For three years in a row Muslim students have topped the 10th standard Board examinations in Maharashtra where nearly 15 lakh students annually appear for these examinations. Surprisingly they all came from Urdu medium high schools and secured over 96 per cent marks. This is in sharp contrast with Karnataka where year after year the newsreading eyes have made a futile search for a Muslim sounding name in the list of rankers.
Two conclusions are derived learnt from this little comparison. First, Muslims’ complaint of discrimination is imaginary as far as competitive examinations are concerned. Second, given the fact that Maharashtra students came from Urdu medium schools, it is certain that Urdu medium as such does not deter competitiveness and excellence. In fact, it could boost originality, creativity and felicity of language.
Only three months ago this monthly published a survey of performance of 25 Muslim managed high schools in Karnataka. If taken as a sample of the Muslim schools in the state, the larger scenario must be disturbing insofar as only less than half the students from these schools are crossing the vital threshold to the higher education. Clearly the Muslims in Karnataka have regressed. No wonder then auto garages in the states towns and cities have so many Urdu_speaking child-labours engaged in drudgery and Urdu medium schools are losing favour of those Muslims who wish their wards to excel. It is a situation of double jeopardy. On one hand they are losing touch with culture, history and language and on the other, blunting the competitive edge that could have accrued to them through advantageous medium of mother tongue. A third and less important aspect is the loss of Urdu schools which indeed contributed to employment opportunity.
Inconvenient though, more points can be gleaned from the comparison. Excellence is not hinged to a particular language. If 1,000 Urdu medium high schools of Maharashtra could produce rankers there is no reason why their Karnataka counterparts should remain behind. At least the schools in Hyderabad-Karnataka region could have emulated their across the border peers. Sadly this has not happened. Urdu medium schools have fallen in disrepute in Karnataka merely because of the laxity among teachers. Visit any Urdu school in the state and the sight of the lady teachers with knitting sticks in hands and caterwauling students will not surprise you. Poor infrastructure, negligent administration, teachers committed merely to their fat government scale salaries and careless parents have together rendered the Urdu medium schools barren of excellence in Karnataka. But Maharashtra Muslim have surged ahead using the government-aided Urdu schools. Now they have established edge over Marathi and other medium schools sheer through hard work, infusing competitiveness and without succumbing to the snobbery of English education.
Quality emerges out of quantity. The Maharashtra’s Muslim school essentially prove this point. Competition, excellence and the desire to establish edge over others springs only when a vast body is seen engaged in pursuing common goals and limited opportunities. Over the years, Muslims in Maharashtra have learnt to widen their base of primary and secondary education through a vast network of Urdu medium schools. They have cared to erect the pyramid of education in proper proportions. In Karnataka, Muslims have regressed from 61 per cent literacy before 1947 to 47 per cent now. Discarding the Urdu medium is one of its primary reason. Mother tongue helps comprehension while snobbish English education promotes learning by rote. What a pity that even telling this simple moral now involves an English monthly to devote an editorial!