Sunday, February 11, 2007

Only in Kannada, eh?

Hostility to private school superiority and the English language is destructive

You’ve probably never heard of Kannada – the native language spoken by 7 out of 10 Karnatakans. You’ve probably never heard of Karnataka either. But there’s a good chance you’ll chat with a Karnatakan if your iPod ever locks up or you have trouble installing the new Windows Vista operating system. That’s because Karnataka is the Indian state whose capital city, Bangalore, is "the back office to the world." Bangalore is awash in call centers for Western companies such as Apple and Microsoft, boasts over 200 high tech companies of its own, and is reported to enjoy the highest number of engineering colleges of any city on Earth.

But if an Indian court doesn’t step in soon, the out-sourcing capital of the world may put itself out of work. As of this April, the government of Karnataka will force 2,000 private elementary schools – enrolling nearly 300,000 students – to shut down. Their crime? Teaching in English instead of Kannada.

Bangalore’s incredible success in the information technology field stems not just from its wealth of skilled workers, or the lower cost of employing them relative to U.S. or Canadian workers, but from the fact that so many are fluent in English. And that’s a skill they are likely to have picked up in private schools. English is the mother tongue of only a tiny fraction of Indian citizens, and public schools use regional native languages (like Kannada) for the majority of instruction. English is relegated to a separate course, usually not taught until the later grades.

But, as many Canadians have discovered, teaching a second language as just one course in the curriculum is less effective at promoting fluency than immersion programs that teach all subjects in the second language. Many Indians have discovered the same thing. So, dissatisfied with the performance of public schools and their lack of English immersion programs, Indian parents have fueled the growth of a vast private education sector that teaches primarily or exclusively in English. In parts of India, the majority of students are now enrolled in private schools – even in some of the country’s poorest urban slums.

Karnataka’s ban on these schools is technically the result of a 1994 court ruling – a decision that remained unenforced until last September. But, in the wake of increasingly vigorous and finally successful lobbying on the part of Kannada language activists, the trigger was finally pulled. There is no question as to why the government dragged its feet for so long on enforcing the ruling. If the crackdown on these schools succeeds, the English-fluent high-tech labor pool will gradually drain away and the sucking sound of jobs leaving Bangalore will be audible all the way to North America.

In fact, that’s a lesson that Kannada activists could learn from… Canada. In a fascinating 2004 study of interprovincial migration, geographer Kao-Lee Liaw showed that non-Francophones were five times more likely to emigrate to another province if they lived in Quebec than if they lived in Ontario. And there’s no end in sight. A new report from the Association for Canadian Studies finds that, in 2006, Quebec incurred its single largest net population loss since 2000.

Given that attracting and retaining skilled immigrants is an important ingredient to sustained economic growth, the effects of this non-Francophone exodus are inevitable. Quebec’s economy consistently lags those of Ontario, Canada, and the United States. In fact, Quebec's per capita income ranks 54th in North America—behind all but two U.S. states and four Canadian provinces.

It is impossible to precisely apportion blame for this dismal performance between Quebec’s economic policies and its English-hostile language law, but there is certainly enough blame to go around.

Fortunately, just as Karnataka seems poised to repeat Quebec’s mistake, there is a glimmer of hope. This week, the New Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society launched an India-wide school choice campaign. The ultimate aim of that campaign is to make the option of independent schooling universally affordable, letting families, not judges or bureaucrats, decide how children will be educated.

So these are the dueling visions of Karnataka’s – and perhaps India’s – educational future. Forcibly ban English as the primary medium of instruction because it is viewed by some as a threat to native languages and a legacy of colonial government oppression (is there a word for irony in Kannada?), or make it possible for all parents to decide what sort of education is best for their children – public or private, English, Kannada, or some other language altogether.



The Iranian education system is preparing its students for a global war against the West in the name of Islam, according to an independent study of 115 textbooks and teachers guides released today. With Tehran accused of seeking to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal and the United States dispatching a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf, the report by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace highlights the uphill task Washington faces trying to persuade Iranian youth to distance themselves from the hard-line Islamist regime.

The study, which claims to be the first of its kind, catalogs how pupils as young as 9 are conditioned to take part in a global jihad against such "infidel oppressors" as Israel and the United States. "Hate indoctrination is a professed goal of Iranian textbooks," said the report's author, Arnon Groiss, a Princeton- and Harvard-educated journalist who also has written critical studies of the Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, Saudi and Egyptian education systems.

