Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar ought to be commended for his pro-active announcement to take all stakeholders in the Medium of Instructions debate into confidence, before arriving at a decision on the vexed issue. This augurs well for democracy, no matter what the ideological leanings of the party to which he belongs.
The announcement of a status quo, until the government arrives at a definite policy on MoI reflects a significant shift in the otherwise staunch stand his party and its associates have held for years. Not surprisingly, there is also the stoic silence from various groups who had taken to the streets on the issue. Parrikar’s offer of an olive branch comes in spite of the fact that some of his elected party men were front-ranking players in the move to deny grants to schools offering English as medium of instructions at primary level.
This is indeed a welcome sign, indicating that the chief minister has his ear to the ground.
It may be recalled that in spite of the previous government taking a decision to sanction grants to English medium primary schools, grants were given only to Marathi and Konkani medium schools, as the implementation of the circular was put on hold by the high court after some vested interests approached courts challenging the earlier Government’s policy, thereby throwing the 150-odd Diocesan schools in a quandary. Following this, there had been a lot of heart burn before elections on the matter: The so-called Hindutuva brigade rooted for grants to those offering Konkani/Marathi and regional languages. A volatile confrontation amongst those with opposing views followed -- such that parents had taken to the streets in order to ensure that the liberty to choose the medium of instructions was vested in parents. This was despite the fact that denial of grants was in violation of the democratic principles and article 30 (2) of the Constitution.
Those who had approached the court were actually accused of having links with RSS, even regarded as trouble makers, out to embarrass the Congress government. Even students who otherwise would not be able to write an application, were brought into the MoI imbroglio by filing a petition.
What then brought about a softening of BJP stand? True, the BJP had not taken up the issue in its election manifesto. Considering that the Konkani Basha Mandal itself, a pioneering institute in a way, lately decided to open a secondary school in English indicates the ground reality of the people who over the years have been demanding freedom of choice in the medium of instruction.
In post colonial days, when there were less number of qualified teachers, Goa had adopted the mother tongue as the medium of instruction, so that adequate primary education could be imparted by available teachers, who themselves were in many cases, non-matriculates. Such teachers received a two years’ grounding in teaching methods and some up-gradation in content.
Today, our children speak Hindi and English right from age of four because television has induced these language through serials. They feel uneasy with the archaic teaching methodology used to teach mother tongue in Government Primary schools and they perform poorly at the secondary level during the switchover to English.
In contrast, children in English medium primary schools have an advantage when they come to the middle school level.
Undoubtedly, no one, except parents of children should decide in what medium the child should learn. The State resources should be fairly and evenly distributed. There is no logic in denying grants to English medium primary schools even as English continues to be the official language of India. We have seen the hypocrisy of Konkani and Marathi protagonists sending their children and grandchildren to English medium schools. These clever men want social inequalities to persist. They are afraid that the poor learners of English will compete with their children and claim reservations genuinely meant for them, which the rich and the well-off are now cornering. Let us have the broadest possible consultation, but let it be a sincere exercise.