With the new National Education Policy (NEP) being approved by the Union Cabinet, the debate around the medium of instruction in primary classes has once again cropped up in Karnataka. The NEP recommends medium of instruction to be in the home language/mother tongue/local language or regional language in primary classes.
The NEP states: “Wherever possible, the medium of instruction till grade 5, and preferably till grade eight and beyond, will be the home language/mother tongue/local language or regional language.”
This has left officials of the Department of Primary and Secondary Education in a spot as the State government has started English-medium sections in government schools from the 2019-20 academic year, which has received a good response.
School managements point out that the NEP goes against the apex court’s verdict stating that imposition of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction in primary classes was “unconstitutional”.
In 2014, after a two-decade-old legal battle, the Supreme Court held that imposition of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction in primary classes in government-recognised, aided or unaided private schools was unconstitutional. It quashed the Karnataka government’s order that the medium of instruction should be either the mother tongue or Kannada for classes I to IV from the academic year 1994-95. Following this court order, private schools were granted permission to start English-medium classes in primary schools.
D. Shashi Kumar, general secretary, Karnataka Associated Management of English Medium Schools, said, “The Supreme Court has quashed the order on mother tongue or a regional language as medium of instruction. The court has said in its ruling that choosing a language should be left to the parents.”
Private school managements are planning to request the Central government to tweak this point.
Many schools also said that they will find it difficult to impart lessons in the regional, local language and child’s mother tongue.
“In some classes, we have students with 10 different mother tongues. It will be impractical for us to impart lessons in so many languages. The Central government needs to look into the practical challenges,” said the principal of a school affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education.