Even as the debate over the introduction of English in Kannada medium schools rages, only two Kannada medium government schools in the district have so far asked for permission this academic year to start teaching in English.

This is a drastic drop from 22 schools that had applied in the last academic year, and 35 in 2012-13 when the introduction of English medium was first allowed to counter the falling enrolment rates in government schools.

This remains a fraction of the 932 primary schools and 116 high schools in the district.

The Deputy Director of Public Instruction office said only the school in Chelyar near Surathkal and Moodupadukodi in Bantwal taluk have asked for English medium in class 8. With around two weeks for the start of the new academic year to begin, officials concede the list may not see additions.

It was falling enrolment rates that convinced Suresh S.M., Headmaster of Government High School, Chelyar, to apply for the permission. From nearly 270 students in Class 8, 9 and 10 a decade ago, he says, the enrolment has fallen to about 10 now.

“Last year, only 35 students joined class 8, down from 62 two years ago. Parents send their children far away just to study in English medium,” he said, and added that 18 children had enrolled for the English medium section.

Moses Jayashekhar, DDPI, said teachers were hesitant to take up the English medium as most had had Kannada medium education. “Even though we have given them a five-day training, they fear they cannot cope with it,” he said.

Moreover, officials also point to a “bureaucratic circle in the rules” which acts as a hurdle: while numerous schools have informed BEOs that they will only proceed if English-educated teachers were appointed by the government, DDPI officials said rules were framed such that teachers can only be appointed at a school if the school has sufficient English-medium student strength.

Urban-rural divide

What is also surprising that even though 57 schools had asked for permission in the past two years, English medium has been started only in 19 schools here. The demographics clearly show an urban-rural divide: Belthangady has seen all 6 applications translating to reality, while Mangalore South hasn’t seen any of the 22 ‘interested’ schools starting English medium section.

“The policy had worked better in rural areas as many students travel far for education in English medium. Whereas, in urban areas the competition from numerous private schools is intense,” said Mr. Jayashekhar.