Kannada is still the medium of instruction at government schools across Karnataka, despite a provision in the 2018 state budget to promote the use of English at 1,000 such institutions. Officials in chief minister HD Kumaraswamy's office, however, claimed the government has not deviated from its objective. They said the modalities were still being worked out, and English would be introduced in all such institutions by year-end.
Mr Kumaraswamy defended his government's decision.
"Kannada is our mother tongue and it should survive, but we must ensure that children of poor people also get enough opportunities (of career advancement)," he said, adding that "100% of the people who talk about saving Kannada send their own children" to English medium schools.
The Congress, the Janata Dal-United's ally in the ruling coalition government, cautiously backed Mr Kumaraswamy's view.
Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Dinesh Gundu Rao said English can help youngsters in the state gain employment anywhere in the world.
"We will provide our inputs when we discuss it further at the government level. But in general, nobody denies the fact that English is necessary to secure job opportunities in the future," Mr Rao added.
Detractors, including the opposition BJP, claimed such a step will only hurt Kannada.
"The chief minister should rethink the move. There is no question of compulsorily imposing English in Karnataka schools," said KS Eshwarappa, leader of the opposition in the legislative council.
Faculty members at these educational institutions were divided on the issue. "To encourage Kannada, you need Kannada medium. English can be there as a subject, but it can't be the medium of instruction," said Vijaya, a teacher.
Azees Unisa, another teacher, held a different opinion. "I think English should be introduced from Class 1 or Class 2," she said.
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