Although the new academic year is slated to commence in a few weeks' time, the row over the issue of mother tongue as a medium of instruction in primary schools between the State Government and private schools still remains unresolved.

The tussle between managements of private unaided minority institutions and the State Government over the language issue has been going on for several years. While the Government is sticking to its stand that students must be taught in Kannada medium at the primary school level, the managements are reluctant to do so and want the State to permit them to teach in English medium.

Schools have been obtaining orders from the Karnataka High Court directing the State Government to comply with a July 2008 Full Bench judgment on the language issue. A Full Bench comprising of the then Chief Justice, Cyriac Joseph, and Justices Manjula Chellur and N. Kumar had held that the State could not compel students to learn Kannada and that the choice must be left to the children and their parents.

The State had filed a special leave petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court against the Full Bench order. The Supreme Court not only refused to stay the High Court judgment, but it had on several occasions orally indicated that there was nothing wrong in a student learning in the language of his choice.

When this matter came up last week in the Supreme Court, the case was adjourned to July. What this means is that the Supreme Court will hear the case after the academic year for schools begins. This is so unless either of the parties, either the State or the schools, move for early hearing.

Sources in the State Government said the Education Department this year too would issue endorsements to schools refusing permission for them to commence English-medium schools. They said the jurisdictional Deputy Director of Public Instruction (DDPI) would issue endorsements to the schools refusing permission, saying that since the matter was pending adjudication, no decision could be taken at this stage.

The sources said if they gave permission now to schools to teach in English medium and if the Supreme Court upheld the stand of the State Government, it would be difficult for them to take action. Therefore, the endorsement refusing permission.

Private schools, however, remain undeterred and many of them told The Hindu that they would continue to approach the High Court seeking a direction to the DDPI to allow their application for starting English-medium schools. In case the DDPI refused permission, they said they would move the High Court for contempt.

G.R. Mohan, advocate for several schools, said even if the private schools approached the High Court now, it would be too late as the academic year was slated to commence shortly.

He, however, made it clear that the private schools would continue opposing the State stand on the language row and they would oppose any move by the State to make Kannada the compulsory medium of instruction.

This fight between the State and the schools have been going on for years and it were the students and their parents who are caught in the crossfire. Parents and wards of children are caught in a web of confusion as neither the State nor the schools are willing to give any quarter and each is sticking to its stand. For the parents and the schoolchildren, the unending wait for clearing the confusion over the language issue is likely to continue this year too.

Keywords: Academic issues

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