In the typical fervour that marks the month of November when Karnataka Rajyotsava is celebrated, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar declared on Wednesday that no Kannada-medium school run by the government will be closed in the State. However, trends in school educational in Karnataka over the last few years tell a story to the contrary.
According to the District Information System for Education (DISE) data, Karnataka had as many as 63,254 Kannada-medium schools including Lower Primary, Higher Primary and High Schools. The latest figures for 2011-12 put their numbers at 60,817, down by nearly 2,500.
English medium schools
In contrast, though English-medium schools are still far fewer in sheer numbers, they are clearly gaining ground. They were 4,467 in 2007-08 and more than doubled in 2011-12 to 9,874.
Interestingly, even while the Chief Minister claimed that there was no question of closing Kannada-medium government schools, it is happening even at the lowest levels.
While there were 23,432 Kannada lower primary schools in 2010-11, nearly 300 schools closed by next year and the numbers stood at 23,120 in 2011-12.
While these numbers indicate a trend away from Kannada-medium schools, the proposal on “merger” of government schools (which is euphemism for closure) with low enrolment also indicates that the government is not disinclined to the idea at all. In 2011-12, the government identified 555 schools with enrolment of less than five for merger with schools nearby. The High Court also gave a go-ahead to this.
The idea has been put on hold for the current year only because there are no funds to provide for transport costs involved in ensuring that a child from the “merged” school travels to the nearest school. But department officials have made it clear that closure of schools is imminent. It should be emphasised that this was the thinking in the government even before the R. Govinda Committee on school re-structuring earlier this year suggested merger of schools which have enrolment of less than 30 in Classes 6 and 7.
Yet another development that could mean dipping student strength in government-run Kannada-medium schools is the Right to Education Act’s provision for 25 per cent reservation to disadvantaged children in private schools. In city, town and even hobli centres where English education is increasingly seen as a marker of upward mobility and wider job opportunities, there is a clear possibility of the privately-owned schools absorbing students under quota who may have otherwise opted for government schools.
In such a scenario, it remains to be seen whether the Chief Minister will indeed keep his assurance of not closing Kannada-medium schools.