had an advantage over the students of other mother tongues. A mother tongue Kannada speaker has Kannada as first language. The Urdu or other mother tongue student has to take Kannada as the first language. He might select Urdu or another language as one of the other two languages. The third language may be English. Thus Hindi, one of the languages of the three language formula is not included a part of his education. If he desires to take Hindi, his mother tongue is not included a part of his education7.
The Linguistic Minorities Protection Committee and others challenged the order and the relevant circular of the Director of Public Instruction in the High Court of Karnataka. The following three questions came up before the Full Bench.
This became a classic case and formed a basis for wide debate on the role of the Regional language/Official Language in the school curriculum and on the question of student's mother tongue as medium of instruction. This has no analogy to the cases decided by the Courts hitherto in the country. After hearing all the concerned parties, the two Judges in the three Judge Bench ruled in one direction and another Judge ruled in another direction. However, the majority opinion, by law and practice, was to be accepted as the Judgment to guide the language policy of the State. So it is fascinating to find how different Judges of the same Bench looked at the language problems and the legal provisions that sought to address the issue.
The litigants argued as follows: There is no rational basis for making Kannada as the sole first language; it is unreasonable for the State to compel the students to study the official or regional language if they do not have aptitude and if they intend to reside in the state only temporarily; providing opportunity to study their language is as much in the national interest as is the study of the regional language; to achieve primacy for Kannada, minorities need not be compelled to study it from the first standard in the schools; the parents and students should choose whatever they want to study and the State cannot 'indulge in regimentation' in the matter relating to the study of languages; children must have the benefit of having education in their mother tongue; children whose mother tongue is not Kannada get a discriminatory treatment and they cannot study Kannada and compete with Kannada mother tongue students; the right to equality under Article 14 is affected; the linguistic minorities have the right under Article 29 to take steps to conserve their language and also a right under Article 30 to establish institutions of their choice, which right includes a right to take a decision as to what language should be studied as first language; it is for them to decide in what manner their language should be conserved, preserved, produced and it is not for the Government to decide and the Government under the guise of public interest cannot impose conditions.
The State while arguing in favor of its policy said: it has power and right to take steps for the development of Kannada, including making the study of Kannada compulsory to all the children from the primary school stage and as the sole first language in the secondary school since Kannada is the declared Official Language of the State and hence it is rational to make it compulsory; this is necessary to give primacy to Kannada in the affairs of the State; also 'the State has power to make regulations in the interest of excellence in education and any regulations so made by the Government cannot be regarded as infringing on the rights of the minority groups; the usefulness of a language is measured in terms of its use in administration, trade, industry, defense, managerial decision-making and such other wide variety of a range of domains and in social and family affairs. Such domains can be covered by more than one language used complimentary to each other. Language development is central to educational advancement on a mass scale. Educational development is central to economic, cultural, and political developments. Language development is corollary to national development. India is a country with a population of sizable numbers, speaking and using different languages and therefore the problem becomes difficult and complex' and 'A child belonging to a minority section of the community in any State speaking a language other than the regional or the local language will thus develop its personality with two languages; one spoken at home, the other spoken beyond the threshold of his home, for in the absence of knowledge of the local language an individual would be at a severe disadvantage in participating in the daily life of the State. When a child or person learns two languages, one as his mother tongue and the other as the language spoken by the people around, both become his language. Therefore, it cannot be said that a child speaking a language other than the regional language at home is totally alien to the regional language'.
The Judges examined the submissions made before them. The majority opinion of the Bench on the teaching of Kannada compulsorily in the primary stage, and as the sole first language in the secondary schools considered that such insistence led to the violation or otherwise of various Constitutional provisions. Their opions can be summarized as follows:
11. THE FOURTH PHASE: 1989 ONWARDS
On the basis of the direction of the court, the Government of Karnataka elucidated the language policy for school education in its order ( June 19, 1989) pending the decision of the Supreme court. This is the first time that the government used the word language policy for education in its official document. Accordingly:
Meanwhile, the government, in order to implement the Education Policy 1986, issued curriculum guidelines (April 24 ,1992) to be adopted from 1992-93. According to this order, the students could opt for mother tongue Kannada, English, Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Marathi or Urdu in the 5th, 6th and 7th standards. The second language will be English for Kannada mother tongue students, and Kannada for all others. The third language can be one of the following: Hindi , Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic or English. Here each language carries 100 marks. Learning Kannada is made compulsory. The students opting for Sanskrit should answer in Sanskrit only. In the secondary school, the first language consists of Kannada, Sanskrit, Telugu, Tamil, Urdu, Marathi, English or Hindi. The second language list has Hindi, English or Kannada. The third language list has Hindi, English, Sanskrit, Persian, Kannada, or Arabic. One of the three languages should be Kannada. Here the first language is for 125 marks, and other two 100 marks each.
