The Indian Economy Blog

September 28, 2006

English Language And Karnataka

Filed under: Education,Human Capital,Outsourcing — Neelakantan @ 6:43 am

As a follow up to Edwards post titled “English language schools in Karnataka” yesterday, heres an update from the Indian Express. 15 of 30 current cabinet ministers in Karnataka send their children to, well, English medium schools.

The point of contention behind closing the schools is apprently a rule dated 1994 that mandates that “children attending government schools must be taught only in Kannada till their primary education, thats class I through IV”. These schools were supposed to impart education in Kannada, but ended up as English medium schools. This move, was ostensibly to promote Kannada. Whether it will promote Kannada or promote private schools offering English medium education or further push government schools into obscurity is anybodys guess.

The schools may have violated a policy, but in spirit, they were providing education and making English language education easily accessible to many kids. The duplicity of politicians who make retrogressive rules like these is well known, as seen in the above piece. Policies like these only serve to make it difficult for relatively poor locals (since those who can afford the fees will send their kids to English language schools) to get jobs in an English intensive industry (IT/ITES/BPO). The Karnataka government will realise that promotion of a language does not happen through coercion in education or by banning (tried for a few weeks in 2004) movies made in other languages.


  1. “The duplicity of politicians who make retrogressive rules….”
    I agree with you about the duplicity of politicians but the rule we are talking about is unfortunately not retrogressive.Real challenge before India and Karnataka is that of Illiteracy and if we are hoping to wipe out the illiteracy then we must promote primary education in the regional languages.It is consistent with the principles laid down by UNESCO in it’s position paper “Education in a multilingual world”
    And it has happened before in other countries
    I agree,this rule could have been enforced in a better way,without putting students through trouble in the middle of the academic year

    Comment by con man — September 29, 2006 @ 11:57 am

  2. I cant get these people….a large pecentage of the people who graduate from college are not “employable” mainly because they have a problem with communication.(I refer mainly to the software and BPO sector of india).

    I think its time we moved on.Kannada and other vernacular languages will always survive.But we need to know english to compete in the global market.Its the most basic tool.

    Comment by ajoy — September 29, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

  3. If the politicians are unable to promote Kannada despite all their efforts, perhaps there are good reasons.

    1. There is no economic incentive to learn Kannada unless one wants to work for the state government or some local muncipal body. These jobs are low paying (though there is corruption) and low in prestige. Most of the elite (who nowadays dont want even Central govt jobs) wont touch these local jobs with a barge-pole. Besides there is lot of reservations, so its difficult for the common man to get such jobs

    2. Learning English is the route to atleast a call centre job. These jobs are better paying and based on merit. There is also the flexibility of switching to a higher paying employer.

    Jingoistic attitudes wont help in language promotion. The Kannada movies are so bad that no one bothers to even pirate them. The local hooligans who engage in stone throwing because offices dont have name plates in Kannada are creating resistance and hatred in non-Kannada people to learning the language by force.

    Comment by Sanjay — September 30, 2006 @ 3:59 pm

  4. This move, seems to be obviously with political considerations, as there were expectations that given the current unstability in the coalition government, it may call for elections in November/ december 2006. Hence the ruling government wanted to create issues which it could capitalise on

    Administratively speaking, the incumbent government is only enforcing the rules which govern the ‘recognition’ which has been given to new schools which have commenced since 1994. “they were given permission to only start schools with kannada/the mother tongue as the medium of instruction for classes 1-5″. That this was not enforced till now, or why other language schools were not given permission to start since 1994, is another aspect of this issue. Hence what the current education minister has done is to “only enforce the conditions under which the schools have accepted to operate in the first place !!”

    The regional chauvinism which karnataka has been increasingly displaying – banning other language movies, asking for job-reservations for people born in karnataka in karnataka based jobs, signboards to be in kannada, the above mentioned incidence of enforcing licence conditions which are restrictive in the first place, and many more such incidences, are a reflection of the fact that development in karnataka has not gone beyond bangalore at all ! hence other people are feeling left out of the economic development, and who else but the politicians will raise it to their own advantage !

    Bangalore is increasingly creating circumstances for people to consider other locations in karnataka/ india for their business/ invesmtment/ tourism !

    Comment by envenkat — October 1, 2006 @ 9:03 pm

  5. Bangalore is increasingly creating circumstances for people to consider other locations in karnataka/ india for their business/ invesmtment/ tourism ! envenkat

    One might argue that Bangalore is doing its bit to alleviate regional inequalities of wealth and income . Gotta give the Karnata admin the \”National Integration\” medal

    Comment by Prashant — October 2, 2006 @ 3:04 am

  6. “15 of 30 current cabinet ministers in Karnataka send their children to, well, English medium schools” – Well, 15 cabinet minsters in Karnataka who could afford to send their kids to English medium schools are not doing that – they want their kids primary education to be in the mother tounge. The very idea that only bad stuff comes out of politicians severely undermines our basic noesis. Its judgement that defeats us.

    Primary education being in mother tounge is not retrograde,very eminent sociologists have underlined its importance. This needs to be implemented in private schools as well.Sure regional chauvunism of ‘namma karnataka’ sucks big time – but lets not compare all issues on a same frame of reference.

    btw…admire this blog :)

    Comment by bvn — October 6, 2006 @ 10:33 am

  7. BVN misses the point. Noone just as 50% of the cabinet in Karnataka exercised their choice to send their kids to English schools, ordinary citizens too must be given the same choice.

    Comment by Unknown Indian — October 7, 2006 @ 5:52 pm

  8. Although not so well written, i too shared the same sentiment few days back …

    Thanks for the nice post.

    Comment by Namith — October 11, 2006 @ 5:30 am

  9. “in general, young children can rapidly absorb and master new languages until the age of six; the ability declines quickly until age twelve, and after that any acquisition of a new language requires substantially more effort”

    Comment by Ramesh — November 3, 2006 @ 9:05 pm

  10. There must be a two language formula. Mother Tongue and English are to be taught very well (not govt. school type) right from the primary level. This can only ensure proper intellectual advancement of the kids.

    Comment by shashikumar — November 9, 2006 @ 2:50 pm

  11. I think Karnataka should now come out from its shell and accept the urgency of understanding global language. It never means that regional language should mot be taught. It has its own importance but that does not mean that the state can curtail english language from the syllabus at the age when children are most prone to learn things by heart.

    Comment by — November 10, 2006 @ 2:43 pm

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