The Financial Times has an interesting post today about a decision by the Karnataka state government yesterday to start to enforce a 1994 language policy requiring compulsory Kannada-medium education in primary schools. The FT suggests that this reflects resentment among the Kannada speaking community towards the influx of relatively wealthy English-speaking IT workers into Bangalore:
More than 100,000 English-speaking children in India’s information technology capital of Bangalore will soon have to switch to schools offering lessons exclusively in a Dravidian regional language, following a crackdown on more than 2,000 English-medium institutions in the state of Karnataka.
Now before going any further let me say that this is an extremely complex question. I am based – as I keep saying – in the Catalan speaking region of Spain, and the rights of minority language speakers is a subject very dear to my heart. So, of course, I find it perfectly comprehensible that Kandan speakers want to maintain their identity (as may speakers of any other minority languages which may well exist in the state).
The question here is in the how. Karnataka’s children need to *both* conserve a part of their own culture *and* open to the planet, and for an education administration to do this in a poor rural environment, and with all the resource (and other) problems which are only too well known in the context of Indian education is never going to be easy.
But still, this doesn’t seem to be the way. I say seem since once more I am not on the ground and can only profess my relative ignorance. Anyone who is on the ground and can add a perspective please do so. Anyway, having said all this, I am not sure that the FT is entirely right in its conclusions:
“The ban on English language classes may in time further erode the competitiveness of a city that styles itself as back office to the world, at a time when it is already suffering from severe shortages of skilled labour, high wage inflation and overburdened infrastructure.”
I don’t think this is the point. Part of the reason for the resentment will undoutedly come from the fact that many of the IT workers are not in fact themselves Karnatakans. Now that Bangalore is a hub these workers will continue to come. It is Karnataka’s own children who will suffer here, moving from being disadvantaged to being even more disadvantaged.
Finally, and very much to the point I think, this article from the BBC summarises a recent Pew Centre report on what the internet will look like in 2020:
The Pew report on the future internet surveyed 742 experts in the fields of computing, politics and business. More than half of respondents had a positive vision of the net’s future but 46% had serious reservations.Almost 60% said that a counter culture of Luddites would emerge, some resorting to violence.
Exclusion unfortunately feeds on exclusion. It is this version of the future which we must challenge, and not allow to happen.