According to Mr. Groiss, Iranian pupils learn from an early age that the Islamic republic is in mortal combat with Western powers bent on its destruction. One 11th-grade textbook, quoting former spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, refers to the United States and its allies as "the World Devourers" and says that if they "wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all of them."

Students are drilled for battle from age 12, when they are obliged to take defense-readiness classes, according to the study by the Israel-based nongovernmental organization. Some also are drafted into the Revolutionary Guard and other elite combat units, where they are taught how to handle shoulder-propelled rocket launchers, the study says.

Through stories, poems, wills and exercises, martyrdom is glorified as a means of defending the Islamic republic and attaining eternal happiness, the report says. A Grade 10 textbook on "defense readiness" boasts that during the eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, half a million students were sent to the front and "36,000 martyrs ... were offered to the Islamic Revolution."

Describing Iran's school system as a "global war curriculum," Mr. Groiss said the emphasis on military training from such a young age instilled a "siege mentality" among many students. "It is a form of child abuse to install such notions in children's minds," he told journalists at a briefing in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Israel, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly has said should be "wiped off the map," is not recognized in atlases and is portrayed as a danger to Islamic states.

More here

PM Howard on education reform:

The Australian Prime Minister is heavily pushing the restoration of educational standards

For a long time, the education debate focused almost exclusively on inputs and quantity - on money spent, student-teacher ratios and the like. This was the territory staked out and defended fiercely by the state education bureaucracies, curriculum designers and the teachers' unions. One of our achievements has been to open up the debate and to focus it on quality. Our great challenge as a nation is to improve the quality of Australia's education system. Schools reform centres on three key areas:

* GREATER choice and accountability;

* HIGHER standards; and

* MORE national consistency.

These are the foundations of a quality education system. Many of the fads and politically-correct fashions that have found their way into our schools undermine the quality of education. When Big Brother or a text message jostles with Shakespeare and classical literature for a place in the English curriculum, we rob children of their cultural inheritance.

By obfuscating the need for teachers to impart specific knowledge and for rigorous testing of achievement, we rob children, especially disadvantaged ones, of the one proven path to individual achievement and social mobility. And by denying parents clear statements of their child's performance we are letting new-age fads get in the way of genuine accountability.

Few debates are as vital as those over education, whether it be in upholding basic standards on literacy and numeracy, promoting diversity and choice, or challenging the incomprehensible sludge that can find its way into some curriculum material.

I am an unabashed supporter of choice for parents. I am a product of the government education system in Australia. I believe in a strong, well-funded and academically rigorous government school system. Yet I am a staunch defender of the right of parents to send their children to non-government schools and to have government support for that choice.

Choice has intrinsic value in a free society, especially in an area like education where we are dealing with the most important decision parents have to make - their child's future.

I am also an unabashed supporter of competitive examinations, teacher-directed lessons and the importance of academic disciplines. I make no apologies for the fact that the Commonwealth has played a role in pushing the states and territories on to higher ground on issues like standards, testing and "Plain English" report cards in our schools. High standards can only be achieved if teachers have clear road maps as to the knowledge and concepts to impart. Formal competitive examinations are essential to assessing what a child has learned.

And there is something both deadening and saccharine in curriculum documents where history is called "time, continuity and change", and geography becomes "place, space and environment". Experiments like "outcomes-based education" not only short-change parents and children, they also put unjustified demands on teachers, with jargon-ridden curriculum statements leaving teachers overwhelmed when it comes to what must be taught and what standards of student achievement are expected.

I also have serious concerns about the way in which the teaching of English has been allowed in some cases to drift into a relativist wasteland - where students are asked to deconstruct "texts" using politically-correct theories in contrast with the traditional view that great literature has something profound to say about the human condition.

There is, of course, a degree of irony in some recent comments about the need for an education revolution in this country. The key point is this - the Labor Party (leg-roped as it is to its allies in the teachers' unions) is very much a "Johnny-come-lately" to the cause of commonsense education reform in support of parental choice, higher standards and sound curricula. It was this Government's schools policy in 1996 - opposed by Labor - which really opened up choice for Australian parents by facilitating the huge expansion in low-fee independent schools.

It was David Kemp more than anyone who campaigned to put testing of basic literacy and numeracy on the national agenda. It was Brendan Nelson who fought to ensure that Australian parents are given Plain English report cards. And now Julie Bishop is taking forward a new wave of school reforms in the areas of national consistency, higher curriculum standards, principal autonomy and teacher quality. Our goal is simple: we don't want uniformity, but we do want nationwide high standards in schools to ensure every Australian student receives the best possible foundation in core subjects.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

President Ahmadinejad's real views are summarized on this website: