Parental choice: Need I say more?

By Cleofato A Coutinho
31 May 2012 20:14 IST

Schools including the primary schools shall reopen for the new academic year in June. The non-election in Cortalim by poll is welcome at least from the point that there is no code of conduct and the government is free to decide on the issue of grants for English medium primary schools. There are no elections now. Even the panchayat elections are over.  The issue can now be resolved without the Damocles sword of elections over the Chief Minister’s head.

The overwhelming constitutional view is that the parents have a right to decide on primary education of their children in the school and the language of their choice… and the state cannot curtail that right and liberty… there is another view that the state can choose the medium of instruction of its choice in the school funded by it or aided by it. This view demands that the parents pay the fees of the private schools in case they wish to teach their children in English Medium Primary Schools i.e. dividing the society between those who can afford and those who cannot. Whether this view is justifiable, when parents overwhelmingly choose the medium of instruction other than the mother tongue or the regional language is the matter on which the present government shall have to decide while formulating policy on grants to primary schools.

Protagonists of primary education in mother tongue  remind us that the policy to have medium of instruction at primary level in the mother tongue is backed by educational experts and that the primary education in mother tongue shall foster culture, language and identity of the state. While the parents overwhelmingly, irrespective of caste and religion, opine that in view of globalization when communication and technology plays an important role, imparting English at the primary level would enable their children to learn the language easily, express fluently and to compete with other people in securing employment as a matter of right to life in the country and elsewhere in the world. The government policy on grants to primary schools would have to be a fine balance of the two views.    

A full bench of the Karnataka High Court was constituted (2008 (4) KarLJ593) and one of the question for consideration was whether right to choose the medium of instruction at the primary level, either to study or impart education, a fundamental right on parental choice to decide. The court was dealing with a question whether Kannada could be the sole medium of instruction in all primary schools. The court opined that the state cannot be compelled to give primary education in the language of the choice. (But that principle is held not applicable to minority rights by the full bench.) That is where the question of grants comes. But the views of the full bench on parental choice, merit of mother tongue as medium of instruction, importance of English, minority rights and policy making in a democratic system are worth taking into consideration. In fact the judgement is a Bible on the medium of instruction.

After clearly holding that the right to choose the medium of instruction for the child a fundamental right, the court held as under “…(Mathru Devo Bhava; Pithru Devo Bhava;) is the underlining principle which represents the ethos and the culture of this country, of which all of us are proud of. As a corollary to that, the parents sacrifice their personal interest in life for the welfare of their children, especially in educating them. Probably it is only in this country the parents educate their children, throughout, and spend from their pockets the cost of entire education, if need be by raising loans, or selling their properties. Today without any compulsion, by law slowly in urban areas, educated people are adopting a single or two child norms. The care and time spent on their children, in their upbringing, education and health is unbelievable. It is to be seen to be believed. May be the parents have their own dreams and aspirations in life for their children. They are prepared to make any sacrifice to achieve that object. In fact virtually they mortgage their whole life interest for the welfare of their children. It may be an Indian phenomenon. May be some times their children are not able to cope up with the expectations of their parents. But to state that parents are crazy and they do not know what is in the interest of their children is ridiculous. Equally ridiculous is the proposition, the Government of the day knows what is good for the children and not the parents of the child….. To say the future of the children is safe in their hands and not in the hands of their parents is an insult to the conscience of the country…”.

The full bench further held “…The parents have the right to decide as to whether their children should secure primary education in the mother tongue or not. The medium of instruction is to be entirely the choice of the parents and the students. No one claim to know better than the parents about the child, to decide, as to what the child requires in the sphere of education to shape its career and destiny. The parents have the right to decide as to whether their children should secure primary education in the mother tongue or not. The State cannot step in and arrogate to itself the power to decide as to the language in which the children should have their primary education. Therefore, it is a fundamental right of the parent and child to choose the medium of instruction even in primary school”.   

