This academic year, the State government launched English-medium sections in 1,000 government primary schools amid much fanfare and controversy. However, the move is against the draft National Education Policy 2019 which advocates that the medium of instruction at least till grade 5 be in the mother tongue.
The draft policy states that “when possible, the medium of instruction — at least until grade 5 but preferably till at least grade 8 will be the home language/mother tongue/local language”. It goes on to state that after grade 5, the mother tongue should be taught as a language wherever possible.
V.P. Niranjan Aradhya, fellow at the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, said that the State government’s decision to open English-medium sections (made before the draft policy was unveiled), was in contradiction to the NEP. “Earlier policies too have envisaged the same thing. The State government needs to reconsider the decision as it is in the interest of the child’s learning,” he said.
Amendment to RTE Act
Karnataka was one of the States that amended the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, to make sure that the medium of instruction was Kannada. To make provisions for imparting primary education in the mother tongue (Kannada) till grade 5, the State legislature under the previous Congress government, passed a bill that amended 29(2)(f) of the RTE Act which states that the medium of instruction shall, as far as practicable, be in the child’s mother tongue. The legislature decided to drop the phrase “as far as practicable”, which is yet to get the President’s approval. The amendment was made after the Supreme Court, in a judgement in 2014, struck down a State government order imposing Kannada as the medium of instruction in all primary schools in the State.