12. MEDIUM OF INSTRUCTION
The choice of medium of instruction in Karnataka was also based on the statements in the Constitution and the Grant-in- Aid Code of the State government since Oct 19, 1969. According to this arrangement, 'In all primary schools, the medium of instruction shall ordinarily be the Regional Language or mother tongue of the child'. The English medium schools or English medium sections in the primary schools were permitted by the Director of Public Instruction to cater to the needs of migratory groups and 'Students whose mother tongue is a minority language for which there is no provision in the schools of the locality.'
The anti-Hindi stand of earlier decades, instead of supporting the regional language, gave rise to fast growth of education in English medium. This gave an added advantage to the linguistic minorities who could opt for English due to their perceived threat from the regional language. Thus, the microscopic minority of English mother tongue succeeded in providing an universal umbrella for all the elites in all categories, the minorities as well as the majority, by creating a common avenue for education through English medium.
So, the primary and secondary education in English medium, like engineering and medical education, has become donation/capitation-oriented, and ultimately a tradable commodity. The legal provisions that were framed to protect minority rights became an effective means for every section of Karnataka society to make capital out of the very same legal provisions. There were institutions of the linguistic minorities imparting higher education and primary education in English medium but not through their mother tongue. The government took a policy decision not to sanction English medium schools, except in rare cases, where a considerable number of non-Kannadiga residents and minority institutions were involved. This led to litigation by those who failed to get permission or recognition for their English medium schools.
This policy was challenged by the Sahyadri Education Trust in 1987 on the ground that the medium of instruction is one aspect of freedom of speech and expression. The student can not be compelled to express in one particular regional language and not in English. The parents have every right to give education to their children in English and if there is a language policy it should be applicable to all the primary schools uniformly and according permission to some and not doing the same for others is a clear case of discrimination. The High Court saw a valid argument only on the ground 'that many other institutions have been given permission to impart primary education in English medium but the petitioners have been singled out by denying them the right to impart education in English medium.' It directed the government to accord 'permission to the petitioners to start English medium primary schools'. However this Judgment was viewed by many as support to the cause of English medium schools.
The Division Bench of the High Court heard the Linguistic Minorities Protection Committee and others on languages to be taught in schools and medium of instruction. The minority litigants had argued on the basis of the opinions of experts that the child has fundamental right to have education only in its mother tongue in the primary schools and found no justification to introduce Kannada in addition to mother tongue at that level.
Government was directed to 'to provide and ensure that primary education up to first four years including pre-primary education is imparted in mother tongue of the children concerned, in Government schools as also schools established by any private agency including linguistic minorities which are recognized, whether receiving financial aid or not, subject to the existence of the prescribed minimum number of children having a common mother tongue who have got themselves admitted to the school concerned '. This order of June 19, 1989 while elucidating the language policy had said, " From Ist standard to IVth standard mother tongue will be the medium of instruction, where it is expected that normally only one language … will be the compulsory subject of study".
The validity of this judgment was questioned in the Supreme Court on the ground that the linguistic minorities are discriminated and they cannot be forced to study Kannada (violation of Article 14); linguistic minorities can not be prevented from an opportunity to choose languages(violation of Article 350-A).
Finally the Supreme Court did uphold the High Court judgment and ruled that (a) there is no element of compulsion because mother tongue of the child is medium of instruction (b) only one of the languages is a compulsory subject of study, (c) Kannada is optional from 3rd standard for non-Kannada mother tongue speakers and it is taught on voluntary basis and there is no examination. Study of Kannada does not throw any burden on children. There is no violation of Article 350 -A.
In pursuance of this judgment the Government issued the order of April 29, 1994 wherein it made a comprehensive policy relating to language choice for education and medium of instruction in Karnataka.
Accordingly, from 1 to 4th standards, the child's mother tongue will be the medium of instruction. It will be Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, or English. From 3rd standard Kannada will be an optional subject. There is no examination in it at the end of 3 or 4th standard. From the 5th standard, the student has to choose second and third languages. They can be one of the following: Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam, Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, English, Sanskrit, Arabic, or Persian. The student who is not studying Kannada as first language has to study it as second language. Attendance for classes and appearing for examination for third language is compulsory and it is not an examination subject.
In the secondary schools three languages have to be studied compulsorily. The first language for 125 marks will be any one of the following: Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, or English.8 The second and third languages for 100 marks each can be any two of the following: Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, English, Sanskrit, Arabic, or Persian. One of these should be Kannada. The students whose mother tongue is not Kannada and the students whose mother tongue is not Hindi will get grace marks up to 15 . This will be in vogue for 10 years.
In this context one can raise the question of rights and the exercising of such rights by these people. These communities have found that Kannada/English is/are adequate to satisfy their needs and welfare. In this case they seem to have exercised their right to not to exercise their right. Their language and culture are protected and groomed by academies, institutions and well meaning individuals in Karnataka. Things seem to be changing, however.
Recently, Kodagu Rajya Mukti Morcha represented to the Prime Minister that their state (district) since its merger with Karnataka has not got an engineering college or medical college and it did not ask for primary education in mother tongue. Now it has also sought inclusion of Kodagu in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
Tulu-speaking political leaders have asked that, in their mother tongue speaking area, the moral stories from their language and culture be made part of schooling in 1st and 2nd standards. When the Literacy campaign was conducted in the South Canara where Tulu is the majority language, the primers prepared in Tulu using Kannada script were introduced. The adult learners were not enthusiastic about this experiment. The DPEP prepared a draft Soliga 1st standard primer in Kannada script for use in the BR Hills region where it is spoken. But it was reported that '...the community leaders and the State Project Officer have expressed reservations about the need for textbooks in Soliga language ...'9
Apart from all these, a pedagogically fertile ground exists in Karnataka for experiments in the use of home languages like Tulu, Kodagu, Konkani, Lambani/Banjari, Yerava, and Soliga in primary education due to their presence in geographically compact areas, if the communities demand.
Two important aspects relating to the issue of medium of instruction are (a) number of students opting for a medium and (b) the success rate in the chosen medium. In the last 20 years from 1977 - 78 to 1997 - 1998, the number of students opting for the Kannada medium at SSLC stage has increased from 140214 to 348000 ( 148.19%). During the same period, the number of students opting for the English medium has also increased from 14178 to 87170 (514.82 %). The statistics available for others from 1977 - 78 to 1994 - 95 indicate that they are in no way comparable to the popularity of the English medium, except to some extent in the case of Urdu. Urdu:1853 to 10131 (446.7%), Tamil : 68 to 158 (132 %), Telugu : 200 to 800 (300 %), Hindi : 464 to 564 (21.6%). In case of Marathi, the number of students actually decreased from 3874 to 158.
The rate of success in the examinations in the regional language medium is not also encouraging. During 1997-98, only 38.17% of the students who took the SSLC examination using the Kannada medium were successful, whereas in the English medium 71.36% of the students were successful. The same trend is found in the PUC examination also in those years.
The Government is not making public the details of medium-wise pass/failure figures beyond 1997-98. This step is retrograde, and is much against the freedom of information that the citizens of Karnataka are entitled to.
In fact, the regional language medium is rural-based and is preferred mostly by the poorer sections of Karnataka society. The regional language medium prevails mostly in the government schools. The English medium is prominently found in the urban areas, preferred by those who could afford it, and is mainly offered by the schools that are run by private organizations. This is reflected in the percentage of pass in the urban and rural schools.
Now the supporters of the Kannada medium of instruction see a threat to Kannada and its development from English/English medium education. All attempts to have new English medium sections in schools/new schools in the government sector are prevented. This has further allowed the private English medium schools to flourish without competition from the schools run by the government. Although it is compulsory to have mother tongue/regional language medium from 1 to 4 standards, it is often reported that many private, and unaided schools, even sometimes some of the aided schools do not follow this rule. The dialogue is on among the opinion-makers of the Kannada mother tongue community to make Kannada medium compulsory in all the schools in Karnataka up to 7th standard.
13. THE MAIN DIFFERENCES IN THE STATUS OF LANGUAGES, 1956-1999
The judgments of the High Court and the Supreme Court on the choice of languages in education and medium of instruction have many implications for language education in multilingual India. They are,
The poor success rate achieved by the students who opted for the mother tongue medium (Kannada) is not only a consequence of cumulative poor learning reflected at the school leaving stage, but also because, in the prevailing atmosphere, there is no sense of power and pride imparted to those who prefer to learn through the mother tongue medium. If the parents have to trust, and the students have to gain confidence in the mother tongue medium, the medium needs to be empowered at all stages of schooling with quality instructional materials, improved and updated teaching methodologies, and sharing of ideas and innovations through regular training of teachers. The co-existence of mother tongue and English medium continues the British legacy of creating special classes within the Indian society through the medium of instruction even among the educated people, bestowing greater prestige and privileges to those who choose to study through the English medium. Independence of the country and the linguistic reorganization of the states have not made much difference.
15. CHALLENGES OF THE MILLENNIUM
In the last four decades, India achieved rapid industrialization in several sectors and states. This has resulted in the relocation of people in the social hierarchy and mobility in some manner. This has also led to planned and unplanned growth of major Indian languages with the help of Constitutional, institutional, and individual support. Some languages achieved better status because of the support they received from the Union and the State governments. However, the last decade of the century is the decade of globalization and Information Technology. These two developments have jointly begun to make a great impact on the education scenario of the new millennium. Globalization and information technology have created a greater demand for English education, and education through English. The state governments are vying with each other, taking steps to cope up with the demands for English education and education through English. This is a new development. Hitherto the governments always were forced to take steps to curtain English education and education through English. Now some states have decided to introduce English from the first standard, and some others from the third standard as a subject of study. In India, English was never replaced, in spite of all the efforts, by any other Indian language, as a medium instruction of Science and Technology. Karnataka, at this juncture, is facing two challenges, one from the point of view of the preservation and development of Kannada language and culture as the Official Language of the State, and another from the point of view of coping up with the challenges thrown in by the market forces.
Gradually, the number of students opting for Kannada medium is fast decreasing.10 The social and educational system, as already illustrated through various statistics, has covertly designated English medium for the elite and the regional language medium for others. The changing equations in the society are clear for everyone to see. English education bestows an advantage on those who adopt it. Naturally, the poor people also desire to somehow improve their lot by opting for the English medium education for their children. (Their preference for the English medium does not really solve their problems. They continue to be disadvantaged because, more often than not, their children happen to be first generation school-goers, with no help from the family members to improve their study skills.) When the elite social groups do not care for their language and culture, why should others bother about the mother tongue, and education through that language? The fear is that if the present trend continues, the market forces will convert the regional and other Indian languages only as subjects of study and eliminate them as medium of instruction. This is an unfortunate and retrograde step for any society. Since independence, Indian languages have come a long way in their development through organized activities. One of the ways these can retain their status they gained in the first forty years of Indian independence is through absorbing technology and regaining the confidence of their speakers by obtaining market value for them.
It is under these circumstances that the Kannada Development Authority constituted a committee of educationists to recommend a rational language policy for primary education from Std.1 to 7. The Interim report submitted on March 11, 1999 suggested that (i) mother tongue for the 1st and 2nd standards for both Kannada and other mother tongue medium students as a compulsory language of study, (ii) in the 3rd and 4th standards, for Kannada mother tongue students, mother tongue plus English, Hindi or any other Indian language and another language other than the two already opted for; and for other mother tongue speakers learning Kannada is compulsory and examination is optional plus another language other than the two already opted; (iii) in the 5th to 7th standards, for Kannada mother tongue students: Kannada plus English or Hindi or any other Indian language plus another language other than the two already opted, and for other mother tongue students: mother tongue plus Kannada and any language other than than the languages already opted. From 5th standard onwards learning and taking the examination in all the languages is compulsory, but at least in two languages including Kannada the student has to obtain the pass marks.10 A decision is awaited from the Government about this recommendation.
The National Curriculum cited in the beginning of this paper recommends the following language pattern for school education: 1st and 2nd standards - One language: the home language/the regional language; for the 3rd to 5th standard One language - the home language/the regional language plus English; in other higher classes the three languages. Significantly, this document has recommended the introduction of English as a subject from the 3rd standard due to globalization and information technology. Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states and any other modern Indian language in Hindi-speaking states from 4th standard.
However, on Jan 5, 2001 the Education Minister of Karnataka has announced that from the next year English will be taught from the 3rd standard to prepare the children to face the competitive world effectively11.
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B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
Central Institute of Indian Languages
Mysore 570006, India