The Full Bench dealing with the mushrooming of English medium schools states “…. English is the key to the treasures of modern knowledge. It is an open window for peeping into western thought and science. It is an international language. It is an associate language as recognized by our Constitution. Without English, in many parts of India, inter-state communication is difficult. In a multilingual country, English has come in handy as a link language. The desire of the parents to impart education to their children in a well known international language like English, cannot be bypassed, forgetting the hard realities of life. …Every one loves his mother tongue, and wants his children to achieve proficiency in the mother tongue. But, at the same time he wants his children to learn the English language, and he believes if his children learn in English medium from the early stages, they would be able to get better proficiency in English….”.

And finally the full bench at para 194 states: “As this country over the centuries has assimilated Persian, Arabic and other languages, this country has assimilated English language also. It is no more an alien language. It is the link language of the country. The people in the South have not accepted any other language including Hindi as the link language. However, they do not oppose English language. It is also an international language. Without any compulsion, voluntarily, children like to study this language. People volunteer to study English language even at the primary stage so that the children could have mastery over the language”.

 Need I say more on the issue?

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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Previous Comments

Local languages would probably work well and be very beneficial, if there were plenty of employment prospects in Goa or India.

Sadly this is not the case or reality.

India is still considered a poor country, even though it is gradually making many economic strides.

Indias biggest drawback, is the corruption at every level & Red -Tapism.

It is still a Country that is controlled by a few, for their own family benefit,rather then for the many.

Some of the family scams in India, are truly shocking.They also exist in Goa.A trip to Varca,Sattari,Valpoi & Ponda will demonstrate this.

Many of the Ex-Goan Congress MLA`s had their families also deeply involved in crimes & corruption.

- N.Fernandes, London | 04 th June 2012 21:48


Medium of instruction is the issue created by some non-literate people for political gains and supported the same by highly intelligent people whose only aim is to criticise the actions whether good or bad of the Govt. The Goans not only learn English but also Spanish; German; Arabic; Japanese; etc as they are compelled to learn these languages as they have live there and make their living.

Therefore English is Not the Only language which helps

one to earns one's livelihood.

It is sad that the author says that English is link language.

It is Hindi which is the link language and NOT ENGLISH.

Every State which is part of India should make Hindi as

the Link language.

The people who have raised this issue are not proud of their Mother Earth; and Its Art; Language and Culture.But these very people want the Govt to spend its money for preserving Art and Culture of Goa.

This is Sheer HYPOCRACY.

- N Karmali, Margao | 04 th June 2012 19:24


Total confusion on the part of the author. Did he do his primary in English? :-)

No one denies that it is good to know English; the question is just of mother tongue. The author has confused issues thoroughly and said that just because English is needed, it should also be in primary. This is fallacious argument, and yes parents are crazy if they want their children to study in English in the primary. The increasing number of suicides by young people in the country is a pointer to the pressure parents put on their children.

Btw, I have a business partner and we communicate in English most of the time and we work together on international projects. But sometimes when he wants to say something that he thinks us very important and delicate, he suddenly switches to Hindi ! So much for the importance of our own languages!!! It would be a sad state of affairs when our future English-only generation wouldnt even understand such delicate matters because they wouldnt know their mother tongue or other Indian languages.

- Samir Kelekar, Bangalore | 02 nd June 2012 20:31


Any language is merely a means of communication for a child and bearing this in mind the parents should decide which language is suitable for the best possible communication to happen between their child & his/her teachers not considering issues like mother tongue, foreign language, popular language etc. Learning is the goal of education and for effective learning, there has to be very smooth, seamless communication.

- Prapanch Ravi, Margao | 01 st June 2012 14:58


MY take is only this...

Parents have right to choose M.I. true

No one to is force any language on any one true

english is 'Global' language which is THE window to science

and is not alien to India true

we have lot of languages so one more will not harm , in fact welcome true


government should give grants and will improve students communication and will make them smart and should be given as Indian language status .

Well I do not get the logic of this.

- anand masur, madgao | 01 st June 2012 00:05


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