In this school academic year, an important development took place — the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy declared that within two years, most of the AP government schools will be converted into English medium with one compulsory Telugu subject being taught all through the school education.
In Telangana, the KCR government gave freedom to school teachers to initiate English medium sections in most government schools. A majority of parents from rural areas are eager to provide English medium education to their children — resulting in poor attendance in Telugu-based sections. However, the general data does not tell us which schools are getting closed — only that regional language schools are shutting down.
Similarly, in Karnataka, after a long struggle by the Dalits/OBCs this year, the government opened English medium section from LKG to class 12 in 1000 schools. Apart from this, the Kumaraswamy government also started 275 Karnataka Public Schools (KPS) with complete English medium from LKG to 12th, on the lines of the Kendriya Vidyalaya. The news reports indicate there is a huge demand for these schools in the villages — and that Kannada medium schools find no takers in areas with KPS.
Good move: Karnataka CM Kumaraswamy's English-medium Karnataka Public School caused a stir. (Photo: Facebook/Namma HDK)
The so-called progressive writers of Karnataka, such as UR Anantha Murthy and Girish Karnad, were opposing converting the rural government schools into English medium by instigating Kannada sentiment even among Dalit writers. They apparently threatened Siddaramaiah against initiating this process. In fact, some of the dissenters of the ‘Lohia gang’ in Karnataka opt for a world-class private English medium education for their own children — Girish Karnad’s son, for instance, reportedly studied in London — but opposed English medium education in the government sector.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leadership is also not in a position to oppose the English medium in government schools because most of their children receive English-based education in missionary schools.
Similarly, even in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, there are hordes of intellectual ‘Telugu lovers’ who do not hesitate to enrol their own children or grandchildren in the best English medium schools in Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Vishakhapatnam. They resisted YS Rajshekhar Reddy’s initiative to provide English-based education in government schools from class six onwards. But he brushed them aside by pointing out the hypocrisy of the Indian middle-class intellectuals.
Reddy started 6,400 English medium sections from class 6. Then, KCR expanded on that in Telangana and started many English medium gurukuls in a bid to make good on his promise of the 2014 elections under the KG to PG scheme. Jagan, perhaps, understood the educational aspirations in rural areas during his padayatra — he also addressed the issue in his manifesto, saying that all government schools would be converted into English medium and every student’s mother will be given a sum of Rs 15,000 for education expenses.
This is a game-changing programme.
Once again, the alleged Telugu lovers are terming the move as Jagan furthering a ‘World Bank Agenda’. Interestingly, only when English medium education goes into the houses of the poor does it become an agenda. But if the same education reaches their own intellectual, affluent houses, it becomes a nationalist agenda.
The popular pulse: On his padyatra, Jaganmohan Reddy sensed the common masses' yearning to educate their kids in English. (Photo: PTI)
This kind of duplicity needs to be opposed at every stage — it reminds me of an excerpt from the Bible when Jesus cured a hunchback woman, angering the priests of the Synagogue. Here’s their discussion:
“Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath. Jesus saw a woman who had been "crippled by a spirit for eighteen years." She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. He called to the woman, said, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity", and then laid his hands on her body, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. The synagogue ruler, the defender of the Sabbath, was indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. Rather than confront Jesus, he rebuked the woman publicly by saying to the whole congregation, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath." In response, Jesus said, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?"
The masters of anti-English education for the poor are like the Synagogue rulers. They create a false sentimental narrative around the mother tongue and ask, but how the children can learn Telugu or Kannada with one language subject despite being compulsory? Might I remind them that Jagan and his sister, Sharmila, who gave thunderous speeches in Telugu, studied it only as one subject?
By advising Jagan to not to undermine the mother tongue, they play the game Chandrababu Naidu seemed to, who had once reportedly said, “How can I introduce English medium when my party name is itself Telugu Desham” and then apparently promptly put his son in a world-class English medium school. Ironically, the English-educated son is now being groomed to head the same Telugu Desham.
The Andhra masses understood these double standards when it came to education. Jagan won the election hands down because he promised mothers that their children will be given English medium education as he gave to his own children. Intellectuals are wont to think that the common human being is a fool — but the AP elections of 2019 proved them wrong. They know the importance of good education for their children and that regional languages such as Telugu or Kannada can be learnt better once the child confidently learns a global language.
Not just learning for learning's sake — let children get this confidence.
Let Jagan, KCR and Kumaraswamy not turn their heels by unnecessary hypocrisy.