The solution to the contentious medium of instruction issue appears to be elusive with the expert committee formed to suggest a roadmap having failed to come up with any recommendations. The panel headed by educationist Bhaskar Naik was formed more than two years ago; despite several extensions its report is still awaited. The government has been saying that it will abide by the report of the committee and implement its recommendations but with no report coming forth the issue continues to remain unresolved. The Bharatiya Janata Party which is now ruling the state had promised to resolve the MoI issue way back in 2012, and even made it an issue for the Assembly elections held then. The BJP was supported by the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch, which was formed to fight for primary education in mother tongue. The BJP had also promised to scrap the policy of giving grants to English-medium primary schools if voted to power. However, after winning the elections the BJP failed to keep its promise.
It was only in the face of mounting criticism for its volte face on the issue of MoI that the government constituted a 17-member committee and promised to implement its recommendations, which have remained elusive till this date. There are no signs that the recommendations would come in the near future. The committee was initially given 120 days to submit its report and thereafter its term has been extended from time to time. However, two years down the line, the panel is yet to draft its report, leave alone giving final recommendations. The intention behind formation of the panel was to satisfy the rival factions spearheading the MoI issue. While the pro-Konkani and pro-Marathi supporters were led by the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM), the pro-English medium group was led by the Forum for Rights of Children to Education (FORCE). After initial gusto, the committee went into a dormant mode and nothing is known as to what it has done so far. Allegations have been made in different quarters that the government is not serious about keeping its promise and that the issue is sought to be given a silent burial by postponing the report and giving numerous extensions to the panel.
With the expert panel having failed to present its report, the BBSM has demanded that it be scrapped forthwith. The BBSM says the committee was eyewash and set up to fool the voters during the 2017 Assembly elections; the money spent on paying the members and meeting the costs of the committee was sheer waste of public fund. It is surprising to note that some members of the committee feel that as MoI is no more an issue for the BJP-led government there is no point in submitting the report. The committee held 15 meetings across the state with parent-teachers associations of various schools, pro-Konkani and Marathi language supporters and those in favour of English as the MoI as part of wider consultations to arrive at a decision. Has the report not been prepared because the committee has not come to any conclusion? Or has it been told not to do so? The delay needs to be probed as public money and sentiments are involved in the issue. It is high time that the government seeks a report from the panel as the issue cannot be allowed to be dragged indefinitely or it should be wound up in the larger public interest.
With the state having failed to come up with a comprehensive policy on MoI, the issue should be best left to the wisdom of parents and the inclination and ease of students. Experts hold that primary education in mother tongue is the best for children’s learning at the earlier stage. However, an increasing number of parents are sending their children to English-medium schools as they believe by learning English their children would be better equipped to meet the competition and challenges in later life. The government by giving the MoI issue a silent burial also probably wants to send a message to the society that parents must decide for their children. Perhaps that is the best course, rather than raking up the old animosity between supporters of mother tongue and English as medium of instruction. With all political parties avoiding to precipitate the MoI issue, there is very little chance of the BJP-led government feeling any heat on the subject. However, that does not in any way absolve the BJP and the Bhaskar Naik committee of the failure to give Goa a clear and rational direction on the MoI issue.