09/26/2006, 00.00
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Some 2,100 schools shut down for teaching in English

by Nirmala Carvalho
The decision is made by the Hindu nationalist-controlled Karnataka state government enforcing an old policy established in 1992. For some public officials involved in social integration warn the decision amounts playing politics with education.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The new school year is already in jeopardy for some 273,000 pupils enrolled in elementary schools (grades 1 to 5) in Karnataka. The government of this southern Indian state has in fact decided to decertify more 2,100 educational institutions because they use English as the language of teaching. For local social activists the decision is an attempt by Hindu nationalists "to exploit education for purely political purposes".

According to state policy established in 1992, all schools set up after 1994 were required to use the state's mother tongue, Kannada, as the main language of teaching in elementary schools. When warnings and cautioning failed to get some schools to implement state policy, the state education department decided to act and decertified schools that failed to implement state policy. However, it is business as usual in English-language schools set up prior to 1994.

Many have criticised the state's decision and demand that at least this year English education be allowed to continue until the end of the year.

But Karnataka's Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is unmoved, whilst Primary and Secondary Education Minister Basavaraj Horatti said that pupils affected by the decision would be moved to the nearest certified schools before October 10.

In an official press release, John Dayal, a member of the Indian Union's National Integration Council, slammed the attempts in Karnataka to "exploit education for political purposes".

"Kannada is a rich language and an integral part of the Indian cultural heritage," he said. "But to evoke an old and controversial law suddenly and overnight decertify thousands of schools teaching in English amounts to fanaticism." Moreover, "English is an important language," he added, "and for the Dalits and the poor".

Karnataka is governed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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