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A Missionary Policy To Promote Goan Culture

CHIEF Minister Laxmikant Parsekar’s statement that his government granted permission to 94 new primary schools in Marathi and Konkani medium and to not a single primary school in English medium during its five-year term might not satisfy the section that accuses the BJP of going back on its 2012 election promise of discontinuing grants to the existing English-medium schools. The BJP-led government formed committees to help it find a solution to the vexed issue but it proved elusive. The medium of instruction (MoI) issue has been contentious all through and was one of the reasons for the downfall of the Congress party in the last Assembly elections. The solutions worked out by successive governments have failed to find acceptability among divergent sections of Goan society. Though the BJP, with a clear mandate from Goans, was expected to resolve the issue it changed its stance and continued with the policy adopted by the Congress government. The failure on the part of the BJP-led government to keep the promise of withdrawing grants to English-medium primary schools caused friction between the BJP and former state unit chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Subhash Velingkar and the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch, which had championed the causes of local languages and spearheaded the move to promote primary education in mother tongue. The bitter differences led to a serious rift between the section of the RSS led by Velingkar and the BJP, culminating in Velingkar’s expulsion from the RSS by the central command of the organization. The leading lights of the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch, who included Velingkar, went on to form a political front of their own called Goa Suraksha Manch, vowing to defeat the BJP in the elections.
The protagonists of local languages are of the opinion that studying in mother tongue makes learning easier and helps in the preservation of Goan identity through inculcation of ethnic culture. They see a threat to Goan culture with English being preferred as medium of instruction at the primary level. Those championing the cause of local languages also feel that studying in Marathi and Konkani could help reverse the trend of westernization that has crept into Goan society. There is no doubt that many of Goan traditions have changed over the years but to put the blame for the change entirely on English-medium schools could be too far-fetched. The ethnic communities among non-resident Indians (NRIs) abroad have not abandoned all their traditions, even though they have adopted a number of western cultural practices. Traditions are not static but dynamic and cultures take from one another.
There is need of course to use mother tongue for reading and writing and enrich it and the government protection is necessary in this mission. Local languages do keep younger generations rooted to the culture. However, studying in local languages at the primary level cannot be only way for preservation of Goan ethos and culture in an era when the world has become a global village with people preferring to follow western cultural practices in order to prove their upward mobility. The supporters of English-medium education argue that the importance that English enjoys in the global field cannot be ignored altogether and the authorities should set a goal for transition from local languages to English, the language that has emerged as a bridging factor between different cultural societies.
With Goa emerging as an education hub, the next government has to find an amicable solution to the vexed issue of MoI by taking into account the valid arguments of both the sides. Any failure on the part of the government and stakeholders could lead to social unrest and defeat the very purpose of creating an education hub. It has to be borne in mind by that the younger generations of Goans need to be competitive to make it to the grade for getting admissions in institutes of higher learning and pursuing good careers. Knowledge of English would play an important role in that direction as it is the medium of instruction in higher stages of education. As far as the preservation and promotion of local languages and culture are concerned, the new state government must adopt a missionary policy in that regard. Local culture and arts and heritage should be adequately patronized by the government, so that the younger generations feel proud of the traditions and participate in the cultural practices as practitioners and lovers. As far as the medium of primary education is concerned, parents should be given freedom to choose it. As it is, parents are choosing the medium for the primary and higher school education for their children. They will go in for English-medium schools whether these schools receive government grants or not.

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