A pitfall called MoI

By Prabhakar Timble
09 April 2012 21:01 IST

All eyes are on Manohar Parrikar watching his innovation in handling the issue of grants to English-medium primary schools. As the leader of the Opposition he had castigated the Digamber-led Congress government for providing grants to primary schools irrespective of medium. The BJP and Manohar Parrikar in particular had given implicit and explicit support to the Bharitya Bhasha Surakasha Manch (BBSM), which was wedded to the conviction that public grants should be only for primary schools in the regional medium and that grants to English-medium would prove disastrous to the overall growth of the child and suicidal to local and Indian culture. Similar outfits such as “Get Well Digamber Kamat” with the active connivance of BJP youth force left no stone unturned to reduce the Congress government and Digamber Kamat in person to a morsel of ridicule at every opportunity. This movement was kept burning till the elections with black flag demonstrations at public meetings attended by Congress ministers, ‘black carpet tamashas’ at venues of the International Film Festival of India and fireworks on Facebook. Temples and other places of Hindu worship were extensively used to garner emotions based on religious faith. Today, the entire movement has gone in wholesale hibernation. This is not unexpected since the leadership was political. However, I should say to the credit of the pawns and foot soldiers, that they were committed to the cause.

The Forum for Right of Choice of Education (FORCE) with the overt and covert blessings of the Diocesan Society of Education built up the movement on the premise that it is the right of the parents to choose the medium of instruction. Hence, the government cannot infringe this right through selective choice of grants only for primary schools in the regional medium. The directive of the earlier government to provide grants to English-medium primary schools is today a matter of dispute in the High Court. The Hon. High Court has granted a stay on the operation of the order and ruled status quo till the disposal of the petition challenging grants to English-medium primary schools. Despite this, it is observed that the salary grants have been disbursed to the schools. The High Court is seized with the contempt and has called for the details of the proposed action to be initiated against the erring schools and managements.  The advocate and counsel for the petitioner is presently the Advocate General for the government. Manohar Parrikar, as the Leader of the Opposition, had demanded action against the schools for violating the order of the High Court. As the Chief Minister, his government and the Advocate General has asked for time of six weeks for a solution. This means that Manohar Parrikar is searching for an alternative solution which has to be politically correct, though it could be incorrect in terms of his own conviction. He also cannot fully stand by the BBSM but has to create a façade that they have not lost.

The BJP manifesto says it all and provides the breather. To quote from the manifesto, “BJP subscribes to the universal scientific principle of primary education in mother-tongue. Keeping in view problems faced by a number of schools due to the faulty and legally inferior policy of the Congress government and sentiments of certain sections of the population, BJP assures an amicable solution to the problem”. In short, the manifesto speaks everything, so it communicates no definite policy of medium at primary level of education. The Congress manifesto on this issue was specific or precise and hence Congress was a clear identifiable enemy of the BBSM. In the days to come, the BBSM will have to take special pains to justify that the policy of the Parrikar government is in conformity with the postulates that the BBSM stood for and raised a ruckus. The BJP party manifesto can absolve the government from whatever decision it takes.

Undoubtedly, the principled stand is to reverse the policy of the Congress government of providing grants to English-medium primary schools. Such an approach settles the issue once and for all. The stand is based on strong academics and sound principles of educational psychology. What is needed is well-equipped primary schools with teachers tuned to child-centred teaching and learning. Quality education at primary level in the mother-tongue with good grounding in English language (not medium) is the answer for the natural growth of the composite faculties of the child and the fear of the parents which is largely due to ignorance.  Parents are apparently demanding the right of choice of medium. Actually, they do not wish to exercise any choice except in favour of English.

A principled stand on grants at primary level is not as easy as eliminating the VAT on petrol or de-notification of Regional Plan. If it was so, Manohar Parrikar would not waiver and shiver. Of course, the government has a reprieve since the matter is pending in the High Court. Mr. Parrikar can continue the status quo as was done by the Congress government i.e. primary schools continue to receive the salary grants with a hidden understanding that the government would not check and inspect and would only go by the written undertaking received from the schools. The kindness of the High Court could be stretched to the extent possible. However, I do not expect Mr. Parrikar to be politically incorrect as to take a totally principled stand or keep the issue burning drawing oxygen through the pleadings of Advocate General in the High Court.

Whatever be the decision in respect of MoI, the mother-tongue has to get an unequal and preferential treatment in terms of grants. The government could come out with higher grants, special grants for library and computer facilities and upgraded infrastructure for such primary schools. We have also observed that the market i.e. the parents are willing and able to pay the cost of education in unaided English primary schools. Hence, if the market is prepared and conditioned to pay, the public exchequer should not provide free education to the affordable segment. The alternative is to explore on total freeships based on an economic criteria, the issue being the right of choice of parents to choose medium of instruction at primary level rather than the right of the school management to receive grants.

With Mr. Manohar Parrikar addressing the issues of governance and corruption, a diluted stand on MoI may find acceptability if the stand leaves little dissatisfaction in both the camps. After all, promises made during war and storm could be forgotten during peace. All vows taken during courtship do not survive after marriage.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Previous Comments

Every change in policy requires time to adapt. Sudden implementation takes parents and children also unawares. I believe, an amicable solution would be to continue the grant to all schools for at least one or two years and then stop the grant for only English medium schools. Another way could be to implement a 75(regional) - 25 (english) ratio policy for all english medium schools with a two year time limit for transition.

- Gaurish Wagle, Abu Dhabi | 15 th April 2012 08:15

 

It would require some conviction on Parrikar's part to not give grants to English primary. It might even have some negative effect politically, but in the long run, it will benefit the next generation of Goans who will know their mother tongue better and will not turn into zombies. Let us support Parrikar in taking this decision.

- Samir Kelekar, Bangalore | 13 th April 2012 17:09

 

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