Chief minister H D Kumaraswamy has already announced in the budget speech that English will be introduced as a medium of instruction in 1000 schools from the next academic year. His decision has led to a huge backlash from Kannada activists, who have expressed fears that it will deprive the children knowledge of the local language.
After several prominent Kannada activists and other public personalities met him and requested that he reconsider, Kumaraswamy reluctantly agreed to put the decision on hold till a wider consultation is over.
Now former chief minister and Congress legislative party leader Siddaramaiah has reopened the debate by wading into the sensitive and controversial issue.
On Thursday, he attacked Kumaraswamy for his inflexible attitude towards Kannada and demanded that the proposal to make English the medium of instruction be dropped immediately.
Speaking to News18, he said, “The primacy of Kannada in Karnataka is non-negotiable. Kannada is everything in Karnataka. I won’t allow English medium primary schools run by the government. I will speak to the chief minister”.
A day later on Friday, the chief minister’s elder brother and PWD minister HD Revanna hit back at Siddaramaiah, and defending the introduction of English in government-run schools.
Revanna said that English was the need of the hour and a global necessity. “The knowledge of English is important. It helps our rural and poor children to compete with city children. They can get better jobs, can go abroad and it will be good for all in the long run. If the government introduces English medium in schools, poor parents don’t need to pay exorbitant fees at private schools,” he said.
He also lashed out at the Kannada activists for their hypocrisy. “The same people send their children and grandchildren to English medium schools. They oppose when the government introduces English as a medium for the benefit of the poor and village children”.
Some Kannada activists clarified that they are not against teaching English as one of the subjects from the first standard and their opposition is only to introducing English as a medium of instruction. In their defence, they cite the Supreme Court judgment in favour of primary education in the mother tongue of the child.
Siddaramaiah, who is a fierce defendant of Kannada language and culture, is unlikely to change his stand and it may worsen the already strained relationship between him and Kumaraswamy.
According to JDS leaders, Kumaraswamy has taken it as a matter of prestige and not willing to drop the proposal.
The main opposition BJP is also opposing the move. Former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa told News18 that he was for teaching English as one of the subjects in primary schools and not in favour of English medium government schools.