Disconnect MoI from Grants

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
25 July 2016 21:42 IST

Language has always been an issue of politics for Goa than linguistic. It began with a controversy that Konkani is a dialect of Marathi, then both Konkani and Marathi are mother tongues of a Goan and then a row over the scripts of Konkani – Devnagari and Romi. Now, it is the Medium of Instruction in primary education. The protagonists of Konkani and Marathi battled with each other for around four decades. Now both the rival camps have come together to fight the ‘English camp’.

Our politicians, in 1991, linked the principle of mother tongue as medium of instruction with salary grants paid by the government to the private school managements. English medium schools were allowed, but no grants were given. Church-controlled Diocesan Board of Education was running 130 primary schools in Konkani medium since 1991, but then decided to shift over to English in 2011. The Congress government decided to continue their salary grants even after the shift. The subsequent BJP government also followed the footsteps of their predecessor. And now, it has emerged as one of the major political issue in the Assembly election scheduled in January.

The issue has become more significant with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent organisation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), coming on the streets to defeat its own saffron brigade in the next election, under the banner of Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM). On the other hand, the Forum for Rights of Children’s Education (FORCE) is fighting for grants to English medium primary schools run by the Church.

Reality behind MoI politics

The BJP reached the magic figure of 21 in the 40-member House in the 2012 election only because the Church and Goa’s Christian community supported the BJP. Thus, in the next election, it cannot afford to antagonise the Church. Precisely this is the reason the BJP made a U turn on its election promise and upheld the Congress policy of continuing grants to the Church-run schools. And till date, it’s firm on the stand at the cost of getting alienated by its own Hindu brigade.

The BJP is prepared to face the wrath of the RSS, not because Christians alone can rescue them to come back to power. In reality, 60% students of Goa study in English medium at primary level, 34% in Marathi and only 6% in Konkani and Urdu. Even if it is assumed that the whole lot of 5% Muslims and 25% Christians are studying in English medium, the fact remains that the rest 30% - the majority – are Hindus. These include 130 Church-run schools as well as the similar number of other private schools.

Official records also prove contrary to the impression we carry about the Church-run 130 Diocesan primary schools. Almost 48% students (14,500) studying in these schools are Hindus and only 39% (12,000) are Christians. The rest belong to other religions. (Ref: Assembly reply to Vijai Sardesai on 24 July 2012). It means more Hindu students study even in the Church-run minority schools. And 77 schools among these have majority students belonging to the Hindu community. Only 52 schools have majority of Christians. Hindu students are in majority even in 11 schools of total 30 schools in Salcete taluka. In Bardez, Tiswadi and Mormugao talukas, 50 DSE schools have majority Hindu students while only 9 schools have Christian majority.

This is perhaps the reason not only the BJP, but not a single political party is supporting the BBSM demand to withdraw salary grants to the 130 Church-run schools. The MGP is acting as a fence sitter while some BJP ministers also claim to have been supporting the BBSM. But neither they have resigned from the cabinet (or the party) nor have publicly protested when then chief minister Manohar Parrikar announced the cabinet decision to continue the grants to ‘minority’ schools. Because even DSE’s so called minority schools, in reality, are ‘majority’ schools.

But is this a political issue to analyse on the basis of religious vote banks? Or politicians have messed up the educational issue? Does medium of instruction ONLY at primary level determines cultural orientation of a student? Is it a cultural issue? And most importantly, was it right to link Medium of Instruction with salary grants of the teaching faculty? How did the issue originate?

The origin of MoI row

Well, it all began with the Goa Education Act coming into force in 1984 and rules being framed in 1986. Based on this, in 1989, primary teachers in private schools approached the high court, demanding salary on par with the government primary teachers. The private managements expressed inability to pay such high salaries since they don’t levy high amount of fees to the students. The high court, in 1990, upheld the principle of ‘equal work – equal pay’ and directed the state government not to discriminate the teachers but to make arrangement to pay equal salaries.

This was the time the Pratapsing Rane-led government was toppled within 75 days and a new combination of Progressive Democratic Front – of the Congress rebels and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party – had come to power. Dr Luis Proto Barbosa was the CM, MGP leader Adv Ramakant Khalap was the Deputy CM and Shashikala Kakodkar was the education minister. The government cited Rule 6 (1) of the Goa School Education Rules 1986: “the medium of instruction at primary stage should be as far as practicable in the mother tongue of the child.” (Section 29 (2) (f) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 has today a similar provision.)

Based on this, the PDF government declared a new formula of medium of instruction at primary level: 1) Salary grants would be given to only those private schools which impart primary education in Konkani, Marathi, Urdu; but not English 2) All English-medium government primary schools would be converted to Konkani or Marathi medium & 3) No permission to the new private schools in English medium. The subsequent governments however continued giving permissions to English medium private primary schools. The number of English medium schools went up from 26 in 1991 to 144 in 2011. The only exceptions were DSE-run 130 schools, which overnight got converted to Konkani medium.

The permission to English medium schools was however conditional, that they will not ask for salary grants. But this double-standard policy of all the subsequent governments had a boomeranging effect. Pressure started mounting on DSE schools to convert to English medium as the parents could not afford high fees of English medium private schools. The then Congress government, in 2011, bowed before the pressure of the Church and permitted them to shift to English while continuing its salary grants. The BBSM demands that the salary grants to these schools should be withdrawn.

Could ‘no grants’ amount to contempt?

This is a legal tangle. The DSE has never given a submission to the government, unlike other private managements, that it would not ask for grants. They have now shifted to English medium. The high court order does not speak about medium of instruction. It only speaks of equal work – equal pay. It could thus amount to contempt of court if the government stops salary grants to the DSE schools. The opportunity of the high court reviewing its position on the issue was aborted by BBSM itself when it withdrew the petition BBSM leader Pandurang Nadkarni had filed in this regard. The old high court order of 1991 thus still stands. It leads to paying salary grants to the private managements.

