[MLE] Indian row over English teaching

Dear MLE interest group,
For those of you who do not have an Indian newspaper you might not be aware
of this interesting controversy in Karnataka, one of the southern states in

Karsten van Riezen
Education Consultant, SIL Int.
SIL, South Asia Group.
_____________________BBC, Oct 13 06 _________________________________
Indian row over English teaching

India's call-centre capital employs 150,000 English speakers Plans to teach
English to pupils in India's call-centre hub of Bangalore have infuriated
language activists.
Promoters of the local Kannada language fear they will suffer from proposals
to make English compulsory in government schools in the state of Karnataka.
The state government says the change is necessary to enable rural students
to compete for jobs in the new economy.
But local writers have called for a campaign of civil disobedience to
promote Kannada in its place.
The Kannada language is spoken by about 50m people in the state, and a 1994
law made it illegal for schools to teach children up to age 11 in any other
But the law was widely flouted until recently, when the government announced
it would close 1,400 schools that were violating the regulation in the
middle of the academic year.
That decision has now been overturned, and last week Karnataka's government
announced it would also make English a compulsory subject for children from
the age of six.
The state Chief Minister, HD Kumaraswamy, said while Kannada should be
encouraged at all levels, rural children should not be deprived of better
employment opportunities because they had not learnt English.
Bangalore is a major base for India's booming call-centre industry and
employs 150,000 English-speaking people.
The move has divided opinions among the state's literary fraternity, says
the BBC's Habib Beary in Bangalore.
Scholars led by the Kannada Literary Council said the decision was shocking
and harmed the Kannada language, and called on the government to overturn
its decision.
A public meeting of Kannada writers heard calls to boycott state-organised
language events and risk jail to oppose English teaching, the Hindu
newspaper reported.
But other writers came out in support of the government.
"While English is a tool of mobility for urban, upper middle-class children,
the lack of English knowledge is a handicap for rural Dalit children," said
Dalit writer K Marulasiddappa.
The chief minister is to hold talks with the protesting academics and
writers to convince them that poor children need to be taught English to get