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Bribes to teach English medium, alleges schools’ union

This story by me was first published in the IIJNM publication The Observer, on Oct 13, 2015. The Observer is the work of print journalism students who report exclusive news stories from Bangalore and the state of Karnataka.

Several low-income private schools in Karnataka have been paying bribes to babus to be able to teach primary classes in English medium, a schools’ association has alleged.

“Even though the court gave its final verdict, the government was not ready to allow the change in medium of instruction,” said D. Shashi Kumar, general secretary of Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka.

“They are trying to buy time because of their own interests. Earlier they would use the issue of illegal medium of instruction and collect hefty bribes from schools, which will not be possible if they give approval.” When asked for specific examples, he said that it was too common, though schools would deny paying bribes.

Kumar was referring to the May 2014 Supreme Court verdict, which had held that the government “has no power to compel linguistic minority to impart primary education by compulsorily imposing regional language”. The state’s language policy mandated schools to use Kannada as a medium of instruction for primary classes, before the verdict.

This week, the Department of Public Instruction has started releasing formal circulars to allow interested schools to use English as a medium for classes 1 to 5. However, around 8,000 to 9,000 schools have yet to get the approval. They had submitted their applications before December 2014.

“Orally, we got the permission, but we have still not got a copy of the order in writing from the Department,” said Anuradha, principal of St. Paul’s English High School, which has applied for conversion of the medium of instruction. Another school, Little Angel’s School in Bangalore Rural, which applied in April 2015, has not yet got a formal approval. “We are still teaching in Kannada medium in classes 1 to 5,” said principal, Anuradha K. R.

“Why do budget schools have to face hardships? Why do all these things not apply to elite schools that violate so many norms?” said Kumar.

We want the government to understand us, not to harass, he said. Most of the 16,000 schools facing the issue teach in the state board and serve the economically disadvantaged category. They lie in the Rs.5,000–Rs.30,000 bracket in terms of annual expenditure per child. In comparison, “elite” CBSE and ICSE schools spend anywhere over Rs.2 lakh a year per child, said Kumar.

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“They started approving the applications after April, and 1,400 applications were processed within a week. But then, the Commissioner changed, and the new Commissioner, K. S. Satyamurthy wanted further legal opinion on the permission.” It was further delayed, though the applications should have been approved by January 2015.

Officers at the Department of Public Instruction were repeatedly unavailable for comment.

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