There could be contrary arguments and interpretations of the court order vis-à-vis the government continuing salary grants to Church-run 130 schools. But a much deeper issue arises here. Was it fair on the part of the then PDF government to link the issue of Medium of Instruction to the Salary Grants? Because it directly clashes with the right of a child to get free elementary education as per the Right to Education Act. And the latest Supreme Court judgement in Karnataka case rules that the right to choose the medium of instruction at the primary school stage shall remain with the child and/or parent and not the state.

Learn in or a?

It is beyond doubt that learning in mother tongue helps the child better to comprehend at the elementary level. Learning any other language than the mother tongue and then comprehending the teaching in that alien language is obviously more stressful for any child. But there are two contradictions here while the government implements this universal principle of elementary education. Most of our pre-primary schools (kindergarten) are in English medium. And the education from Std V onward is also in English. Does it become logical in this situation to force the child to learn only Std I to IV in Konkani? Why the same criterion is not applied to pre-primary education? And why is Marathi clubbed with Konkani? Is it the mother tongue of a ‘Goan’ child? Do the Konkani protagonists in the BBSM believe that Marathi is also ‘second’ mother tongue of Goan children?

Moreover, the politicians and the bureaucracy have complicated the whole issue by linking the principle of Medium of Instruction with the salary grants. To overcome this tangle, the government needs to rectify the major blunder it played on the people of Goa. It needs to disconnect medium of instruction from the issue of salary grants. As per the high court order, the government needs to give salary grants to all the primary teachers, without any discrimination. If not, permissions given to ALL the English medium schools should be withdrawn. You can’t permit English medium schools with high fees and then discriminate the medium on the grounds of who can and cannot afford these fees. The government should pay equal salaries to all and then devise a comprehensive policy to promote primary education in mother tongue.

The real issue in the present controversy is actually not the medium of instruction but ‘my child should know English’. Means not learning in English, but learning English. It’s genuine. Because English is no more a Firangi Bhaas (European language). It’s Indian because it’s official language of our country and also our state of Goa. And all the educationists of Goa, including the BBSM leaders, run their schools only in English medium from Std V onwards. What’s wrong if the parents feel genuinely that their children should know better English?

But the parents also need to know the fact that medium of instruction doesn’t improve your language. Medium helps to understand the subjects and answer them with ease. The real issue is not Medium, but Language. Developing our language skill. The government needs to conduct an open and transparent survey to identify who knows better English – those who learn in English or those whole learn English, even while having studied in mother tongue.

Let’s learn Languages

The medium of instruction doesn’t necessarily improve your language skill. Learning the language as a subject, with its grammar and developing its literary essence through reading, will improve your language. Unfortunately, most of the English medium students actually speak Konglish and write the same ‘corrupt English’, including SMS English. (e.g. they ‘aks’, don’t ‘ask’) The fate of Konkani or Marathi is no different. What we require today is developing our language skills, no matter which medium you are studying in.

Goa, during pre-liberation days, was one of the richest regions in multilingualism. Educated Goans had command over Konkani, Marathi, Hindi, English, and Portuguese. Some of them were also prolific in Kannada, Gujarati or even French. The post-liberation Goa witnessed multilingual Goan having linguistic proficiency in Konkani, Marathi, Hindi and English. Today, this multilingual Goan is getting reduced to monolingual. The situation is so pathetic that sizeable number of ‘educated’ Goans can’t read or write one single language proficiently. Adding fuel to the fire, the politicisation of languages is building hatred towards particular languages. We are developing a generation that would hate languages. Is this the culture we are building among our children through these culture-fanatic language controversies?

Goa thus needs to reorient its policy on Medium of Instruction by disconnecting it from the policy of salary grants. Give grants to one and sundry to make the teachers tension-free. Orient these teachers to teach languages with linguistic flavour. Let our children learn as many languages as possible. Let the parents decide whether their children should learn with a burden through alien language or with an ease in their mother tongue. But let them learn each and every language properly. Let our children have command over Konkani, Marathi, Hindi, English and even more languages, if possible. Let the multilingual Goa flourish, where all languages are respected and not a single language is hated. Let’s also depoliticise all the linguistic issues so that languages can flourish in this multilingual land. Let hundred flowers bloom…

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Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of HCN and Prudent, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities.

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Previous Comments

Very well written Sandesh. Both sides have been truly exposed in their hypocrisy on this issue. In the bargain it is the kids and education itself that suffers.

Lets learn to educate and be multilingual, and leave the politics of language aside.

- Jaret de Silva, Chandor Goa | 04 th August 2016 20:46

 

Very well articulated and informative piece.

You should translate it in Marathi too.

Sensible voices in Goa are getting feeble in the midst of a jingoistic clamor. If sanity has to prevail, thoughts like yours in this article need to be read and heard by commoners who indulge in mindless sloganeering on the orders of their unscrupulous leaders.

- Shailendra Mehta, Mumbai | 27 th July 2016 20:43

 

Nice article. Clear linguistic arguments and understanding of the present reality and future aspirations. No philosophy is eternal, it has to adapt to changing times is underlined in the article.

Multilingualism is the future. A child should know more languages, the MoI is moving into oblivion. Hindus want their children to study in English medium but want to have a dig at others. Actually, parents of today choose schools which provide a reasonable infrastructure and learning environment to the child.

BBSM end objective is political. It is evident they are not lovers of language. They are haters of specific communities and consider progressive social change as a threat to their regressive social agenda.

Well written Sandesh.

- Prabhakar Timble, Margao | 26 th July 2016 08:59

 

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